A selection of vintage tractors that have recently sold can be viewed here: Tractors Sold
A Brief History of Fordson Tractors: Fordson N, E27N, Fordson Major, Power Major, and Fordson Super Major.
The Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903. In 1908 this company built a prototype tractor, with many car parts. By 1915 Ford had built a real tractor, and in 1916 he had several prototypes on test.
The basic cars and tractors back that were being experimented with before WWI looked very similar, but as they developed, problems were solved; they took on their own identities. The back driving wheels became larger and had bigger grips, and the back of the machine was strengthened for towing more weight, the engine was built to develop more power, in fact nothing much has changed, this could still be part of a design brief today.
Henry Ford launched the Model T Ford in 1908 and produced it until 1927. Harry Ferguson used the basis of the Model T to develop his linkage system. In 1917, Fordson started building the Fordson F, the first mass produced tractor. Ford was asked by the British government to produce tractors in Britain to help the war effort, but this was soon stopped when it was necessary to start building fighter planes to stop German bombers bombing London in daylight. The manufacture of tractors for Britain was sent back to America.
As plans for tractor manufacturing leaked out and became known, someone else called themselves the Ford Tractor Company before he could, preventing him from using the same name. This company soon fizzled out but Ford could not be used as a brand name, so he called it Henry Ford and son, which got shortened to Fordson.
Fordson did well, and by 1922 they had grabbed 70% of US sales, but the advantage was short lived, and by 1928, after a price war, International Harvester had regained the lead, with 47%.
In 1919 Fordson were building tractors in Cork, Ireland, as well as in the USA, but when International Harvester took the lead, by 1929, Fordson moved their whole manufacturing to Ireland. Shortly after in 1933, it moved to Dagenham, Essex, UK.
It would seem that the big leap forward in the development of the tractor industry was during World War I and II. There was a need to become self sufficient and more productive. Britain had to push food production to new limits, to achieve this, the advancement of mechanisation was essential.
The tractor to first emerge from the Fordson plant in Dagenham, was primitive, but over the years was refined into the Fordson N. The Dagenham plant was able to produce over 100 tractors a day in the early 40’s. Henry Ford used the same style of production line as he did with the cars in Detroit speeding up production and reducing costs.
After the war, the Fordson N was developed into the new E27N, E for English, 27 horse power, and N because it was developed from the old N.
This E27N was developed into the New Fordson Major, which in turn were improved, and new models emerged, the Fordson Power Major, and Fordson Super Major.
The Fordson Major was first produced in December 1951, until August 1958.
The Fordson Power Major was first built in July 1958, with full production in August. The last one was built in October 1960
The Fordson Super Major was first built in October 1960, with full production in late November.
The first New Performance Super Major was built in July 1963, and the last was built in October 1964.
Originally Ford tractors were built in America, then Ireland 1929-32, prior to the factory being set up at Dagenham, in Essex, 1933-39.
One of the major leaps forward in the tractor world was in 1934, with the introduction of the pneumatic tyre, offered as an alternative, but soon became standard.
The next serious development was when Harry met Henry, first in 1920, but later they worked together to produce a tractor mostly Ford in design, with the Ferguson Hydraulic and three point linkage system at the back. This became the Ford Ferguson 9N, that became hugely successful but was after many small changes to design, it became the Ford 2N. This in turn evolved into the Ford 8N. Eventually Ford and Ferguson wanted to split, but Ford wanted to keep using the three point linkage, without calling it the Ferguson system or paying him for its use. Consequently this ended in a court battle, with Ferguson coming away with $10 million. He then went back to the UK, and built the Ferguson TE20, and TO20, standing for Tractor England, and Tractor Overseas, respectively.
The Ford Ferguson partnership didn’t work for long, and they went their separate ways. Ferguson merged with Massey Harris, to form Massey-Harris-Ferguson, later to become Massey Ferguson.
WWII helped design the upgrade from the Fordson N. Production of tractors needed to continue, so a totally new model would take too long to retool a factory, and it would be expensive. So the Fordson N needed to be upgraded, not completely replaced. The government agricultural department decided on some new features for the new model. Higher clearance, more power to plough with three furrows, not two, be able to have a central front wheel (rowcrop), have a central PTO and be able to have three point linkage fitted.
Due to clever innovation 60% of Fordson N parts were retained, 30% were new, and 10% modified, minimising tooling alterations in the factory, and maintaining production.
The next development was from petrol/TVO to the addition of a diesel powered engine, designed by Frank Perkins. There were 3 options, 3,4 or 6 cylinder, creating the P3, P4, and P6 engines. P4 and P6 engines were the most popular and offered as factory fitted or could be converted in tractors already in use.
The E27N was not Fordson’s ideal next model, it was the best they could do with the constraints after the war. It was however a very popular fore runner to the Fordson Major, which was the new design Fordson was looking for, and took them into the mid 1960’s.
In 1952 the new Fordson Major, or EA1 was available using three engine types, diesel, petrol, or TVO. The Major probably made the largest step towards the elimination of the petrol, and petrol/TVO tractors, because they were easy to start, you didn’t need two different fuels, and they were cheaper to run and maintain. The diesel engine was slowly improved over the next few years, until in July 1958 saw the introduction of the Power Major. Live drive PTO was standard, the instrument panel and throttle was moved to a better place.
The Power Major was only built for two years, making it the shortest run production tractor at Dagenham, and some collectors consider, the best Fordson Major to own, because it’s the rarest.
The Fordson Super Major was the next new tractor, out in 1960, still using the Power Major engine, now producing nearly 54 bhp. The new modifications included a differential lock for extra grip, better brakes, and draft control. The headlights were put in the grills in front of the radiator, where they were less likely to get damaged.
During all this development, Fordson was missing out on the smaller tractor buyers that Ferguson had cornered with his little grey Fergie. The petrol TVO Fergie was the ideal small tractor, but when Ferguson added a diesel engine, it wasn’t a good starter; consequently, there was a gap in the market for a smaller diesel powered tractor.
In 1958, Fordson introduced the three cylinder Dexta, with all the features of the Major, only downsized, and cheaper, basically the little brother.
As the improvements were applied to the Major, the Dexta got the same treatment, and soon became a very popular tractor.
As a tractor manufacturer, is you wanted to produce one with twice the power, without the expense of design and development, the easiest thing to do would be to strap two tractors together, which is precisely what Earnest Doe did, and called it Duel Power, producing 100hp. This was developed into the Doe Triple D. they were four wheel drive tractors, a relatively new concept in its day, and measured over 20 foot long.
Billy, Alfred and General Motors, by William Pelfrey, Published in 2006
Great tractor Builders, Fordson, by Allan T Condie, 1st published in 2002
Fordson, New Major E1A’s 1951-64, by Allan T Condie, 1st published in 1992