The Color of Tractors

Sorting Out the Many Flavors of Fordsons


| January/February 2002



Fordson carries engine

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.