REFLECTIONS

A Brief Word


| August/September 2001



Worthington Valve

36/8/3

As is usual in the summer months, we all are busy playing with our engines and tractors, so of course, writing about them becomes relatively unimportant. On Friday, June 8, we ventured down to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, to look at the IHC Red Power Roundup. We were totally amazed at the vast number of IHC tractors and equipment, as well as by the quality of many restorations.

International Harvester Company was of course, one of the leading figures in the farm mechanization that began in the early 1900s. Unlike any other company, IH was committed to spending vast amounts of money on research and development . . . this notion was new to the industry at the time. These efforts paid off handsomely for IH, and within a short time, IH was the company to emulate.

Henry Ford saw the IH successes and attempted to capitalize on them by presenting the Fordson tractor. By 1915 Ford was highly regarded (primarily because of his Model T) especially in the rural areas. Ford was likely aware of his deification, and proposed building a 'cheap' tractor for the masses. Although the Fordson tractor was highly popular, it was not the moneymaker that Ford had hoped for. In fact, like the Samson from GMC, it lost money. Ford seems to have directed his competitive efforts primarily toward International Harvester. However, the IH product line was sold through an extensive dealer network that provided excellent service after the sale. IH dealers were specialists in farm equipment, including their tractor line. Fordson tractors were sold through Ford car dealers. Many of them weren't interested in selling tractors (their profit margins on tractors were extremely low) and most car dealers had automotive mechanics, not tractor mechanics.

The price war between Ford and IH continued for some years, and finally Ford capitulated, moving the entire tractor operation overseas. Several books have been written on this subject. Notable among these is the title, The Legend of Henry Ford. Written by Keith Sward, it was published by Rinehart & Company, New York in 1948. So far as we know, it is now out of print, but might be found in an antiquarian book store, or by a book search on the net.

Speaking of International Harvester, we stand impressed by the number of IH engines and tractors to be found in Australia and New Zealand. Early on, IH set up a plant at Geelong in Australia. To avoid the excessive import duties, IH shipped boatloads of parts to Geelong, where they were assembled into the finished products. Thus, it is possible today to find a substantial number of IH engines and tractors. The IH Mogul line of engines and tractors seems to be especially evident; it is not at all difficult to find them almost anywhere in Australia.

We don't have a whole lot of letters this month, but there goes: