Growing up and living out in the countryside almost my whole life, there has always been a tractor in my life. I grew up with this little Grey Fergie, and this is its story.
From before the time I was born, my father always had a tractor of some sort. We live on a hundred-or-so plot of land, mostly wooded, in the countryside. He bought this old farmstead in 1973, and in 1975, my maternal grandparents built a place on the land next to my parents they had given them. When my grandfather passed away, he willed me the house, and I live there now with my family. With wood to cut, a garden to put in, and snow to plow, he had a pressing need for a tractor. The first one he’d gotten was a little International Cub. He said it was a good little tractor, but too small for his needs. When I was very, very young, he got rid of the Cub, and bought this Ferguson.
There were a few different variations of the little Fergie built. Some of them had diesel engines, some were built in the States and used Continental gas engines. This one was a British-built one, with the Standard gas engine.
The engine as I remember it was not tractorlike at all. It idled smoothly and quietly. If there was enough juice in the battery to crank over, it’d run. If it wouldn’t, it had a handcrank. It never took much cranking if it came to that. Towards the end of our time owning the tractor, it developed a miss on number 3 cylinder. A new plug would solve it for a short time, but we just left it be. The oil filler cap was interesting – it had the recommended oils printed on it like Castrol, Shell and Esso. It was also spring loaded to keep it from going missing.
I learned how to drive on the tractor when I was 10 – I could haul loads of wood home from the woods, and help plow the driveway. It had a four-speed transmission, with a special safety feature. In what would be 5th gear if it were a 5-speed, was the “S” position. This ensured the operator couldn’t start the tractor in gear. You could jam it up there and it’d wind over. It had a few other things I remember – heel pedals to lock up each side’s brake, and an easy-to-use park brake you could set by pushing down on the main brake pedal and shoving the parking pawl into a ratchet.
Around 1990 or so. Our necks are still sore from plowing backwards.
The tractor was ideal in the woods for skidding out logs. It was small and nimble, and tough as nails. I was later told that Ferguson used high-quality steel in their parts, and it was born out by the lack of trouble we had. We had to put a clutch disc in it, and it would get water in the transmission if it were left out. The water would freeze and the hydraulic pump wouldn’t work. We’d thaw it out, drain it a bit, and keep going. There were no visible areas where water would get in, but it always seemed to collect it anyway.
The tractor saw the most use in the winter. Dad had gotten a back blade for it, and we plowed our long driveway with it for years. The tires were loaded with calcium, but we never used chains. I stuck it a few times, though. It was good to have a good chain nearby to drag it out with a truck when it did get really buried.
Near the end of the tractor’s time with us. Its replacement is in the background.
Dad was getting tired of plowing backwards with the little Fergie. It’d performed admirably in the over-20 years he owned it and I was sad to see it go. He had a chance to buy a more modern tractor – a ’74 Ford 2000 with a loader. That was an entirely different kettle of fish. More on it next week!
Yes, Prince Andrew had a Fergie with red details, and he ultimately replaced her too. Spent a lot more on his than yours, though. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
For all of those – which may or may not include me – who make fun of English reliability, these tractors and their Standard engines are still in light use in the kinder Australian climate to this day. Tough doesn’t describe them.
For some reason, anything with red details seems to cost more.
of mine has a 47 one of the first with the 1.8 standard engine all original it runs great, plenty of old Fergies still in use in NZ theres a TEA20 for sale roadside on my nightly run a late one though.
Great old tractor – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still on the job. My in-laws have a big property, and they kept an old Kubota around for a while. My mother-in-law showed me how to drive it, and I happily did chores just for the fun of driving a tractor. If I ever owned property in the country, I’d likely find a reason to keep an old tractor around.
Looks very similar to the closely related Ford 8N. Browsing tractordata.com, the two seem to have a lot in common.
Grab a cuppa and here you go:
Well worth a second read.
Fabulous little tractor! I too grew up around a small tractor in a non-farming environment. That backwards plow blade brought back some memories of watching my father do the same thing with his Oliver 550.
My earliest solo wheeltime was on tractors, which may explain why I still love driving a vehicle that feels like a machine.
Great old tractor and thanks for sharing its story! Looks like you may have had a loader on the tractor at some point going by the vertical frame? I’ve spent many an hour plowing snow backwards on my 8N – you can stack the snow higher than the tractor that way, much more effective than plowing forward.
The TE20 (Tractor, England 20 HP) was made in Coventry and used the Standard engine as noted. The TO tractors (Tractor Overseas) were made in Detroit and used a Continental Z-126 engine with a US-style electrical system instead of the Lucas system used on the TEs.
Styling is quite similar to the Ford N Series, but the Fergie’s hood could be pivoted up, where the Ford’s was fixed. Total production of the TE and TO tractors from 1936-1956 was around 1 million units.
The early ones were TE18s later models TE 20 with the enlarged engine. Mate of mine is a Fergy nutter hes corrected all my knowledge mistakes and I worked in Fargy spare parts as a teen.
I love your tractor!
It did have a loader at one time, but it was gone by the time we had gotten it. It would have been SLOW with that tiny little pump!
We did get an 8N later on – it was a fun little tractor too.
This color tractor is not my specialty, but a little Internet search indicates that it was Harry Ferguson’s first and most popular tractor and represented Ferguson’s wartime development of what we in America know as the Ford N-series tractor. Standard factory space was becoming available at the end of WWII, so Harry entered an agreement with Standard to build his tractor in one of their factories, using a variation of the new Standard 4-cylinder engine to power it. This would account for the smoothness of this engine, as it was designed for use in the new Standard Vanguard post-war automobile. If Wikipedia can be believed, TE-20 stood for “Tractor, Export, 20 Horsepower.” “Export” referred to the intention of selling the tractor throughout Europe and in the former British colonies; “20 Horsepower” referred to an English formula for determining engine size and power (I did not find power ratings for this engine in this tractor. The North American version with the Continental gas engine had 20 drawbar horsepower, which would be a good estimate). That would be a good size for a “yard-scraper” tractor, such as the life this one lead. About a half million were produced and sold through 1956, being replaced by the Massey-Ferguson Model 35.
As with the Ford N-Series, these tractors were distinguished by the Ferguson system of secure 3-point attachment of tillage implements to the back of the tractor, with accompanying hydraulic control of implement depth based on load. As the load increased, the system would slightly and automatically raise the implement, which had the dual benefit of increasing the weight and traction to the rear wheels, while temporarily also decreasing the load. As the load decreased, the implement would then automatically lower the implement again, and away you would continue to go. Ferguson was indeed a mechanical genius. This size and configuration of tractor was not only extremely handy, after it had finished most of its useful life as a main tractor it went on to teach generations of ten-year-old boys and girls, myself included, how to drive. Thanks for sharing your story, Marc!
TE-20 English, TO-20 Overseas. I need to stick with the green tractors.
It taught me a lot about setting up points and maintaining a vehicle too. So mechanically simple it was easy to deal with. A great unit to learn on.
Weren’t these essentially the engine used in TR 2-4? I had several TR-4s and they sure had “tractor-like” torque! TRs were a real blast to drive, though they’d about rattle your teeth out!
Back in our strawberry and asparagus small farm days we had a 8N Ford, a great little tractor with a Model-A like flathead 4 cyl engine, The 3 point hitch on those and the Ferguson Fords made them very versatile, and many are still used for general utility work on farms large and small.. real classics!
The N Series engine shares more in common with the Mercury flathead V8, actually.
I’ll write a little about that when I write up the 8N. The engine was worn out in it, and I couldn’t find the supposed liners in it. Turns out someone had pulled the dry liners out and ran it with regular car pistons.
Weren’t these essentially the engine used in TR 2-4?
Yes they were. And in this case, when the adjective “agricultural” was used to describe the TR engine’s relative lack of smoothness and refinement, it was not just hyperbole.
Nice article thank you. My dad bought a 1949 TEA-20, identical to this one in 1974. The designation ‘A’ meant a utility model made in UK with the Standard gasoline engine.
I agree with this article, they are great tractors, sophisticated for their day and great for small jobs and chores. Unfortunately our tractor was completely worn out from years of hard work. It needed an engine rebuild and a new clutch. I started repairs on it until I found the differential and housing were damaged internally. It still worked, though, with a cracked housing and broken gear teeth. It made further repairs impractical.
Since then, I bought a Ford 8N, which is the same vintage. It’s interesting comparing the two, as many components were similar or identical, but the Ford flathead engine was more primitive and less powerful than the OHV Ferguson.
I’ve considered buying another Fergie. A friend is selling his TE-20 that’s been upgraded to 12 volt electrics, a common modification. Otherwise its all original, 70 year old mechanical components. It works fine, even with an audible rod knock. He wants $1500 which is pretty cheap for these. It’s interesting how many of these are still around in regular use on farms, after all these years.
That seems like a good price, if you could fix the rod knock up.
Very common back in the day. Many Aussie farmers ran a Standard Vanguard in the fifties and sixties – they were one tough car – so having a tractor with the same basic engine was a plus. Nowadays you see more restored grey Fergies than you do Vanguards though. Two turned up at a small car show in my town a few years back, and a neighbour was selling a restored one about the same time.