The Ferguson System from Vol.6 No.2 1993

The Ferguson System: Reproduced from the Ferguson Club Journal Vol.6 No.2 (No.18) 1993
A brief history of the development 1917 to 1964 by G Field

Nearly a thousand people have joined the Ferguson Club since we published an account of Ferguson tractors and the Ferguson System. (Vol.1 No.1, Autumn 1986).

The Ferguson Club receives many enquiries and comments which show an enormous in­terest and, at the same time, much misunderstanding of basic Ferguson System prin­ciples. To our many new members we hope the following article will foster greater inter­est and understanding of your machines and help to explain why Ferguson tractors are so important to agricultural history and mechanisation.

The author is a professional fruit grower and arable farmer. Born during the Second World War, he grew up riding tractors from the age of three in the days when such prac­tice was legal. His first seat was the tool box on the dash of a Fordson ‘N’ ‘Standard’ where hundreds of hours were spent until he was grown sufficiently to control the tractor himself. The first Ferguson TE came in 1947, replacing an Allis Chalmers WF, but it was a year or two before he was allowed to drive it.

His subsequent career with tractors has covered approximately 25,000 hours of com­mercial operation. Over 70 different models from over 20 different makes over two continents have been used on practically every task from tobacco to pigs, land reclama­tion to construction sites, all types of field. livestock, orchard and horticultural opera­tions. Mini tractors, giants, crawlers, ‘one-offs’ and ‘system’ tractors have all made their contribution in addition to Fergusons.

This experience, combined with a fascination for tractor operating systems and espe­cially hydraulics, has led to an acute appreciation of those who developed these sys­tems. Harry Ferguson is by far the most important single contributor and the admiration and affection for his tractors throughout the world are ample testimony to that.

The author at home with what is believed to be the only surviving example of the first series Ferguson plough circa 1917 (the black stand is one Mr Field made to allow the hitch to be demonstrated without a suitable tractor). This version is a modification of the first hitch used on the Eros tractor and replacing a more complicated hitch initially proposed for use with tractors such as the Fordson ‘F’ or similar types. Photo: G Field


HARRY FERGUSON (1884-1960)

For those to whom farming technology is a lifelong fascination, it is evident that a very large proportion of the successful inventions and innovations come from farmers and their families, Their inspiration has allowed staggering gains to be made in the quest to gain greater productivity from the land. From Jethro Tull and his seed drill in the late 1700s through to today’s highly sophisticated electronics and machines, much of the original thought has emanated from farmers. There is one man however to whom mechanised agriculture owes its biggest single debt – Harry Ferguson.

 Born on a farm in County Down, Northern Ireland, it is said he greatly disliked the drudgery of farm work and, by the autumn of 1902, had decided to emigrate to Canada. However his elder brother Joe dissuaded him by asking Harry to work for him in his business in Belfast where they sold and serviced cars and motor cycles. From the start Harry Ferguson’s mechani­cal bent was apparent and the new ap­prentice quickly displayed a natural talent for tuning engines to a fine degree.

These talents led to motor racing and motor cycle trials with considerable suc­cess. Aviation caught his imagination and in 1908 he set about building his own aeroplane succeeding, on the last day of the following year, in becoming the second Briton ever to build and fly his own machine. It was also the first flight in Ireland.

As a result of the First World War Harry Ferguson, who in 1911 had established his own business in Belfast known as May Street Motors (later Harry Ferguson Ltd), took on the agency for an American trac­tor called the Waterloo Boy (Overtime in Britain). The war brought with it the threat of food shortages. Tractors were in­creasingly used to replace horses drafted into the army for transport. Harry Fer­guson, along with his assistant Willy Sands. displayed considerable skill with tractors, so much so that they caught the attention of the Irish Board of Agriculture. The Board asked him to instruct tractor users so as to make the very best use of scarce machinery by visiting individual farmers and, in addition, giving demonstrations throughout Ireland.

So it was that Harry Ferguson “returned to farming”, but this time on his own terms. It was the start of a long and tortuous road that would lead to his becoming a mil­lionaire producer of tractors and farm machinery, a crusader extraordinaire with a mission to improve the lot of the world’s farmers.

His tractor became a world best seller ful­filling the promise given to the then government that the Ferguson System would make a sustained and valuable con­tribution to Britain’s foreign exchange earnings. That promise has led, it is es­timated. to over one billion pounds of ex­ports to date. Massey-Ferguson con­tinues to be the world’s top selling make, still firmly based on the Ferguson System.

The Ferguson System

The revolutionary principles contained and perfected in the Ferguson System remain unmatched the world over. So profound has their influence been on tractor design over the last sixty years that at least 85% of all farm tractors now produced in the world by all manufacturers are based on his unique ideas.

At the time Harry Ferguson grew up and went into business, the revolution in farm mechanisation, brought about by the ap­plication of the internal combustion engine to the land, was still in its infancy. To a man of his inventive ability the slight stat­ure, the cumbersome machines and imple­ments of the time proved a compelling challenge.

Not only were tractors costly, they were heavy, difficult to handle and potentially dangerous. But to Harry Ferguson their greatest drawback was that most imple­ments were simply trailed behind, working against rather than with the tractor, separate rather than integrated as a single unit.

From his initial plough trials in 1917 it took Harry Ferguson just two years to design a two point linkage that laid the foundations of the ultimate Ferguson three point linkage. The Ferguson two point hitch (later referred to as the Duplex hitch) es­tablished the basic principle of all subse­quent Ferguson linkages, namely the con­cept of a ‘virtual hitch-point’. This prin­ciple has been copied by all manufacturers ever since. It allows the line of draft of an integrally coupled implement to be at a position other than that of its actual con­nections. The 1919 Ferguson hitch, with its single top and bottom links, enabled his own Ferguson plough to become a unit (or integral to the tractor), pulled as if its point of hitch was near ground level under the centre of the tractor, as well as enabling it to be raised and lowered from the seat with a spring assisted lift. The ingenious geometry of the Ferguson system allowed a lightweight implement to gain penetration without built-in weight and in addition the 1919 linkage gave some relief to tractor and plough on striking a hidden obstruc­tion. The top link also applied a downward force on the tractor’s front end, thus enhancing steering while entirely preventing the tractor from rearing over backwards.
The revolutionary 1919 Ferguson hitch that laid the foundation for the modern 3 point linkage. The line of draft extends from A: (the virtual hitch-point) to D’, thus tending to pull the plough Into the ground. he Implement IS not rigid to the tractor because the links can freely pivot at each end (float). Hitchlng is sImply by the two pins, one onto normal drawbar or plate and the other directly above on a Ferguson plate furnished with each plough. This system was later referred to as the Ferguson Duplex’ hitch.

From 1919 to 1925 the Ferguson linkage underwent further refinement, automatic depth control without wheels being Harry Ferguson’s ultimate aim. It was this re­quirement that brought Harry Ferguson, in 1925, to achieve a second crucially im­portant invention, draft control. This is the principle whereby the depth of an implement is automatically regulated by reference to the effort (draft) needed to pull it through the soil. It complemented the ‘virtual hitch-point’ invention exactly. This Ferguson invention is the basis of all modern tractor hydraulic systems throughout the world.

Various methods of depth control were tried. By 1923 the ingenious ‘slipper’ arrangement seen here was used. Placed In the rear furrow and connected through rods and pivots to the cross-shaft, a constant depth was maintained while still allowing the plough to float and not lose weight to a depth wheel. Drawings Harry Ferguson Ltd.

However it took a further four years to complete the basic elements of what we now simply call ‘three point linkage’. The Ferguson two point hitch, or Ferguson Duplex Hitch, was not ideal for the wide variety of different implements Harry Fer­guson always had in mind, mainly due to its lack of torsional stability and slightly adverse steering characteristics. A third link was added, initially retaining the single bottom link but soon to be ‘upended’ to two bottom links and one top link. The lower link draft sensing of the 1925 design was retained, operated by hydraulics using a continuous flow pump. The Ferguson ‘vir­tual hitch-point’ principle was applied to the two new double lower links by arranging for their line of pull to converge at or near the centre of the front axle. This allowed an implement to follow the front wheels, thus completing the major principles of the modern three point linkage.
By 1925 a patent application for Ferguson automatic ‘draft’ control had been made. Work continued on both draft control and the linkage, The single top link of the Duplex’ hitch was replaced by two links, universally jointed at both ends and arranged so that if their Iines of draft are projected forward. they converge near the front of the tractor forming a ‘virtual hitch-point’. This results in the implement following the tractor’s front wheels when In work. This illustration shows this linkage in use with a very early Ferguson cultivator circa 1927/28. A single vertical hydraulic ram can be seen which was automatically controlled by draft sensing from the lower link. This was the world’s first automatic draft sensing three pint linkage system, The continuous flow pump was driven from the tractor’s final worm gear drive shaft and was therefore only operational when moving. Ulster Transport Museum.

Lacking success in finding a manufacturer for his system, Harry Ferguson decided to build his own tractor incorporating all his designs to date. Work started in his Bel­fast works in 1932 and in 1933 the first all Ferguson tractor, incorporating the Ferguson System, came into being. This tractor, now on loan to the Science Museum in London, was called the Fer­guson ‘Black’.

After further development. the linkage was ‘upended’ o one top and two lower links but still using lower link sensing, Another invention ensured that while in work the implement was allowed to move sideways sufficiently to follow the steering, but held centrally when fully raised on the linkage, The first Ferguson prototype. seen here at Fletchhampstead. used this system. Known as the ‘Black’ tractor. it was also the first to have ‘suction side’ control. The draft sensing system was changed during trials from lower link to top link, It would not be until the 1960s that Ferguson (by then Massey-Ferguson) would use lower link sensing again, (Note the :4′ at right. This is ‘A’ #1, now at Banner Lane) Photo,’ Harry Ferguson Ltd

By any standards it was revolutionary. At only 16.4 cwt with an 18 hp Hercules engine it could plough with two 10 inch fur- rows or operate other Ferguson imple­ments with ease. These could be at­tached or detached in less than a minute and the driver could control the raising, lowering and set the depth of any Fer­guson implement by the touch of a finger, without effort and from the seat.

This tractive performance is made possible by the use the Ferguson System makes of the weight of the implement, plus the weight of the soil on it and plus the natural tendency of the Ferguson linkage to draw the implement deeper into the ground. These three forces, carried by the Fer­guson System linkage, add up to con­siderable weight, all of which is trans­ferred to the rear wheels of the tractor. At the same time, the top link, by resist­ing the natural tendency of the implement to ‘rotate’ in a forward direction about its two lower hitch points, keeps the front wheels firmly on the ground.

These revolutionary Ferguson develop­ments made possible traction without ex­cess built in weight; allowed lighter and simpler machines that made more efficient use of resources and an attachment sys­tem that enabled an ease of attachment, control and safety that has stood the test of over half a century’s use, The Fer­guson System has made tractors the everyday, all purpose machines everyone today accepts as normal.

Harry Ferguson’s system provided the breakthrough needed to spawn most of the agricultural mechanisation techniques seen today throughout the world.

Ferguson Tractor Production History

Having evolved the basis of his system and built a successful prototype, Harry Ferguson set about refining the machine and preparing for production. A new sales company was formed, Harry Fer­guson Ltd, the Belfast Motor Company becoming Harry Ferguson (Motors) Ltd.

Many potential manufacturers expressed an interest in the early 1930s but the first firm to build the Ferguson tractor for Harry Ferguson was David Brown. Already well known for their gear making skills (they had supplied Harry Ferguson with such parts for the ‘Black’ tractor), David Brown (under a new company, David Brown Tractors) agreed to make the tractor at their Park works, Lockwood, Hud­dersfield in Yorkshire. Essentially this tractor was the same as the developed version of the ‘Black’ but used a Coventry Climax engine of about 20 hp. It retained the patented Ferguson final reduction gear of the ‘Black’ which did not allow the fitting of an engine driven power take-off shaft although a PTO central to the three point linkage had been shown as early as 1933, but driven from the final drive (ie ground speed PTO).

One other key development that had been fitted to the ‘Black’ tractor and now on the new Ferguson tractor (designated Fer­guson Model A) was an ingenious control valve for the draft control. This valve, placed on the suction side of the pump, was to become the heart of every Fer­guson tractor from then on. It is still in production today (1993) in all tractors from Massey-Ferguson’s Banner Lane factory. Other features on the A were steering brakes, three forward gears and one reverse, nine gallon tank and two reserves, all in a tractor weighing in at 1848 Ibs.

Harry Ferguson concentrating on one of his favourite pastimes – demonstrating his tractors to an interested audience. He was a master demonstrator – second to none. Photo: Harry Ferguson Ltd

 The world’s first production tractor with full automatic draft control and three point linkage undergoing trials in 1936 using a prototype inter-row hoe. Driver is John Chambers, now honorary vice-president of the Ferguson Club. Location not known yet. Note the row followers and the new Ferguson System patent wheels set out to the widest track of 54 inches. The front wheels used the same method of track adjustment, a system David Brown later continued to use for many years up to all tractors before the DB 900 in the late 1950s. Photo.D Bull

A novel new Ferguson method of altering wheel widths (sometimes called the in­cremental system) became available on the rubber tyred version. Whereas the steel wheels could be changed to just two track widths of 48 inches and 51 inches, the rubber tyred wheels (9-22 size) could be changed by reversing the rim to the disc to give 45, 48, 51 and 54 inches.

This method was to be used on all subse­quent Fergusons (including the Ford-Fer­guson) and, in due course, the majority of other makes,

The new sales company, Harry Ferguson Ltd, marketed the new tractor with, initially, four implements, all priced at £26 each:

  • 10 inch two furrow plough
  • 3 row ridger
  • 7 tine tiller with Ferguson patented spring loaded back-break tines

.9 tine general purpose and/or row crop cultivator

All field adjustments for tractor and imple­ments could be carried out with just one spanner, the famous Ferguson spanner, A 10 inch open-ended wrench, marked off in inches, this spanner was part of Harry Ferguson’s policy of using just two nut and bolt sizes wherever possible, a policy adhered to for nearly the next thirty years,

Sales however were slow due to the depressed state of the economy in the 1930s and also due to the novelty and perhaps the cost of the implements on top of a tractor that itself was dearer than the best selling British tractor of that time, the Dagenham built Fordson ,

During the summer of 1937 the sales com­pany, Harry Ferguson Ltd, merged with David Brown Tractors to become Fer­guson-Brown Ltd with Harry Ferguson and Mr David Brown becoming joint managing directors, Various improvements had been made to engine and other parts plus a PTO/belt pulley conversion unit being of­fered along with a developed range of implements,

By November 1937 Harry Ferguson in Belfast had designed a major improvement to his tractor, dispensing with the ‘Black/ A’ internally toothed ring gear reduction and incorporating a constant running lay shaft in the gear box, This al­lowed an engine driven PTO to be fitted and the hydraulic pump and PTO therefore could be driven whether or not the tractor was in gear, The pump was shown either fitted to the constant running lay shaft direct (as for example on the M-F 35 or 65), or fitted to the PTO behind a ‘dog’ clutch as on the later Ford-Ferguson or TE/TO series tractors, In fact all subse­quent Ferguson tractors incorporated these 1937 improvements, right up to today, It was not however used on any of the David Brown built Fergusons .


Ferguson ‘A’ #722 in the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn. Michigan USA, This is the tractor Harry Ferguson used to demonstrate his technology to Henry Ford in October 1938, Photo: Graham Walsh

In October 1938 Harry Ferguson took tractor #722 with implements to the USA, There is no doubt that although the#722 was a standard production tractor, Harry Ferguson already intended that any new tractor would incorporate all of the fea­tures of his transmission improvements, as outlined above, plus others that they had in hand at the time, An American, Eber Sherman, who had manufactured the Ferguson plough with Duplex hitch in the 1920s, arranged for Harry Ferguson to demonstrate his tractor and implements to Henry Ford senior, So impressed was Ford that he and Harry Ferguson con­cluded a deal with a simple handshake, a gentlemen’s agreement, In essence, the agreement was that Ford would manufac­ture for Harry Ferguson a tractor incor­porating all the latest Ferguson inventions and designs.

Harry Ferguson returned to England leav­ing the tractor at the Ford Airport Building in Dearborn, Ford built two prototype tractors incorporating some of the Fer­guson inventions but these machines proved entirely unsatisfactory and were discarded, Progress was made, however, when in February 1939 Harry Ferguson and his small team of engineers returned to Dearborn and under their su­pervision work resumed on another new prototype, designated the 9N ,

In January, the agreement between Harry Ferguson and David Brown was ter­minated, the company reverting to David Brown Tractors Ltd with the latter continu­ing to sell the Ferguson A through 1939 and to provide after sales service, David Brown Tractors Ltd continued developing their own tractor, launching it in July 1939,

Unpublished photograph of Harry Ferguson introducing his new Ferguson System Ford built tractor at the worldwide launch on 29th June 1939 in America, These early 9Ns were fitted with 8×32 tyres. Ferguson rigid tine cultivator being displayed here, Henry Ford lower left. Photo,’G Field

Meanwhile by April, back in the USA, field tests with the new Ferguson made by Ford were well under way and on the 27th of that month a pUblic announcement was made of the Ford/Ferguson arrangement and the impending revolutionary (to the US market) new tractor,

The 9N was demonstrated to the trade on 12th June and to an invited audience of 500 from all over the world on 29th June 1939, The 9N incorporated all of the Ferguson tractor patents to date and was the first production machine to incorporate the Ferguson constant running lay shaft driving the Ferguson System pump on the PTO as in the 1937 patent outlined above,

Other new Ferguson features were an in­genious method of adjusting the new rowcrop front axle with a new double drag link steering box to supplement the Fer­guson rear wheel system that had been used on the A but improved by dishing the rear wheel disc to allow double the number of wheel settings, ie 8 settings from 48 to 76 inches instead of four, The increments were increased from 3 inches to 4 inches,

Steering brakes, 14 inch fully energizing type, were fitted as on the Ferguson A but now with a separate clutch pedal, Tyres were initially 8-32 rear and 4,00-19 single rib fronts, 8-32s proved unsatis­factory and Mr Firestone, a friend of Henry Ford, had a new tyre developed especially for the 9N, the 10-28,

Ford production engineers got the new tractor on line in record time , applying the very latest production line techniques, To ensure speed, Harry Ferguson had to ac­cept a Ford side valve engine whereas he would have preferred an overhead valve unit, Every effort was made to use stock items where at all possible, The gearbox was similar to the old A but the rear drive line, PTO and hydraulic assembly were as drawn in the 1937 Ferguson patent 510352, So was the linkage, draft con­trol, hydraulic pump and linkage drawbar . the latter retaining the 11 holes,

The engine featured renewable hardened steel cylinder liners, full length water jackets, cast steel pistons, chrome­nickel valves with tungsten steel valve in­serts, fully pressurised engine lubricating system and other advanced engineering, A centrifugal water pump, self sealing and prelubricated, an automatic governor, coil ignition combined with distributor, oil bath air cleaner, silencer and ignition key and lock were among other features,

The new tractor developed a stated maxi­mum 23,87 belt horsepower at 2200 rpm from its 119, 7 cu ins (6: 1 comp ratio) on petrol only, A TVO version. the 9NAN , was made later for the UK market where the tractors did sterling service during World War II,

A sheet metal ‘styled’ bonnet was used as was the vogue at that time, with rear wheel wings similar to those used on the type A, A service panel allowed access to battery and fuel tank while a modern type dash displayed instruments, Self starter was standard with 6 volt electrics , At #12,500, in early 1940, a safety device was fitted to prevent starting the engine while the tractor was in gear, Some prototypes were fitted with a plastic pan seat made of material from Ford’s soybean research unit, 50 years ahead of its time!

A remarkable coincidence came about last year when our representative in Germany, Hartmut Lindner, sent the Ferguson Club a copy of the certificate illustrated above. A Ferguson dealer from the next village to his has this certificate, issued to a Mr G Krienm, on his wall. It so happens that I have a photograph of a class at the old Ferguson School, also of German students in 1951, on which Mr Kreim (standing fourth from right) appears. Although there is a slight difference in the spelling, the dates are the same. I am nearly certain it must be the same person. Is that so, and is Mr Krienm or Kreim still alive?

As with the A, tractors were painted grey. All frequently used nuts could be serviced with the Ferguson System span­ner in common with the implements. However the jaw sizes were very slightly reduced from the earlier Ferguson spanner in order to standardise on American nuts and bolts. All later Ferguson spanners, both in the US and UK, retained these sizes.

The new 9N tractor, with all its unique Ferguson features, was a sensation and quickly established itself with sales to challenge market leaders I-H, Allis Chal­mers and John Deere. Production con­tinued until 1947 at which point over 306,000 tractors had been manufac­tured .

It had always been the intention of Harry Ferguson that his tractor would continue to be manufactured in Britain for world markets outside continental America. Indeed he had hoped that Ford would un­dertake production at Dagenham as they had in Dearborn. This was not to be. The search was on for another manufac­turer. Another possible venue close to Harry Ferguson’s heart was to produce his tractor in Northern Ireland. This was not to be either.

Meanwhile, development of the Ferguson products continued in Belfast and the USA, both on tractor and implement design. The most important of these was a new four speed and one reserve gear box. This featured helically cut constant mesh gears ensuring an unusual lack of noise. A novel feature was the sa fety start system whereby, instead of the gear having to be in neutral before the starter could be operated (as on most 9Ns), the gear lever itself was used to operate the switch.

The steering brake arrangement was im­proved with a master pedal and separate steering brake pedals, the radius rods were strengthened, the rear centre hous­ing was strengthened to take new draw­bars and the latest design Ferguson trailers, and extra hydraulic tapping provided for external hydraulic services and the wheels were modified to replace the 9N’s ‘temporary’ 1940 rear hub modification among other developments. A position control device was designed but not included in the new proposed UK production tractors.

The UK manufacturer sought turned out to be the Standard Motor Company whose factory at Banner Lane, Coventry needed a new role after the war effort had wound down. Difficulties over steel supply delayed proceedings but a personal inter­vention by Mr Ferguson to the then new Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Min­ister) Sir Stafford Cripps got sufficient al­location to allow production plans to go ahead.

In February, UK machinery dealers, both those who had been handling the old A and/or the Ford/Ferguson 9N as well as potential new ones, were informed of the impending new Ferguson tractor and to book orders. Details of the tractors were to follow later with deliveries made in rota­tion.

The task of equipping Banner Lane for production and finalising the last design details of the new Ferguson tractor went on apace throughout most of 1946. The prototype tractors and implements developed in Belfast and the USA had been shipped to England in the latter part of 1945. Arrangements for the produc­tion under contract of the ever growing range of Ferguson System implements had also to be made. Tractor production finally got underway in the last few weeks of 1946 under, it is said, very cold con­ditions .
Tractor England type 20, or TE 20, Seen here with John Chambers driving at Stoneleigh in England, this is the tractor the Ferguson Co developed mainly in 1944/5/6 from its sister tractor the 9N. It was produced concurrently with the 9N for part of both 1946 and 1947. Photo, G Field

 The TE was intended to be a major export earner for Britain and so it turned out to be. Ferguson irrigation pump in action with a crop of Cholam (Sorgum) in the background. Water, probably the most valuable commodity in tropical areas in the right place and at the right time. can easily be transferred from place to place as here where flood irrigation is in progress, Photo, Harry Ferguson Ltd

 The new tractor was designated ‘TE’ 20, meaning Tractor England. This is the tractor renowned and loved the world over as the ‘Grey Fergie’ .

Engines were supplied by the Continental Motor Company of Muskegon, Michigan, at that time the largest independent maker of spark ignition engines in the US. Their Z 120 unit filled the gap until the new Stan­dard made engine became available later the following year. The new TE included all the above Ferguson improvements and now had the overhead valve engine Harry Ferguson always wanted. A last minute alteration was the forward hinged bonnet with the fuel tank bolted separately above the engine.

In September, one year after the start of TE production, the new Standard over­head valve engines began to arrive. For the tractor designated TE-A 20, its 112.9 cu in (1850 cc) engine gave 23.9 belt hp, similar to both the 9N and TE 20. The implement range continued to expand with the new Ferguson System trailer in­troducing the farmer to a concept that was to revolutionise farm transport.

By July, following an attempt by Ford to gain complete control of the Ferguson operation in the US, all 9N deliveries to Harry Ferguson Inc in Detroit ceased leav­ing the company with no tractors to sell . Almost all Ferguson dealers, many with great reluctance, went over to Ford’s new sales company Dearborn Motors. Ford continued to produce a modified 9N but with all the Ferguson designs still in place. It was this tractor, the 8N, that led Harry Ferguson to seek redress in the courts for infringement of his patent rights.

The Ferguson System linkage was adopted as an international standard “category 1”. A “category 2” was set for larger tractors using Ferguson type linkage and, much later, a “category 3” for very large tractors. These standards have remained to this day, another unsung Fer­guson contribution to world farming.

TE production ceased in July when all Z 120 engines had been used up, all Ban­ner Lane tractors from then on being fitted with the Standard spark ignition engines until the diesel version was introduced. Because of the cessation of supply from Ford in the USA, several thousand TE 20 tractors were shipped to Harry Ferguson Inc to enable sales to continue while a new Ferguson factory was equipped in Detroit. This plant started production of the TO 20 (Tractor Overseas) on 11th October. TOs were nearly identical to the TEs , apart from using Delco-Remy electrics , Long or Rockford clutches and Bendix brakes.


Harry Ferguson always preferred straight petrol engines but, to allow users to avoid the heavy tax on petrol, a vaporising oil engine was introduced in April. This trac­tor, designated TE-D 20, used an 85mm bore engine to compensate for the lower efficiency of vaporising oil. This raised the capacity to 127.4 cu ins (2088 cc) and lowered the compression ratio to 4 . 8:1 , to give 23.9 hp. Later, the com­pression ratio was raised to 5. 1:1 to give 25.4 hp.

A zero octane version (TE-H) for lamp oil with 4. 5:1 compression ratio followed in 1950 giving 22.9 hp using the 85mm en­gine. 80mm bore engines continued to be fitted to TE-As for a while after the TE-Ds were introduced .

The onward march of the diesel concept led Harry Ferguson Ltd to introduce the 20c engine in 1951. Designated TE-F, it produced a maximum belt hp of 26 from 127.68 cu ins (2092 cc) with a compres­sion ratio of 17:1. 12 volt electrics were also introduced for all models from serial 200,001. Spark ignition tractors used a single Lucas 7 plate 38 ampere hour bat­tery, while the new TE-F diesel require two Lucas 17 plate 6 volt 120 ampere hour batteries connected in series. Apart from small details, such as the extra safety button on the gear lever start, the TE-F tractors remained the same as spark ignition tractors.
1951 saw the new diesel 7E-F 20. A very early version seen here on test at the Ferguson School in Warwickshire, UK. The implement is a Ferguson rear mounted mower with ‘sheafing’ attachment. a means of partially mechanising grain crops at very low capital expenditure in such areas as India. Photo: Harry Ferguson Ltd

Perkins of Peterborough offered a 31 hp ‘P3’ three cylinder diesel conversion for all TEs and 9Ns. Other specialised versions of the TE 20 had been progressively of­fered starting with a ‘Narrow’ type, the TE-B in 1947. By 1952 the list had grown to the following types (not including those above):

  • TE-B Narrow petrol with Z 120 engine (by now obsolete)
  • TE-C Narrow petrol with Standard en­gine
  • TE-E Narrow TVO with Standard engine
  • TE-J Narrow lamp oil Standard engine
  • TE-K Vineyard petrol with Standard en­gine
  • TE-L Vineyard TVO with Standard engine
  • TE-M Vineyard lamp oil Standard engine
  • TE-P Industrial, full type, petrol, Stan­dard engine
  • TE-R Industrial, full type, TVO, Stan­dard engine
  • TE-S Industrial, full type, lamp oil, Standard engine
  • TE- T Industrial, full type, diesel, Stan­dard 20c engine

A ‘Council’ Industrial version of the above fitted out with lights and Hi-Lift loader was also supplied.

  • TE-PT Semi Industrial, petrol, Standard engine
  • TE-RT Semi Industrial, TVO, Standard engine
  • TE-ST Semi Industrial, lamp oil, Stan dard engine
  • TE- TT Semi Industrial, diesel, Standard 20c engine
  • TE-PZE Industrial, basic type without rear fenders, Standard petrol engine
  • TE- TZE Industrial, basic type without rear fenders, Standard 20c engine
  • TE-PZD Industrial, basic type with ag rear fenders, Standard petrol engine
  • TE- TZD Industrial, basic type with ag rear fenders, Standard 20c engine

The ever growing range of Ferguson implements listed in 1952 included:

For mounting on the Ferguson System three point linkage:

  • 8″ 3 furrow plough, ley bodies
  • 10″ 3 furrow plough 1
  • 10″ 2 furrow plough 1 with various bodies
  • 12″ 2 furrow plough 1
  • 16″ single furrow deep digger plough
  • 16″ single furrow reversible digger plough
  • Disc plough, 2 disc
  • Tiller with Ferguson patent break back
  • Rigid tine cultivator
  • Spring tine cultivator
  • Offset mounted disc harrow
  • Spring tooth harrow, 3 section
  • Spike tooth harrow, 3 section
  • Sub-soiler
  • 3 row ridger
  • Weeder
  • Potato planter
  • Potato spinner
  • Steerage hoe
  • Mower
  • Earth scoop
  • Earth leveller/grader blade, rear mounted
  • Woodsaw
  • Winch
  • Hammermill
  • Transport box
  • Post hole digger

The following were front mounted using the hydraulics:

  • Manure loader • Hay sweep

The following were trailed but used the ex­ternal hydraulic services:

  • 3 ton trailer
  • 30 cwt trailer

The following were trailed or semi trailed using the Ferguson System

  • Universal seed drill
  • Manure spreader
  • Non tipping 3 ton trailer • Tandem disc harrow

The Ferguson System farmer was also of­fered a comprehensive range of acces­sories to tailor his Ferguson equipment to his exact requirements:

For the tractor:

  • Steel wheels – row crop or conventional types
  • Belt pulley
  • Automatic pick-up hitch – a Ferguson in­vention almost universal in Britain
  • Wheel girdles (to fit over tyres as an aid to wheel grip)
  • Duel wheel kit (for reduced ground pres­sure and/or stability on hills)
  • Ferguson System tractor jack
  • Front wheel weights
  • Lighting set
  • Tractormeter (allows engine speed and hour recording)
  • Tyre inflation set
  • Tractor cover
  • Stabilisers and brackets (to prevent side movement of linkage)
  • Hinged seat and stepboards
  • Vertical exhaust
  • Heat shield (prevents fuel evaporation in very hot climates)

For other machines:

  • Auto hitch set (to convert equipment to Ferguson System auto hitch)
  • Wheelbarrow conversion (to convert transport box into a barrow)
  • Mower stand (to allow easy fitting and storage of mower)
  • Third furrow 10″ conversion kit (to con­vert 2 furrow 10″ plough to 3 furrow)
  • Front furrow width adjuster for ploughs
  • Harvest ladders/’thripples’ (retains high loads, bales etc on 3 ton trailer)

Many other accessories were available to adapt Ferguson implements to local condi­tions around the world. (The above list is ­not definitive and there were many more for both TE and the later FE35. With overseas equipment it adds up to a list of very approximately 100 different imple­ments from 1936 to 1964.)

In 1952 Harry Ferguson won his damages action against Ford for infringement of Ferguson patents. Ford had continued to produce a tractor, the 8N (literally a slightly modified 9N) with all the original Ferguson inventions plus some new ones, in complete disregard to patents. He was awarded $9.25 million, approximately $50 million today, but the case had cost him approximately $3. 5 to 4 million. Mr Ferguson’s claims for damages to his busi­ness and Ford’s counter claims were withdrawn. It had been a bruising and traumatic experience, fought for principle and the rights of the inventor. Ford had to cease producing tractors with the current Ferguson patents by the end of 1952. This caused them to redesign their trac­tors, mainly in the hydraulics, but they were able to continue using many Fer­guson designs as the patents had, by that time, expired.

In the UK, Harry Ferguson Ltd was developing an exciting new larger Fer­guson System tractor, the ‘LTX’ project or TE60,

Growing demand for power led to the LTX or TE 60, seen here in its proposed styling. Both diesel and spark ignition versions were intended and it had a remarkable performance. It was axed by the Massey-Harris influence who thought it unsuitable for US mid western farms. History has proved them wrong as 3 wheeled tractors soon went out of favour and there was nothing done to later 4 wheel tractors that could not have been done to the TE 60 several years before. Massey-Harris-Ferguson lost a great deal by abandoning this tractor, both in market lead and cohesion of their combined tractor operations. Photo: Massey Ferguson Ltd

The downturn in sales affected all manufacturers, no less Ferguson, Mas­sey-Harris, a Canadian based company, had been approached by Harry Ferguson as early as December 1947, following the loss of his tractor supply from Ford, when he asked them to consider making the Fer­guson tractor. They declined, thinking Harry Ferguson was unlikely to survive!

In 1953 Massey-Harris faced yet again a tractor crisis, judging, correctly this time, that the Ferguson System was the best and they needed it to survive in the tractor business. The two companies merged on 16th August 1953 to form Massey-Harris ­Ferguson Ltd. At that date 359,092 TE type tractors had been made by Harry Ferguson Ltd since 1946 making nearly 666, 500 Ferguson System tractors since 1936.

TE 20 production continued until October 1956 totalling 517 , 649 units. A UK ver­sion of the TO 35 tractor, already in production at the Ferguson plant in Detroit, replaced the TE 20. Called the FE 35, it had major developments to the hydraulics, transmission, engines and driver comfort. It retained all the Ferguson System designs, the rear end being dimensionally the same thus allowing a high degree of interchangeability with existing Ferguson and other makes of implements.

Several older Ferguson ideas were used on the FE 35 including ground speed PTO , the arrangement of the hydraulic pump directly onto the constant running lays haft , the 9N service panel, the unused ‘position control’ device, the old 9N safety start whereby the gear lever had to be in neutral to allow starter to be operated etc. TE type stepboards be­came standard as was the familiar tipping bonnet for engine access.

Principal all new features were the dual clutch that allows PTO and hydraulics to remain operational – ‘live’ – while the transmission clutch is depressed, a new 6 forward and 2 reverse gearbox, a new Standard 37 hp diesel engine, the 23c, a drop response and a new double acting

draft sensing of the top link. This latter device enabled implements that transmitted tension to the top link to operate the Fer­guson System draft control, a situation that could only be done on the TE by fitting a top link assistor spring.

A ‘Deluxe’ FE 35 was offered with dual clutch plus comfort bucket type seat and a dash mounted tractormeter as standard. Petrol and TVO engines continued to be available, as well as all the familiar variants seen with TE 20.

By late 1957, the decision had finally been taken to drop the ‘twin track’ market­ing policy. Amid considerable global reor­ganisation, Massey-Harris-Ferguson was dropped in favour of Massey-Ferguson. New unified colours, Massey-Harris red and Ferguson grey, for all Massey-Fer­guson agricultural products were adopted along with a new triple triangle logo sport­ing the old Ferguson System badge.

Sir Edmund Hillary, leading part of the Trans-antarctic Expedition, the Common­wealth’s contribution to International Geophysical Year, reached the South Pole using Ferguson TE-A 20 petrol tractors, the first vehicles ever to reach the Pole overland. (The Trans-antarctic TEA 20’s, Mike Thorne, Journal 96, Winter 2020)

A larger Massey-Ferguson tractor was announced, the M-F 765 or ’65’. Quickly produced to fill a gap in the Massey-Fer­guson range using components already developed in the US for the former TO 35 , M-H 50 and Ferguson 40, it replaced the hole left by the abandonment of the Fer­guson ‘LTX’ four years before when Harry Ferguson retired as chairman of the recently merged Ferguson and Massey­Harris companies.

Massey-Ferguson introduced the ’65’ to catch up the gap left by the abandonment of the LTX. Seen here operating a Lundell 60 offset flail harvester at the 2nd National Grassland demonstration on Rex Patterson’s farm near Basingstoke. Both machines made a considerable impression on the farmers watching. Photo: G Field

The ’65’ displayed all the features of the FE 35 but used a Perkins AD 4/ 192Y four cylinder diesel engine developing 50.5 hp. The transmission was similar to the ’35’ using the same gearbox but with a final drive allowing inboard disc brakes, a differential lock (optional on early tractors) and epicyclic reduction gears at axle ends, This allowed faster rotation speeds in the transmission to cope with the higher power. Power steering was another op­tion.

On 23rd January Massey-Ferguson an­nounced that they had acquired Perkins Engines of Peterborough. Later that year they also took over the Banner Lane trac­tor plant from Standard Motor Co. that enabled the 4 cylinder 23c engine to be replaced with a Perkins unit, the famous and long lived 3 cylinder AD 3/152. Power increased 7% to 39.6 brake horsepower. Other options remained the same.

A new hitch, developed in Sweden, was introduced for the ’65’, the ‘Multi-Pull’ hitch, a forerunner to the Massey-Fer­guson ‘Pressure Control’. This allowed the Ferguson System hydraulics to transfer weight from trailed equipment. A Mark II version of the ’65’ was offered with 11 . 9% more power from its 56. 5 brake hp Perkins AD 4/203 engine. Diff lock was now standard. (The US made ’65’ had the 4/203 engine when diesel model was launched the previous year.)

NIAE tests revealed the new ’65’ Mark II developed 58.3 hp. Massey-Ferguson altered their literature accordingly!

The M-F 35 was improved by the addition of an optional differential lock and power adjusted variable track rear wheels (PA VT), an Allis Chalmers patented inven­tion M-F used it under licence. It complemented the Ferguson System front axle system very well, greatly reducing time and effort in varying wheel tracks.

In August a new change-on-the-go trans­mission was introduced for the ’65’ called Multi-Power. A power operated clutch al­lowed a higher gear to be engaged without clutching, thus giving 12 forward and 4 reverse gears.

In December a more powerful ’35’, the ’35X’, was offered in addition to the exist-. ing ’35’s. An uprated AD 3/152 engine gave 44.5 hp. With Multi-Power trans­missions and the other improvements and options already announced, the latest ’35’ offered the best possible specification and value to the farmer.

By the 1960s the now Massey-Ferguson organisation had got its act together, producing one of the best tractors of all time. the M-F 35 with 3 cylinder diesel engine. Its versatility exceeded that of the TE 20 but had most of the TE 20’s advantages. It was the standard by which other clone tractors were judged. Operating a mid mounted hoe, probably a ‘Gloster’.

Rationalisation of manufacturing by the world’s leading makers was not only desirable but very necessary to meet a global market. Massey-Ferguson responded by announcing the results of their DX development programme. Given the title the “Red Giants”, these new trac­tors were the result of four years’ work in­volving one million man hours and costing nearly $8 million. Total capital invested on production exceeded $30 million.

Essentially the company’s assets around the world were deployed to make the best use of their resources while offering the market a larger, more unified range of tractors and bringing, for the first time, the Ferguson System to the larger size of tractors. Flexibility through the possibility of tractors being assembled from varying M-F factories had to be balanced with the growing complexity, both from the market needs of different countries and their vary­ing legal requirements.

Essentially small and medium tractors were to be made in England. with France and the USA making the specialised and larger machines.

Styling of all tractors was revamped across the range to give a unified look. The engineering of the UK built tractors remained in many respects as before.

However this belied a vast amount of detailed development. Just on the new 135 there were 598 specific changes from its predecessor, the M-F 35 .

The key developments included an all new method of applying Ferguson System prin­ciples to trailed equipment, ‘Pressure Con­trol’. Pressure Control enabled, as did the ‘Multi-Pull’ hitch, weight to be trans­ferred from trailed implements to the trac­tor. It also had many other possibilities and was hoped to be a way of allowing two wheel drive tractors to compete with the growing interest in 4 wheel drive. This ingenious device, much misun­derstood and under used in practice, added a new dimension to the Ferguson System, widening yet more the versatility and capability of the tractors.

Pressure Control coupler in use with a 4 wheel trailer on another outstanding Massey-Ferguson success story, the 165 tractor. It could be used even with PTO driven implements using a special spreader bracket an the implement’s drawbar. It has to. be seen to. appreciate its performance. Photo: Massey-Ferguson Ltd

In the UK, the range offered the French built 130 and the Coventry made 135, 165 and an all new larger tractor, the 175.

The ‘Red Giants’ in 1964 moved power up a notch with the M-F 175, the largest true Ferguson System tractor to. date. This M-F 5 furrow plough was semi mounted with a steerable rear wheel. Top link sensing was achieved by a special headstock that converted the draft from pull to. the top link. Photo.’Massey-Ferguson Ltd

Multi-Power tractors offered a new, more powerful auxiliary hydraulic system by combining the outputs of the Ferguson System pump with the Multi­Power’s own pump to give over 10 gallons a minute. This fulfilled the growing demand for hydraulic power, especially motors. The hydraulic control quadrants were changed from that used on the 35 and 65 tractors by allowing the draft con­trol lever to be used as on the original Fer­guson System devised in the 1920s, ie one lever to raise, lower and set depth. The response control was taken off the separate ‘position’ control lever and moved to its own quadrant below on the side of the transmission.


Essentially the Banner Lane tractors of similar power retain this layout today. It is noteworthy that today’s tractors also use the original Ferguson System ‘suction-side’ control pump devised in the early 1930s.

Harry Ferguson died on 25th October 1960, a few days before his 76th birthday. His legacy to farming the world over is incalculable.

© George A Field and FF Publications
Research by G Field, John Baber and John Walker
(George Field – Newsletter editor 1986)

Mr and Mrs Tony Sheldon Mr John Chambers
The late Mr Dick Chambers Mr Alex Patterson
Mr James Barrow, Co Clare Mr Roger Seidel, Oxford
Mr Andrew Boorman, Bedford
Mr Norman Shearer, Orkney Isles Mr Ron TePoel, USA

Global Corporation by Prof E P Neufeld
Harry Ferguson & Henry Ford by Prof J B Rae
Tractor Pioneer by Colin Fraser

An earlier version of this article was published in Club Journal V.3 N.2, lecture notes presented by George Field at the Royal Show, 1949.