Fordson Tractors were first manufactured by Henry Ford and his son, thus the name Fordson. Eventually the division merged with the Ford Motor Company and the Fordson brand of tractor was manufactured by Ford Motor until 1991 when the tractor division was sold to Fiat.

Although Henry Ford started experimenting with tractors as early as 1905, it wouldn’t be until 1915 that success took hold. His key idea was to mass produce his tractors the same way he was building his cars.

1920 Fordson Tractor

The photo at left is of a 1920 Fordson tractor displayed at the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas. Assembly line mass production would make the tractors affordable and hopefully help Ford dominate the market. The first Fordson tractors were for general use and as you can imagine were very welcomed by farmers during the early decades of the 1900’s. By the same token, the early models would at times be tough to start and required quite a bit of hand cranking. With this being said, they were still more convenient than harnessing a team of mules.

By the second decade, thousands of Fordson tractors were in use in the U.S., Britain and Canada. By 1928 however, Fordson tractors were built only in Cork Ireland and eventually in Essex England. The operation was transferred out of the U.S. due to a severe economic downturn in the U.S. in the mid 1920’s and tractors were then imported back to America. Ford’s two biggest tractor competitors in the U.S. were General Motors and International Harvester.

1941 fordson tractor photo
1941 Ford 8N Tractor

Ford’s mass production methods were so successful, that by the 1920’s most competitors had to follow the same method or perhaps go out of business. Only the most competitive of tractor companies would survive the Ford mass production success. The earlier Ford tractors it was said were built to replace the power of four mules.

There were a series of different Ford tractors over the years. The first were the B Models in 1915, then the Ford F series which sold some 750,000 tractors between 1917 and 1928. No other tractor model has ever sold those many units. Then came the Ford N series which debuted in 1927. The Ford N series had a more powerful 27 HP engine, rear fenders, optional pneumatic tires and a higher voltage ignition system. Not for another ten years would Ford make significant improvements with it’s tractor models. In the late 1930’s, models such as the 9N, 2N and 8N were introduced. The 9N’s big change was that it was more powerful and could pull more weight. The 2N was put on the market in 1942 and the 8N in 1947. The next Ford tractor model after that was the 1953 “Golden Jubilee“. During the 1940’s Ford received a lot of publicity for the ruggedness of it’s tractors and how they allowed farmers to increase their harvest. Lots of testimonials from farmers were published and how the increased output allowed the farmers to make a better living.

An interesting thing about tractors as opposed to automobiles is that they are capable of turning over backwards. This can happen in about 1 1/2 seconds. There is a point of no return which usually is figured at about 3/4 of a second. There is little time indeed for the driver to react.

rear tractor turnover
Rear tractor turn-over diagram

This is the type of tractor accident that causes most tractor related fatalities. Causes are usually several happening at one time. Rear axle torque along with shifts in center of gravity are the main factors. Jumping tractors out of mud holes and frozen ground also result in rear overturns. Safety experts suggest using another tractor to pull you out rather than to risk the backwards over turn.

In 1957, Ford produced the Fordson Dexta. The Dexta model was a relatively smaller tractor and it’s creation was aimed at competing with Massey Ferguson’s 35 model. These were built in both gas and diesel models. In the U.S., the model was sold as the Dexta 2000. This included a 52 inch width narrow model, an industrial model and from Germany a Dexta Special. The tractors offered a 3 cylinder diesel or 4 cylinder gasoline engines putting out 32 HP.

Beginning in 1964, all tractors that Ford Motor Company sold were sold under the “Ford” name. This included all tractors in the U.S. and abroad. Most farm historians contend that the first basic Fordson design as being the model used to design more modern tractors for decades later.

Another AutoMuseumOnline article and photos you’ll be interested in is the vintage 1929 Ford Model A automobile.

(1920 Fordson photo from author’s private collection. Remainder of photos and images from the public domain)