Making the Large Tractor Experimental (LTX) Scale Model
I am writing this article in response to a request from Alan Dunderdale, Editor of The Ferguson Club Journal November 2000.
Revised and updated June 2015
Being a keen Ferguson collector for about 35 years now, although my enthusiasm for the man and his tractors goes back to 1953 when I was 15 years old and drove “my” first Ferguson – a TED20 that had either a post hole digger swinging on the 3 point linkage or towing a three ton tipping trailer. It was not surprising that the first tractor I bought when I started collecting in 1985, was a TED20. The passion and interest grew rapidly, as it often does – and it was not long before I had given to me a hardback copy of ‘Harry Ferguson – Inventor and Pioneer’ by Colin Fraser. From this excellent piece of writing, I learnt a lot by reading and re-reading and still do.
It was from Colin Fraser’s work, that I first came across the LTX project. What struck me was it was the most obvious development of the TE20, but really sad that no more than 6 prototypes were produced before the whole project was cancelled by the MH boys at the time of the merger. For a while I really thought there might be the odd LTX lurking around somewhere in the Midlands, but after enquiring around it became clear that they had all been destroyed.
Gradually, the idea turned in my mind – “well if none exist why not build a life size replica”. I had read in one of Alan Condies books on Ferguson, that an LTX had been fitted with a Perkin L4 engine (but was not the case), so at least the engine could be obtained, possibly from an old MH780 combine.
Then I began to think about the cost of producing patterns for all the parts, gears, small components etc. Needless to say, the dream quickly faded away. Well – not quite! The obvious solution was to produce a scale model and why not make it a limited edition – say 50 so that other Ferguson enthusiasts could share in the fun if they wished. In fact the 1st edition ran to 50 pieces but with so many enthusiasts wanting a model LTX I went on to produce a 2nd edition model that ran to 70 pieces. It should be mentioned here that the first edition featured the styled version as it would have gone into production. The second edition had a bonnet style similar to the TE 20 range.
Before I proceed with my voyage of discovery on the LTX trail, I should mention that around 1944-45, Ford were experimenting with a larger version of the Ford Ferguson. A few prototypes were produced and P4 (possibly Prototype No. 4) was shipped to the UK for evaluation by the Ferguson Engineering Team. So in a way this early work by the Ford people was the precursor to the British built LTX Tractors.
The next turning point for me was how to start the ball rolling and find out as much detail as possible before approaching Paul Dimmock of Somerset, a talented pattern maker who generally specialises in producing patterns for model locomotives. Paul has an interesting background in his career – artist, draughtsman, camera mechanic, motorcycle mechanic and model maker.
I made contact with Paul in the first instance as a result of Brian Salter (Transport of Delight) who specialises in the production of model Land Rovers especially odd ball versions like fire engines, breakdown trucks and hydraulic access platforms. Brian and I had met earlier at Dunsfold Land Rovers run by the Bushell family – the Mecca for all serious Land Rover people. I had been to one of their events, my friend Robin Haughton and I had put together, based on a coil sprung, a modern version of a forward control 130-crew cab truck. Brian Salter was interested in photographing the three Land Rover hydraulic access platforms I had at the time in my fleet with the idea of producing a scale model of one for sale in limited numbers and Paul Dimmock was to be the model maker. There is one of these models in the Coldridge Collection.
Having found the maker I now needed to find as much detailed information as possible on the LTX tractor, but how?
Back in 1998, I had been to Kerala, Southern India, on a fortnight’s yoga holiday and got talking to a couple who now live in Exeter, but had lived and worked in Leamington Spa as a dentist. We were talking not about yoga postures but about my interest in Ferguson and tractors.
He told me that a client of his who had become good friends had recently retired from a lifetime’s work with MF in a senior role of Products and Development Engineer – none other than club member Erik Fredrieksen. Erik had been to the collection earlier, so I gave him a ring to see what he knew about the LTX. Well at that time he was working again for MF albeit part-time and putting together a history of the firm for their website so he was digging about in their archives. He also knew quite a number of the men who live in the Midlands and were involved with the LTX project, namely Alex Paterson, Dick Dowdeswell, Nigel Liney, Colin Stevenson, Jack Biddy and Nibby Newbold, and Derrick Hiatt whose farm at Ufton had been used for most of the field testing.
Erik kindly, and on my behalf, set up a series of appointments with these men, spread over a period of two days.
Two night’s bed and breakfast was booked for me in a super barn conversion near Erik’s home. This establishment was owned by John and Rodi Hancock. Rodi, a super Dutch lady and John – a retired farmer – naturally one evening we got talking about tractors and it transpired that he had driven an LTX on his farm. In fact, Ferguson had from time to time used his farm as a field test site. His remark was “It (LTX) was a wonderful tractor. It even had a diff lock operated by a long lever on the right hand side” – his arm moving in a gesture of engaging in diff lock: what a coincidence to stay at a B & B and the owner had driven just the tractor I had come to research – a good omen I thought.
Next day Erik and I set out early on a whistle stop tour that he had planned with true Ferguson precision – ending at 10 o’clock at night! During those two hectic days, I had the privilege of meeting the members of the LTX team I mentioned earlier. I’ll try and deal with each person in the order that Erik had set up on this tour and with each in turn giving the information they were able to provide me with.
First port of call was Nigel Liney who had been involved as a Field Test driver and luckily for me he had always been a keen photographer, so over coffee out came his album of the LTX project and some interesting shots like the one of him standing next to an upside down TE20 fitted with a Perkins P3 engine and plough he had been driving flat out. “We never bothered to slow down at the headlands to turn – just up with the hydraulic lever, flick the steering wheel round and stamp on the independent brake” but the taller P3 engine made the centre of gravity a bit higher hence the result! Nigel went on to talk about the LTX from his view.
It was a fantastic tractor he mentioned to me about the kick back through the steering on rough ground and complained about its operation to the man who designed it – who offered to come and try for himself. Nigel thoughtfully warned him not to fight the steering; the designer did not heed his advice and was pulled off the tractor seat and spread down the bonnet!
Whilst on the subject of steering, next day when I was with Farmer Derrick Hiatt, he recalled the time when one of his tractor drivers was using the LTX, he failed to keep his thumbs out of the steering wheel and suffered a dislocated thumb and was off work for a few days. Nigel went on to tell me about his experience with trailer testing – a purpose built trailer loaded with 5-6 ton of stone they used to take to the top of some steep hill in the Cotswolds doing a hill start on the way up, and on the way down they would engage a low gear but keep the clutch depressed and come down virtually free wheeling and then try out the tractors and trailers brakes if they failed the emergency back-up was to let the clutch out and hope and pray that you did not rip the centre out of the clutch as one could do on the TE20!
Another interesting point Nigel spoke about was that when Ferguson were trying out different makes of diesel engines for the TE20, they tried Perkin P3 – the Standard Motor Co 23c with combustion chamber developed by Freeman Sander (who also did work for Lister by the way) also tried a Meadows diesel engine especially built for prototype testing. One survives in the Coldridge Collection.
Nigel kept harping back to the amazing pulling power of the LTX tractor, which he attributed to the well-designed hydraulics and a torque diesel engine.
Next point of call was Jack Biddy (we were already running behind schedule surprise surprise!) who ran the field testing team, which was a tough assignment as testing was broken down into 2 x 8 hour shifts, 6-2 and 2 –10 and this went on for about 3 years mostly at Hiatts Farm of heavy blue clay. Jack told me how special large implements were developed to go with the LTX. 5 furrow 10” plough, 3 furrow 16” plough, heavy cultivators and the 5 ton trailer already mentioned.
Jack recalled how he was asked by HF to prepare a demonstration of the LTX for the MH people just prior to the merger. Harry Ferguson’s intention was to show how poor the MH766 was in relation to the LTX. They found a steep field of heavy clay and had it coated with a liberal dressing of farmyard manure to make sure it was really slippery. Needless to say the MH766 could hardly move whereas the LTX with a 3-furrow 16” plough and a clutch operated diff lock just flew along!
Again Jack was full of praise for the tractor and the performance of its engines whether petrol or diesel. Jack later after leaving Ferguson became a test engineer for Rover Cars with a team of about 10 people helping in that area. Another point he told me about was that he was involved with Ferguson was the development of a prototype plough spanner which was produced as a one off by Churchill Tools and patented.
It has long leverage for undoing and less leverage for tightening and when folded fitted neatly in the TE 20’s tool box! At a later date on one of his trips to the Coldridge Collection, he gave me the spanner – a much-appreciated gesture.
Our next and last call for the day was to Derrick Hiatts farm. A 620-acre farm at Ufton in Warwickshire – the land of blue clay, and as was mentioned earlier, the site used for most of the field-testing. As we sat around the kitchen table of the warm farmhouse, Derrick told me how his father had allowed Ferguson to use their farm as a testing ground – “a cheap way of getting most of the ploughing done” was his comment.
He was a young lad of 14-15 when this testing started in 1949, but his memory of the tractor and its performance is very vivid for it was at Hiatts farm that one LTX survived, escaping the fate of the other 5 in 1954 when they were destroyed by MHF. Derrick spoke with affection of “their”LTX, a diesel version which they used regularly doing 500 hours a year of hard work with great reliability and was only sent back to MF a few times for small repairs. He told me the only problem he can remember as the tractor began to wear out it developed a habit of slipping out of 2nd gear – they got over this problem by the simple expedient of jamming the gear lever in 2nd by using none other than a Ferguson spanner (not part of its original design concept I’m sure). One day in 1970 Derrick contacted MF asking them to collect the tractor as the clutch needed repairing. They took the tractor away and according to Derrick Hiatt, they destroyed it. He was incensed. Thirty years later, telling this story, I could detect the emotion in his voice.
I told him about the model I planned to produce – he said “I’ll have one whatever the cost – the LTX was a fantastic tractor”. A pretty positive comment from a shrewd farmer, and having been involved with the farming community for over forty years, I had never had a farmer before make such an utterance. I crept in very late at the Hancocks Barn conversion.
Next day Erik and I set off early and full of resolve to keep to the time-scale of his itinerary, calling first on Colin Stevenson (Stevie).
Stevie had been a field tester joining the others rather late in the programme. He went on at length about the pulling power of the engine, the amazing traction that was achieved with the hydraulic linkage and the fact that the LTX was fitted with a mechanical lift locking arrangement to take the strain off the hydraulics when heavy implements were transported.
A quick detour to MF Stoneleigh to get some of the small photographs Nigel had kindly lent me enlarged on their computer system. I should mention at this point, after writing initially to Jim Newbold of MF for their permission to produce a model LTX, they have been most helpful in a number of ways including the use of some of their archive photographs. This was most appreciated for were it not for their help and the co-operation of all the various people mentioned, this dream would never have become a reality.
Our next stop was Alex Paterson, a man originally from Northern Ireland who had been with HF as a manager of the experimental workshop. He told Erik and myself how he was asked at a meeting in 1948 with HF, John Chambers and Alex Senkowski and possibly Bill Harrow, to put together a costing for the production of 4 tractors and 2 sets of spare parts. Alex Paterson asked for specification drawings and was told there weren’t any! Anyway after a lot of argee bargee, a date was set for April 14th. Alex told me the concept was to develop a big Fergie with the transmission designed to be able to handle engine power output of up to 100HP (good future planning!). The engines were to be made on the unit principle so engines could be built in 2,3,4,5 and 6 cylinder configurations, designed so that the basic engine could be built to run on petrol, TVO or diesel (rather like Ford did with their early New Majors). Alex Paterson explained that Senkowski was responsible for transmission and hydraulic design, (he came from a background in the aircraft industry) and Bill Harrow was responsible for engine development (he came from the Daimler Bus Co.) and had developed a successful range of high speed diesel engines (to use a buzz phrase of that period!). Anyway Bill Harrows designs must have been pretty successful because everyone we spoke to was very positive about the performance and characteristics of these engines and their low fuel consumption.
Unfortunately he suffered a nervous breakdown towards the end of the development project – my guess was that it was due to his conscientious nature and perhaps the pressure under which he was working and decided to leave Harry Ferguson Ltd. Alex told us of the problems of obtaining the required materials at that time and the problems of getting component manufacturers to produce them as “one-offs” at a time when everyone in the automotive trade was very busy getting production flowing following the wartime restrictions of cars and trucks. Alex Paterson told us how the firm who were commissioned to produce the rear diff, somehow got an extra tooth on the pinion wheel so it would not mesh with the crown wheel, that sort of thing. When they got the pre-production model together with the new styling of sheet metal work, nobody could agree on the badge on the front of the bonnet, so he went to Woolworth’s and bought some wooden alphabets to make up the name Ferguson and stuck them across the bonnet (as you can see on the model made by Paul Dimmock). Alex Paterson had lots more to tell, but space here is restricted, so we said our farewells and headed off towards Nibby Newbolds home.
Nibby was the mechanic for the LTX development team and when I called at his old peoples bungalow on Sunday evening, I asked “what have you been doing today Nibby?”.
“Helping a friend dig the foundations for his garage” he replied. Not bad at 82!
Before we got down to talking about the LTX, Nibby said to me “You must be interested in models, would you like to see some of mine – I make boats you know. I’ve made one from down your way – a Plymouth Coastal Patrol Boat”. Well, I was delighted to be shown at least 3 of his models. The Patrol boat was about 4ft long with electric drive and radio controlled. Next was even bigger – an aircraft carrier which must have been 6ft again all working and all scratch built. What an amazing man, 82 and still producing working things with vigour and enthusiasm.
Time was going on, so we had to turn Nibby’s focus back to the purpose of our visit i.e. the LTX on which he had been the mechanic. I was a bit vague about the build up at the rear axle. Did it have epicyclic reduction hubs like MF65 or did it have bull gears like Fordson Major?
Nibby remembered it having bull gears because there was a problem of getting them out for inspection. He also told us about a diesel engine that was sent to C.A.V. for injection equipment testing and development, an engine came back to Fergusons with varnish in the sump!. He confirmed quite a few of the points told to us by other members of the team, like it had a 3 cylinder hydraulic pump, a 2 speed P.T.O. driven through a two stage clutch; another Ferguson innovation I believe.
By now it was 10.30 on a Sunday night. We shook hands and smiled all round and took our leave.
Next day after a latish start and some more conversation with the Hancocks, I set off back to Devon, but one more call on the way back. This time to visit Dick & Beryl Dowdeswell at Temple Gluiton, and what a warm welcome I had there.
I had spoken to Dick some two years earlier about his experiences of being on the LTX project and all his years of demonstrating Ferguson and MF equipment worldwide.
Dick had developed quite a legend for himself as being a most competent destroyer of machines (known to his mates as the Wrecker), so it was a wise decision of John Chambers to have him on the testing team. He had already told me a while ago how he had managed to rip the bars off the covers of the rear tyres, so for Dunlop or Goodyear it was back to the drawing board and to come up with a stronger rear tyre design which they did. Dick again spoke at length about the tractors amazing performance, which he attributed to the pulling power of the engine and the balance of the hydraulic system plus the fact that the diff lock was of the clutch type and could safely be engaged on the move.
Dick told me how they used to snatch pull small trees out with a chain when all the ploughing was done. He told me how he was trapped under a tractor that was being used for winching (a near miss) and lots lots more besides, like demonstrating the Ferguson wraparound combine to several farmers.
Well driving back to Devon, my mind was racing away photos, loads of scruffy notes and so much information. I just had to get this sorted out before I drove up to Watchet to discuss it all with Paul Dimmock. I think even he was a bit scared of the task that lay ahead. After all, his locomotive models are all based on freely available detailed working drawings from the days when the locos were made. We only had photographs and luckily one of the LTX next to Fordson Major and one next to a Ferguson FE35, so that helped enormously with the scale.
Well, Paul looked at all these photographs and notes and said in his laid back way – “Well I have never done this before but I need the work and I’ll taken on the challenge”. I breathed a sigh of relief. We talked about costing and made notes. It was not too frightening, but I did double up Paul’s estimate for his time. Just as well, because these things in my experience always take longer than we like to think and there invariably a few problems.
Following that, Paul soon produced a scale working drawing and got underway the patterns of all the individual parts that make up the model – 70 in all. I lent him a Ferguson TE20 parts book and a model Fordson Major and TE20 to give him a bit more insight. The nett result was all very positive, so that within a few weeks, Paul had produced the masters in resin and brass for my inspection. Well, I was not qualified to inspect them, but I did need to check them out with the “boys” up in the Midlands who worked on the LTX project. The last thing you want when producing a model, is to get it all made up and show it to someone only to be told “well that’s not quite right” or “this lever should be on the other side” etc etc.
So with this aim in mind, Erik kindly arranged another of his whistle stop tours and booked me in at Hancocks super B & B.
Well, out of that trip around, there were only 2-3 minor modifications needed to meet the approval of all these gentlemen who had worked on the project, and that was good enough for me.
Erik kindly asked if I would like him to write the booklet to go with the model and arrange for it to be produced by MF publishing department. I must say, I was delighted when Erik read the proof to me over the phone, that he had started the booklet by saying “This booklet is dedicated to all Ferguson Staff past and present, who were involved in the LTX Project”. That is exactly what I would have written for I feel this limited edition model is a monument to those guys. What a pity it never went into production. It would have made mincemeat of the Fordson Major!
Let the last words of this article be said by Derrick Hiatt from a letter he wrote to me on 26th April 2000.
“I really am pleased and honoured to be of the few to own such a model.
What a pity I didn’t hold on to the real thing, but this model will give me
Many happy memories” © M Thorne November 2000
PS Since this was written I have acquired a copy of the Ferguson Specification Data booklet dated…..as well as a full size working drawing of the diesel engine dated….. These along with the models can be viewed at the Coldridge Collection.
© Mike Thorne (2000, updated 2015)