Old Tractors:David Brown,Caterpillar,John Deere,Fordson

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Classic Tractors

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This guide features several major tractor manufacturers in the years around WW2 and just after. The Second World War created an enormous impetus for tractor growth and Britain at this time relied heavily on the import of American tractors in addition to its home produced models, such as David Brown and Fordson.

David Brown - VAK I

The David Brown company of Huddersfield, Yorkshire, became the first company to build tractors incorporating the Ferguson system, launching in 1936 the Ferguson Model A, or Ferguson-Brown. The first version of this tractor was powered by a British Coventry Climax engine rated at 18-20bhp. It had three forward gears with one reverse and independent wheel brakes. Sales were uninspiring and the Ferguson/Brown partnership broke up in 1939, after Ferguson took one of their tractors to America to gain the interest of Henry Ford, and David Brown decided to manufacture a new tractor with the extra power which farmers appeared to demand. This model became the VAK I and was the first in a series of tractors that achieved outstanding commercial success. The tractor interests of the David Brown Corporation were taken over in 1972 to join Case as part of the Tenneco organisation.

Case - Dex

J.I. Case increased their production capacity by buying Rock Island Plow Co in 1937, the former makers of the Heider and Rock Island tractors. Then in 1939 they introduced the new streamlined D and R followed by S, LA and V ranges, with the identifying colour schemes of Flambeau Red. The three-plough capacity model D came with a number of options, such as row-crop (DC) and orchard (DO) and had a mechanical implement lift. Rated at 26-32hp with Case's own engine, it was joined by the smaller S and Continental-engined V in the early years of the war and by a new 4/5 plough model, the model LA, in 1941. The full range of Case D models were D, DC3 (tricycle), DC4 (wide axle), DEX (hybrid), DO, DV (vineyard) and DR (rice).

Caterpillar - D2

Few tractor names are better known than Caterpillar. From their beginnings in 1904 their speciality has always been track-laying or crawler tractors. The Caterpillar D2 was introduced specifically for agricultural used in 1938. It could handle a three/four furrow plough and was powered by a four-cylinder diesel engine of 26 drawbar and 32 belt horsepower. Speeds of up to 5mph were possible in top (fifth) gear. An interesting feature of the Caterpillar was that it used a horizontally-opposed, twin-cylinder, 10hp petrol engine as a starter motor. Known as a "donkey" starter, these were standard on all Cat diesels. In addition to overcoming the problem of unreliable starting they also kept wear on the engine to a minimum when starting cold.

John Deere - Model A

An early tractor of some note was the Waterloo Boy, which first appeared in 1912 as the progeny of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company of Iowa. It was known in Britain as the Overtime and offered 12-25hp with two forward gears plus one reverse. Following a take-over in 1918, the company adopted the name John Deere. The first "real" John Deere tractor was the Model D, which was produced between 1923 and 1952. The longest running of any tractor model it used the familiar John Deere two-cylinder horizontal engine, a feature of all the company's products right up until 1962. Lend Lease schemes during WWII led to the arrival in Britain of many John Deere tractors, they soon gained a reputation for robustness and reliability.

Marshall - Field Marshall

The Marshall M tractor was replaced in 1945 by the Marshall Series I, which featured a differential lock to give maximum traction in difficult conditions. The Series II was produced from 1947 to 1949 and was equipped with steering brakes, which were operated via levers beside the rear wings. The final versions were the Series III from 1949 and 1952 and the IIIA from 1952 to 1957. All used Marshall's well known single-cylinder two-stroke diesel engine. The massive 6 1/2 -inch bore piston travelled through a 9-inch stroke and its audible detonation led to the Marshall's nickname of the "Pom-Pom" tractor. Tracked versions of the Marshall were also marketed under the Fowler name.

Fordson - Model N

It was Henry Ford who made the real breakthrough with cheap mass-produced tractor power. Production of his Model F Fordson started in 1917 at Dearborn, Michigan and it became the most successful tractor ever built with the production totals reaching nearly 750,000 by the late 1920s, when the first major design changes were made. The Model N became the replacement for the Model F, production moving in 1928 to Cork, Ireland and shortly thereafter to Dagenham, Essex. At the start of WW2, tractor production in Britain was almost wholly Fordson, the N having a near monopoly since moving to Dagenham. Apart from imported tractors, the only possible competition were the Marshall M and the David Brown VAC-1, most of the others having ceased production.

Ferguson - TE

Harry Ferguson made his comeback in 1946 with the TE, or Gray Fergie as it was to become known. He had hoped that his tractor would be made by Ford at Dagenham, but it became obvious that this would not happen and he had to look elsewhere. A war surplus factory in Coventry owned by the Standard Motor Company was available, so Ferguson reached an agreement with Sir John Black of Standard to manufacture a British Ferguson similar to the Ford 9N. Lacking a suitable engine, Ferguson initially imported the Continental Z-120 engine for fitment into the TE, but this was replaced in 1947-8 by the Standard engine. The Gray Fergie became one of the world's best known tractors, selling worldwide and even going to the South Pole with Sir Edmund Hillary's Antarctic expedition.

International Harvester - Farmall H

The American company, International Havester, was formed through the merging of McCormick and Deering in 1902. Responsible for two of the most famous early tractor series, the Titan and the Mogul, IHC became of the world's leading tractor producers during these early years. They had exported 3,500 Titans and a smaller number of Moguls to Britain by 1920, backing them up with service and spares. International Harvester had hoped to start tractor production in Britain and had built a factory at Doncaster in Yorkshire, but on the outbreak of war it was taken over for war production. Various IHC models were exported to Britain during the war years with the H and the M being the most popular models, long-lasting and well suited to British needs.


Massey-Harris - Pacemaker & Challenger

The Massey-Harris Pacemaker and Challenger tractors were introduced in 1936. As a development of the company's U-framed tractor series, both models were based on the MH 12-12. Engine modifications increased output to 17bhp at the drawbar or 27bhp on the belt and a new four-speed transmission was now fitted. The Pacemaker was the standard design and the Challenger was the first Massey-Harris row-crop model, with a high-clearance frame and rear-wheel adjustment. In 1938, updated versions of the Pacemaker and Challenger were introduced with a completely new look, with the familiar lines of the old Wallis series being replace by a more fashionable rounded styling. Massey-Harris called the new tractor the Steam-lined Pacemaker and gave it a bright red finish.

Thank you for reading my guide and I hope you found it interesting!

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