CORRECT TRACTOR IDENTIFICATION

Fordson Tractor

The Fordson Tractor

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National Director Fordson Tractor Club 250 Robinson Road Cave Junction, Oregon 97523

The scholarly treatise, 'Nebraska Tractor Shows, 1913-1919 and the Beginning of Power Farming,' appeared in the December 1998 issue of GEM. This interesting article was submitted by Reynold M. Wik, a well-known Henry Ford biographer and author of Henry Ford and Grass Roots America.

However, this feature in GEM showed a picture of a Fordson (page 29) with an 'incorrect' caption, and this needs calling attention to, as those of us in the huge hobby of antique collection and restoration do need accuracy in the correct identification of tractors we all love and admire. The caption on page 29 states: '1917 Fordson, Courtesy of the University of Nebraska.'

This cannot be, for two reasons. Number one, there never was a '1917 Fordson!' Reason? The Fordson name (and logos) were not known or used until February of 1918. One might review 'The Real Fordson' which appeared in a series of five issues in GEM from July 1985 to November 1988. These articles pointed out that the first six thousand tractors made by Henry Ford-and-Son had no identification on them at all and are now 'MOM' tractors, an acronym for the British 'Ministry of Munitions' which had purchased them for the War effort.

The second reason for noticing the incorrect identification by year arises when looking at the various characteristics which point it out as a much later model. For example, the seven-spoke rear wheels did not come out until the end of 1919. The maple wooden steering wheel was last used in 1923 and the 'composition' rim was used after that. The square-ended fenders did not officially appear with a reinforced dash until 1923. So obviously, it could not be a '1917 Fordson.' True, this may be 'nitpicking,' but tractor collectors, with Fordson now becoming quite popular, will want to know the correct year of manufacture. A clearer photo might identify it more accurately.

The first book to attempt to identify most makes of tractors was published in 1979 by C. H. Wendel (of 'Reflections') and entitled Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors. This book has been accepted for many years as the bible for antique tractor collectors.

While this was the first comprehensive book on all tractors, a Mr. Allan Condie of the United Kingdom started a series of 'monographs' on the Ford-sons, the first book on any particular brand of tractor. In ensuing years he published more booklets on just about every make of tractor including some rare English ones.

Prior to this, in 1976, the first tractor club for an individual make of tractor (Fordson) was formed in California. Shortly thereafter, Leroy Klein of North Dakota started up a newsletter for John Deere collectors. At about the same time, a gentleman cabbage farmer in Massachusetts, J. Todd Miles, began sending out a newsletter for the Ford-Ferguson 9-N called the 'Small Farmer.' On this writer's suggestion, he shortly changed the name to 'Ford-Fergie Farmer' for the euphonious 'F' sounds. But publishing these newsletters on a regular basis proved to be too much for Mr. Miles, along with his normal farming chores. He discontinued the newsletters. However, before much time had elapsed, Gerard Rinaldi, a teacher in Connecticut, restarted these as the 9-N, 2-N, 8-N Newsletters. Other 'clubs' for other makes joined the bandwagon and soon there were newsletters for collectors of Case, McCormick-Deering, Allis-Chalmers, Minneapolis-Moline and others. The John Deere newsletter expanded into the current Two Cylinder Magazine. Before long, there was a 'Green Machine' newsletter, a second Case, a second Minneapolis-Moline, a second Hart-Parr-Oliver, and a second Ford and Fordson Club. And so it expanded until today there are over thirty-five different clubs with newsletters or magazines.

Many of these early newsletters were quite basic, but they helped owners and collectors of their favorite brand with location of parts, manuals, parts books, correct paint colors, decals and restoration tips. They also turned early to identification of different models of that particular make.

For example, most could not tell the differences (nor year made) between the American Fordson 'F' (1918-1928); the Irish (Cork-built) Fordson 'N' (1929-1931); or the English Fordson 'N' (1932-45). Also, the question came up as to whether the letter 'F' stood for Ford and the letter 'N' for new.

The same puzzlement was felt for the Ford tractors from 1939 to 1952. No one seemed to know why these tractors were designated as 9-N, 2-N and 8-N. The sequence of numbers didn't seem right. However, those of us in the early identification process came to the logical conclusion that the Ford-Ferguson 9-N came out in 1939, and the 2-N in 1942._The latter, issued during the War years, had steel wheels because of the rubber shortage and a magneto and old-fashioned crank to replace the battery and starter. Then, it was obvious that the Ford 8-N (after the split of Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson), while actually first being built in 1947, was introduced as a 1948 model, just as new cars are introduced today in the fall as the next year's models. The 'N' was believed to stand for 'new,' as Ford had discontinued tractor production from 1928 until 1939 when he came out with the Ford-Ferguson. But others state that 'N' was Ford's designation for 'tractor.'

Even today, many who are just entering the antique tractor hobby do not know the difference between 9-N and its look-alike the 2-N... and... the Ford 8-N. In a nutshell, the differences are: the front wheel lug bolt pattern is different, with the 8-N smaller around; a small door is located on the right rear of the 8-N hood; most obvious, the Ford 9-N has a three-speed transmission while the 8-N has a four-speed. The original color of the 9-N and 2-N was a light solid battleship gray, while the 8-N had lighter gray 'tin' with a bright red body. Hence, the 8-N's are sometimes referred to as 'red-bellies.' Many repaint in a wide variety of colors.

So correct identification of the many antique tractors made in the past in the United States is becoming more accurate every year. There are now many tractor books on the market covering all kinds and makes of tractors, all written by experts in their field, with fantastic pictures to show the different characteristics.

But a peculiar instance of the need for more knowledge and more accurate tractor identification surfaced at the 1987 Branch-9 EDGE&TA's annual Father's Day weekend show at Pottsville, Oregon. That year, McCormick-Deering was the featured tractor. Among the thirty tractors at the Fordson Club Headquarters were an F-20, F-12, 10-20 and OS-12, but none in show condition. However, just finished was a bright red Avery 'V' available. So just for fun, signs were made-up, reading 'International PUP' and attached on the sides and front of the Avery V. Now, as most know, there is actually a McCormick-Deering 'CUB' about the same size and color. The 'PUP' was then trailered to the show grounds at Pottsville and displayed in the tractor line-up and entered both days in the tractor parade. Yet, only a handful of the many tractor collectors caught on to this 'fun deception.'

This leads us to the conclusion that much more work needs to be done to correctly identify our favorite tractors. We have to guard for 'made-up' replicas which are showing up as counterfeits unless so named.

Shown with this article is a line-drawing of a REAL 1918 Fordson with its obvious characteristics (among others) as having six-spoke rear wheels, 'ladder-side' radiator castings, Holley 234 carb and manifold, single-hole gas tank, no fenders, and, if examined closer, having a three-hole drawbar, wooden steering wheel rims and coil-box 'key.'

The 'original' Fordson Tractor Club is currently searching for the oldest, complete and running 1918 Fordson with a $ 100 'prize' to be awarded to the owner. Can you identify one?

david bartle
8/14/2012 8:02:33 PM

I have come across an article that shows Fordson engine number one was produced October 1917 and engine number 76 was produced December 1917. I believe your article to be in error stating that there were no Fordson's produced prior to 1918. 1918 was the first full year of production with engine numbers from 260 in January up to 29979 in December. ref: www.fordsontractorpages.nl/manuals/scans/early_serial_numbers.pdf.