The 9N Ford: A Late Comer

By Staff
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4353 75th St. W. Oronoco, Minnesota 55960.

The 9N Ford, even though 52 years old now, is a late comer in
the antique scene. Somehow it just didn’t fit in with the JD
B’s and Graham Brad-leys, even though it is older than most
collector tractors. I recall about five years ago they wouldn’t
let me in the tractor pull with the other ’39 and olders.

One reason they are late comers is cost. They cost a lot even
before restoration. Another is that the majority of all those built
are still on the job. About 900,000 8N’s and 9N’s were
made. Only the Fordson sold more. Henry Ford believed in a
one-tractor lineup. This brought his costs down to where no one
could even come close to his price. The other, more expensive
tractors had to sell on features other than cost.

The ’39 9N used a lot of off the shelf hardware. The
pistons, valves, clutch, differential, brakes and even the steering
wheel were car or truck parts. The whole tractor went from concept
to production in four months, and with only five engineers. Styling
was accomplished concurrent with the new ’39 Mercury, by the
same people. It even had a polished aluminum grille. The electrical
system was made of prior model cars.

1939 was rolling full speed ahead for other row crop designs. To
introduce such a radical departure as the 9N would seem dumb. But
Mr. Ford was no fool, and unswayed by fads. He knew in his gut that
the safety and utility of three point hitch and low center of
gravity was overdue and needed a strong supporter. The hitch with
automatic draft control was the brainchild of Harry Ferguson.

Acceptance of the new tractor was slow for a Ford product. Only
about 10,000 were sold in ’39. But the infinite flexibility of
the 9N began showing up in the most unexpected work settings, and
the rush was on. Only WW II slowed production. After the war, the
wait list was two to three years.

The much improved 8N came in July, 1947. The vermillion and gray
colors attracted buyers like a Hollywood starlet. And the silky
smooth performance sold over half a million in five years. If you
have never driven an excellent 8N, you have missed a real
treat.

By 1952, it was terribly underpowered, and had to be replaced.
The Jubilee of 1953 was mainly just a bigger engine (again a clone
of the car engine, OHV) and live hydraulics. That was replaced by
the 600-800 series, followed by the 2000-4000 series. Even in 1991,
some new Fords are similar to the 39 model. Of course, the Ferguson
and Massey Ferguson tractors followed a similar path of evolution.
Eventually all makers adopted some of the 1939 concepts. 

The key to all the success was the geometric perfection of the
design, the perfectionism of Mr. Ford and Mr. Ferguson, and the
human safety and comfort features.

I still farm with these old N’s, and still marvel at the
utter pleasure of operating them. To those pioneer tractor
builders, and original owners, my hat is off to you!

I will farm with these till I die. I am now burning homegrown
ethanol, and with parts from Ford, another 50 years of work seems
quite likely. When the last N works its last day, I won’t even
be a memory.

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