Ag History: Ford N Series Tractors And The Handshake That Changed Farming Forever

Early production units incorporated a painted cast aluminium hood and steering column due to stamped steel parts not yet being ready (the rare early grills have horizontal slats vs. later steel grills that sport vertical slats). The example in the photograph carries serial number 16 and has been highly polished, which, while not original, looks sharp. Originally priced at $585 (the going rate at the time for a good team of plow horses, harness and ten acres of land), this spotless survivor sold at a 2012 Mecum auction for $29,500!

Ford insisted the tractor’s overall dimensions allow 14 of them to be loaded in a railroad box car for efficient shipping, and parts were incorporated from existing Ford vehicles to keep production costs low and make servicing inexpensive. The 9N’s chief designer, Harold Brock, was quoted as saying, “Our competition was not other tractor brands. We felt our competition, at least back in 1938, was the horse.”

The 9N’s L-head (side valve) 120 c.i.d. sleeved four-cylinder gasoline engine made 24 hp and was largely derived from Ford’s 239 cid flathead V8 engine – both being machined on the same production line. It shared many parts with its parent engine, including pistons, rods and bearings. As the engine block, oil pan and transmission case formed the “frame,” they were beefed up accordingly, while the differential, rear axle gears and rear brakes were all standard Ford truck parts. Standard as-shipped weight was 2,340 lbs.

By 1942, the 9N had 20 percent of the US tractor market despite selling for about $100 more than a Farmall Model A. The Ferguson System was initially unpopular, as farmers could not use their existing implements. However, America’s entry into WWII created a need for increased food production, and tractor sales rose accordingly. War shortages temporarily halted production in 1942, but Ferguson persuaded President Roosevelt to attend a tractor demonstration, where FDR ended up purchasing a tractor and implements for his Hyde Park farm and guaranteed availability of materials to Ford so they could continue producing tractors.

Numerous small changes and improvements had been made to the 9N, and with over 99,000 units sold, Ford re-introduced the tractor in 1942 as the 2N. Changing the name got Ford around wartime price controls, allowing him to raise the price to $1,120 (which Ferguson in turn had to begrudgingly pass along to his customers). Wartime shortages resulted in a number of 2Ns being produced with steel wheels and magneto ignitions with hand cranks. As material availability improved, later units reverted to rubber tires and battery ignition and starters.

The 9N/2N did their part for the war effort both on the home front (farming) and on the front lines, working on aircraft carriers and land-based airfields as the BNO-40 aircraft tug, of which about 10,000 were manufactured from 1942-44 (they are rare today). Cast iron plate around the front and rear, and more than 1,000 pounds of cast iron weights over the front and rear axles, brought the weight up to 7,250 lb. Four 6.50×20 rear tires, hydraulic brakes, an emergency brake and a few other modifications (such as a brass fuel-filler cap to prevent sparks) completed the conversion.

On the home front, 1941-42 Ford ½- and ¾-ton pickup trucks as well as panel and sedan deliveries were offered with a modified 9N engine as an alternate powerplant. In non-governed form, it made about 30 hp compared to 60 for the 136 cid (2.2l) V8 it replaced as Ford’s economy offering. The lack of horsepower was made up for by torque similar to the V8 (85 lb./ft. at 1,000 RPM), but these were not barn burners by any stretch of the imagination. Few buyers opted for the engine, which was removed from the options list after 1942.

Finally, about 4,500 modified 9N engines (rated at around 40 hp) went to war in early WWII “GP” model Jeeps manufactured by Ford.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7