Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Tag Archives: Farm vehicles

  • Ford Tractors by Jonathan Whitlam

    This early restored MOM tractor from 1917 has received the lettering along the sides of the fuel tank that was fitted to the first X series prototype to arrive in Britain in January 1917. (Ford Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    While writing my new book on the history of Ford tractors, I was very aware that at the same time it was exactly one hundred years since the first Ford tractor entered production in the autumn of 1917. It had been rushed into production with such haste that it hadn’t even been given a name and, because Henry Ford could not put the Ford name on it because his fellow board members did not want anything to do with tractors, it simply became known as the MOM tractor, after the British Ministry of Munitions that had ordered the first 6000 to be built. Now as we arrive in 2018 it is 100 years since that first machine was produced for general sale as the Fordson Model F in the spring of 1918.

    A century later and a lot has changed, not least the fact that the Ford Motor Company no longer produces tractors. However, the big factory in Basildon, in Essex, built by Ford in 1964 still assembles tractors for sale worldwide under the New Holland name, a division of CNH Industrial owned by Italian firm Fiat.



    The Ford 8N was produced by Ford themselves after splitting with Harry Ferguson and caused Ferguson to take Ford to court over its use of his patents. (Ford Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    70 years ago Ford launched the 8N model built in the USA, which was based on the 9N that had been constructed in co-operation with Harry Ferguson and incorporated his hydraulic lift; the Ferguson System. The 8N though, was sold exclusively as a Ford product and lead to Ferguson filing a lawsuit against Ford for unauthorised use of his patents!

    The same year the Fordson Major, built in Dagenham in England, was factory fitted with a diesel engine for the first time, using the Perkins P6 as the power plant of choice.

    Ten years later and Dagenham launched the Power Major in 1958, which was a world away form the original Major of ten years earlier while the same year saw the new Workmaster and Powermaster ranges arrive in the USA.

    The secret of the success of the 9N when in work was the Ferguson System of three-point linkage and hydraulic draft control, which required a range of matched implements, such as this two-furrow plough, to be bought with the tractor. (Ford Tractors, Amberley Publishing)



    Moving on another ten years and Ford had launched the Ford Force range. A major update of the 1000 Series introduced four years earlier and built in Basildon Antwerp and the USA. The big six cylinder 8000 also joined the range that year pushing power up to 115hp.

    With all these anniversaries it seems a great time to launch a book on the Ford tractor, especially on the anniversary of the Force range, as these machines set the standard for Ford tractors for the next two decades and beyond.

    Ford returned to the six-cylinder concept with the 8000 of 1968. A new 401 cubic inch diesel engine was used to great success and this 115 hp tractor proved much better than the earlier 6000 model and was only built in the USA. (Ford Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    The Ford name might not grace the sides of tractor bonnets today, but the legacy of this important brand lives on, not only in the thousands of Ford tractors still out on the farms of the world still working for a living, but also in the ultra modern New Holland tractors still being built to this day.

    Jonathan Whitlam's new book Ford Tractors available for purchase now.

  • David Brown Tractors by Jonathan Whitlam

    Arriving in 1945, the VAK1A replaced the original model and featured a modified front axle arrangement as well as quicker engine starting. (David Brown Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    While writing the book David Brown Tractors it became apparent that 2017 was a good year to produce a book dedicated to the David Brown tractor line. Why was this I hear you ask? Well 2017 marks no less than 70 years since the David Brown Cropmaster tractor was first introduced. A tractor that did nothing less than put the David Brown tractor on the map and was also responsible for several firsts.

    Otherwise known as the VAK1/C, the Cropmaster was the first David Brown machine to feature a model name and this no doubt helped to catch the imagination of the farming public of 1947 when it was launched. David Brown had first brought out a tractor on their own back in 1939, known as the VAK1, followed by the VAK1/A in 1945. The Cropmaster was very much an evolution of that design with an improved engine and a longer build incorporating a hydraulic lift system. The whole engine and gearbox of the Cropmaster was also offset slightly towards the nearside, giving the driver a better forwards view. The company also claimed it improved traction on the nearside rear wheel when ploughing with the other wheel in the furrow bottom as the weight distribution was where it was needed.

    One of the reasons the Cropmaster was so successful was the fact that many items, such as pneumatic tyres, electric starting, lights and hydraulic lift, were included as standard features rather than extras as was the norm with the competition. Although a four speed transmission was standard, a six speed version was also offered as an option, this being the first tractor to offer such a huge range of gears. Another feature was a turnbuckle top link, which was an industry first and used by every tractor manufacture today.

    A David Brown Cropmaster working with a binder at a show in the south of England. (Photo: Kim Parks, David Brown Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

    In 1949 a diesel version of the Cropmaster became available, built by David Brown and making the Cropmaster the first British tractor to feature a direct injection diesel engine. This only further enhanced the popularity of the tractor.

    As time passed the Cropmaster inevitably evolved and in 1950 the more powerful Super Cropmaster appeared, followed by the Prairie Cropmaster in 1951 and a narrow version in 1952 for orchard and vineyard work.

    But all good things must come to an end and so in 1953 Cropmaster production ceased in favour of the new 25, 25D, 30C and 30D models which continued the evolution of the David Brown tractor but saw the end of the familiar Cropmaster name.

    70 years is a long time, and tractors have changed a great deal since then. But the Cropmaster was a landmark model and one that would set the pattern not only for future David Brown tractor features but also tractors industry wide. Not a bad feat for a tractor produced in a small factory at Meltham Mills, near Huddersfield in Yorkshire!

    David Brown Tractors tells the whole overview of tractors produced by the David Brown company from the Ferguson Type A of 1939 through to the very last Case IH 94 Series that left the factory in 1988.

    Jonathan Whitlam's new book David Brown Tractors is available for purchase now.

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