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The Color of Tractors

Author Photo
By Staff

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A typical English Fordson from the 1932-1937 period, blue body with orange wheels.
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Irish Fordson in proper gray and red
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Picture is a 1919 standard American Fordson in its proper colors of gray and red.
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A 1917 MOM, as the very earliest Fordsons became known, in its
proper gray. Note rear oil filler. This Fordson carries engine s/n
562.

Over and over, year after year, in antique tractor publication
after publication, the color of tractors has been discussed, argued
and debated. The color of the particular make of tractor seems to
be very important to various owners or tractor clubs. We have all
heard stories about green tractors, red tractors, gray tractors,
Persian orange tractors, gray tractors with red bellies – the
colors and arguments go on as to even the correct shade of these
colors and the exact date they changed from one color to the
other.

When restored, many antique tractors have much better paint jobs
than original, but still colors vary from tractor to tractor. While
some owners keep ‘as original,’ with perhaps a bit of
working rust, others slap on a cheap paint job just to overcome the
rust. The choice is left up to the individual.

Henry Ford started tractor production in October 1917 of
tractors without a name, at first simply called ‘Ford’s
Tractors.’ Later, the first 2000 or so became known as
Ford’s ‘MOM’ tractors. These initials stand for
‘Ministry of Munitions,’ the British War Agency that took
over these tractors and distributed them to the English farmers.
But in early February 1918, the ‘Henry Ford and Son’
corporation’s name was shortened to ‘Fordson,’ and on
Feb. 18, the first cablegram was sent by Ford in the U.S. to
England’s War Board using this shortened ‘Fordson’
signature. Shortly after this date, the name ‘Fordson’ was
inserted with a fill-in piece in the previously ‘black’
front Fordson radiator casting. For a few months, MOM parts were
used up and ‘Fordson’ parts replaced them. These months of
production are referred to as ‘Hybrid Fordsons.’ The first
real Fordson was introduced to the American farmer on April 23,
1918.

Sorting Through The Colors

The original MOM’s sometimes appear a darkish green-gray
with primer-red wheels. But as the years progressed, the gray
seemed to get lighter and lighter. At that time, Ford just bought
batches of paint from the cheapest supplier, so the gray paint on
Fordsons from 1918-1928 seems to vary from year to year.

In 1928 Ford, with an obsolete tractor on his hands, and needing
room in the River Rouge factory to build the new Model A Ford,
turned his tractor interests over to Great Britain. From 1929-1931
the ‘Irish’ Fordson was built at Cork, Ireland, in the
factory used for a couple of years (starting in 1919) to assemble
American Fordsons for the European market. Some reports say that
the first few Irish Fordsons were the traditional gray with black
wheels, but this black-wheeled Fordson soon was returned to red
wheels.

In 1932 the Fordson factory at Dagenham was complete and the new
improved English Fordson colors became a dark blue body with orange
wheels.

A war-time Fordson from England showing the switch from orange
to green. Due to the tractor’s high visibility, it was a target
for German Stuka dive-bombers.

An orange Fordson from 1938. This was the color Ford switched
from to help English farmers avoid detection from German Stuka
dive-bombers.

However, in 1938, with a new oil filter and other improvements,
the color was switched to an orange body with blue lettering. But
in 1939, with the advent of World War II, the story is that Stuka
dive-bombers, returning from forays over England, and with a bomb
or two left, searched out these bright orange Fordsons on their
return and blew them up, so another color change came. Immediately,
all Fordsons were painted a green color to blend in with the green
fields. After the war, Fordson returned shortly to the blue body
with orange wheels, until the Fordson Major Diesels were introduced
in 1953 with a new, lighter blue colored body with lighter orange
wheels. Finally, until the end of Fordson production, the wheels
became the light gray of the Ford tractors of the same years.
Actually, the Fordson Super Major of 1964 was the same tractor as
the Ford 5000 (same color, same tractor).

While most antique tractor restorers try to duplicate the
original colors, a few have fun in painting them the color of their
own choice. At tractor shows one might occasionally find a purple
John Deere or a Lavender Farmall.

Contact Fordson enthusiast Jack Heald, national director,
Fordson Tractor Club, at: 250 Robinson Rd., Cave Jct., OR 97523,
(541)592-3203.

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