Why I Love the 8N Ford

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Here are the Top 8 Reasons why I love the Ford 8N:

 

  1. Made in Michigan. These beauties were manufactured in Highland Park, Michigan – less than 100 miles away from my hometown.
  2. Easy to get parts. With more than a half million 8N tractors produced, it’s easy to find aftermarket and original parts for a restoration project.
  3. 3-point hitch. The 8N tractor marked the end of the handshake agreement between Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson, but it still included a 3-point hitch (Ferguson’s invention). While the design was updated from the original 9N and 2N, there were enough similarities that Ford had to pay a $9.2 million settlement for copyright infringement to Ferguson. Having the 3-point hitch was essential to the 8N’s success though – a price that Ford was willing to pay. DSC (15)
  4. Easy to get on and off. Compared to my dad’s favorite tractor (The Farmall H), the 8N tractor is a breeze to mount.
  5. Easy to drive. No doubt I’m one of thousands of kids who learned how to drive on a Ford 8N. They are simple to operate and a good size for mature youth to start with.
  6. Easy to repair. Unlike today’s advanced and complicated machinery, Ford designed a tractor that the farmer would be able to repair himself. Most repairs can be made with just a couple sizes of wrenches and other common shop tools.
  7. Implements! Such a huge variety of implements are available for the 8N tractor – it’s hard to imagine a task that there isn’t an implement for.
  8. Classic color scheme. The red and gray is my favorite tractor color combo – but it looks good in pink, too!


rachel gingell wrenching with rachel ford 8n tractorHow about you – are you a fellow 8N lover? What makes you a fan?  

The Adjustable-Height Tractor

US2231710-0Henry Ford was a powerhouse of an inventor, registering hundreds of patents during his lifetime. Many of his inventions were key to the transformation of American agriculture, but plenty of others never made it off the drawing board. One of these forgotten projects is a design for an adjustable height tractor.

 

The tractor was a narrow-front design that allowed for the independent raising and lowering of each of the rear wheels and the front end. The idea was to provide for maximum versatility in a tractor. When raised, the tractor would have the clearance necessary for cultivating crops. When lowered, drawbar strength increased. When plowing, the farmer could even adjust the rear wheels independently of one another to level out the tractor as it drove in the furrow. Ford also mentioned that the narrow front axle could be replaced with a conventional axle when needed.

 

Ford applied for the patent in 1939, and it was awarded in 1941. No doubt wartime rationing and shortages limited Ford from working out the kinks in his design. Once the war was over, Ford’s tractors were in such high demand that he could sell on reliability alone – no need for special projects like this to boost sales.

 

To learn more about Henry Ford’s design, you can read the text of the original patent application here (this is also the site where the diagram photos originated from).  US2231710-1 If Ford had figured out how to put this tractor into production, would you buy it?

A Trip to a Tractor Museum

Last Friday the BF Avery Collectors and Associates gathered in Davison Michigan at the Best Western for their Winter meeting and a day of tractor fun. After the morning meeting the group was picked up in a bus furnished by Steiner Tractor Parts with a first stop in Hadley Michigan at Chuck Schneider’s. Chuck owns one of the biggest Orchard tractor collections in the country, and many neon signs and other collectibles. It was a rare privilege to be invited to see this private collection and hear Chuck’s stories about how he came across these restored tractors.

After the tour at Schneider’s the group loaded back on the bus and headed to Steiner Tractor Parts in Lennon for a quick tour of the warehouse and store, an overview of how things are run and a history of how things began.

It was a great afternoon full of old iron history and stories of these antique tractors. Rows of Orchard, Vineyard and Grove tractors, an aluminum Ford, John Deere, Case, Oliver, McCormick-Deering, Massey Harris, Love Tractor, to the rare 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX with and without the cab.

Some more pictures, sent in from Mark Cunningham of the BF Avery Group. Thanks Mark.

Ford Gold Demonstrator Tractors

IMG_0598 One of the highlights of the Mecum auction was this pair of Ford gold demonstrator tractors. They caught my eye immediately when I arrived – I made a beeline to them right away!

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These gold demonstrator tractors were produced to promote Ford’s new Select-O-Speed transmission. Each Ford dealer was intended to have at least one gold demonstrator tractor, however, there is some argument as to whether every single dealer actually got one. Some sources say that they were forced to order at least one, other sources say that some dealers flat-out refused to participate. At this time in history there were well over 2,000 dealers so quite a few Ford tractors were painted gold for demonstration purposes.

 

Research also shows that the vast majority of gold demonstrators have select-o-speed transmissions and low serial numbers. However, some of the dealers who were late to comply with the gold demonstrator program received later serial numbers. Research also suggests that some dealers also ordered different configurations, including standard gear shift tractors. I’ve never seen one of these, though – all the gold demonstrators I’ve seen have select-o-speed transmissions and early serial numbers from 1959.

 

Salesmen were encouraged to take these tractors around to visit local farmers. With the farmer’s permission, the salesman would work alongside the farmer – hopefully proving that the Ford tractor was superior to the farmer’s John Deere, Farmall, etc. When a farmer purchased a gold tractor they could elect to have it re-painted to red/gray or they could keep it gold. Because we don’t (at least to my knowledge) have reliable records of the serial numbers of tractors that were used as demonstrators, we rely on uncovering the original paint to determine if the tractor was a demonstrator. How fun to discover a true gold demonstrator tractor!

 

IMG_0647 These tractors were expertly restored and consigned by Jeff Cormany from Columbia City, Indiana. He was kind enough to let me drive the 871 through the auction. The Ford 881 sold first for $11,000 plus 4% buyer’s premium. It had new tires, a rebuilt engine and power steering. The restoration was quality all around. The Ford 871 bidding ended at $7,500 which was shy of the reserve. This tractor, too, had new tires, a rebuilt engine and power steering.

 

How about you – have you ever seen one of these gold demonstrator tractors? Let me know in the comments below.

 

John Moore's 1959 Gold Dealer Demo SOS 871

Install New Brakes on your Ford Tractor

Ford-Brakes-RachelDo the brakes on your Ford function improperly? Watch this free instructional video demonstrating the installation of brake shoes on a Ford 600. In this newest series of tractor repair videos offered exclusively online at SteinerTractor.TV Rachel Gingell shows you helpful tips when installing new brakes. Watch as Rachel takes you through the installation from start to finish. You can also watch more #WrenchingwithRachel videos on our Tractor Repair Video page.

Ford Tractors: Difference between a 9N, 2N, and 8N

One of the most popular tractors of all time, the Ford N-series tractor is an American icon. More than fifty years after the last 8N rolled off the assembly line, these tractors are still incredibly popular. You’ll see them all over – at auction sales and dealerships, but also alongside the road with a “For Sale” sign, at garage sales, and even at your favorite restaurant on date night (true story – as often as we’ve had to go home to get a trailer, we should really learn not to leave home without them!).

 

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Ford 8N

As beloved as factory original N-series tractors are, I’ve seen plenty that are rather… unique. Like the one I bought from an old hippie that was painted bright yellow, with flowers all over the hood. I thought I’d have to repaint it, but before I got around to doing so it was spotted by another customer who just LOVED the paint job. Problem solved, no paint required!

 

For a more serious collector, though, being able to identify exactly which of the N-style tractors (9N, 2N, or 8N) you’re looking at is very important. While we’ve gone into specific details about the year-to-year improvements in N-series tractors before (click here), today I’m going to give you a quick “field guide” to determining the model of an N-series tractor.

 

Ford 2N
Ford 2N

First, a quick history lesson: the 9N was introduced in 1939. It was followed by the 2N in 1942, and early models were greatly impacted by wartime rationing. Once the war was over, a new and much improved 8N was introduced in 1948.

 

As my hippie tractor will demonstrate, paint color can’t always be counted on. But since it is the first and most obvious clue available, you should know that 9N and 2N tractors were painted all grey, while a red and grey paint job was for 8N tractors. Plenty of people are unaware of this, though, and will paint their 9N or 2N red and grey as well. So don’t trust the paint job too much.

 

9Ns and 2Ns are rather similar, but there are some big differences between them and the 8N. So it’s easiest to see if you have an 8N first, and save the smaller 9N v. 2N differences for later.

 

You are definitely looking at an 8N tractor if:

  • The rear wheel is dished, with a large nut in the center surrounded closely by 8 more lug nuts. In contrast, both the 9N and 2N models have a flat rear wheel with a ring of 6 lug nuts further out.
  • There’s a 4-speed transmission. 9N and 2N tractors had a 3-speed.
  • The hydraulic 3-point arms have a halfway position between fully “up” and “down”. 9N and 2N tractors only had draft control. The 8N introduced position control, which is a small up/down handle under the seat on the right side–this was an improvement to the hydraulic system.
  • Both brake pedals are on the same side – 9N and 2N tractors were split.
  • The serial number starts with an “8N.” I know this seems obvious, but it is important to note that both 9N and 2N serial numbers start with a “9N,” leading to confusion.

Of course, the 8N had plenty of other improvements over the 9N and the 2N – but these features are the easiest to spot and the hardest to modify.

 

If the tractor definitely isn’t an 8N, then you’ll need to examine more closely the differences between a 9N and a 2N. This can be hard to do, because the transition between the 9N and the 2N wasn’t as clean-cut as the transition to the 8N later on. Wartime rationing and a desire to reduce waste lead to a slower switch, as features were modified once the previous model’s parts were used up.

 

That being said, here are some clues that can help in most cases:

 

  • If the tractor has a cast aluminum hood and/or a starter switch on the right side of the dash, congratulations! You’re probably looking at one of the first 9Ns produced – rare and highly collectible.
  • Tubular radius arms indicate a 2N produced after mid-1944. All N-series tractors built prior to 1944 (every 9N and some 2Ns) had I-beam radius arms. However, 2Ns with I-beam radius arms are rather rare, so chances are good that any tractor with I-beam arms is a 9N.
  • If the dipstick is on the inspection cover, you are definitely looking at a later 2N.
  • If the serial number is readable, don’t assume that a “9N” prefix indicates a 9N tractor – as noted before, 2N tractors used this prefix as well. You’ll need to look up the entire number in a serial number guide (or my app!) to know for sure.

The dividing line is a little soft between a 9N and a 2N tractor. If these tips don’t give you a conclusive answer and the serial number isn’t readable, this article might help you figure out exactly what your tractor is.

 

But sometimes, you might have to settle for a 19N (9+2+8) – that’s what my family jokingly calls an N-series tractor that, over the years, has gained features from each model rather than staying true to it’s specific characteristics. The beauty of N-series tractors is that they are very common and very similar – this yields a steady stream of aftermarket modifications and parts swapping from one model to the next. While these happy hybrids with mixed parts and unreadable serial numbers might make purists cringe, I think Henry Ford would be happy to see his legacy of ingenuity and tinkering live on.

 

Bluegrass Antique Super Pull

Steiner Tractor Parts is excited to announce we are the title sponsor of the Bluegrass Antique Super Pull in Richmond Kentucky March 20-21, 2015. If you are looking for a pull check out the long list of BoB (Battle of the Bluegrass) shows. Locations are in Kentucky and surrounding states; Indiana, Tennessee, Michigan and West Virginia and run thru October.  Check out the details at  http://www.bluegrasspulling.com/heritage-series/

 

How to Get Started in Stock Antique Tractor Pulling

IMG_1328Spring is just around the corner, and with the thaw comes one of my favorite signs of spring: the start of pulling season. I grew up spending my Saturdays at local fairgrounds and tucked-away tracks across the state, basking in the joys of loud engines and greasy fair food. Before long my dad let me take a turn behind the wheel and I snagged a few trophies of my own (thanks to my dad’s excellent mechanics, of course). I was hooked! While we don’t pull as often as we used to, not a summer goes by for my family without taking our tractors out for a spin.

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While there’s plenty of fun to be had in the long-term project of custom building a tractor specifically for pulling, you don’t need a special tractor to get started. Many tractor pulling associations offer stock classes for tractors that do not have any engine modifications. With just a few simple tricks, you can have competitive success with a well-restored antique tractor. Old iron has lots of power – here’s how to let it shine.
The first thing to take note of is your hitch. Check out the rules of your pulling association, and modify your stock drawbar accordingly. You want your hitch high off the ground and your drawbar as narrow as allowed. This puts the hitch as close as possible to your tractor’s center of gravity, keeping all four wheels on the ground.

FullSizeRenderYou want as much contact with the ground as you can, so use the biggest tires allowed. If you are allowed 15.5×38, don’t show up with 13.6! Use the widest allowed rims, too. You want as much bar tread on the ground as possible. I’ve never won a pull with little tires. Select tires with deep treads which can really dig into the track. Firestone Field and Road (the old 151s) are my favorite, but any type of hard tire will be to your advantage.
While we’re talking about tires, be sure you pay attention to your air pressure. IMG_0217Contrary to popular belief, you’ll do best with the higher air pressure. Many people believe that lower-pressure tires allow the tractor to “dig in” to the earth because more tire is in contact with the track. While this may be true, any advantage from more tire on the track is outweighed by the drop in hitch height when under-inflated tires are put under pressure. Additionally, under-inflated tires lose their gripping power. When the treads are held rigid by proper inflation, they perform much better.
Read the rules to determine the highest air pressure allowed, but don’t automatically assume that the highest allowed pressure is right for your tires and your tractor. We usually find that 13-15 pounds of pressure is just right. Use a combination of original manufacturer recommendations and your own experimentation to find the right pressure for your tires.

If you are doing things right, your tractor’s front wheels will eventually lift off the ground as you pull. When this happens, you’ll be unable to use your steering wheel. So it is important to make sure that your tractor is ready to pull straight down the track, rather than wasting power veering off in the wrong direction. You can get a nice straight pull by:
– Using a tractor with a narrowed wheel base. Don’t spread the tires as far out on the axles as possible, rather, keep the wheel base narrow.
– Have the exact same air pressure in both rear tires.- Make sure that both rear tires weigh the same. Drive one tire on the scale and weigh it. Then turn around and weigh the other side. Tractors aren’t usually built to be symmetrical – perhaps one side has the ring and pinion, the live power clutch, etc. Add weight to the lighter side so that both sides are even. The lighter your tractor is overall, the more crucial this becomes.

Of course, you can use braking techniques to “steer” your tractor when you are pulling a wheelie, but doing so is a waste of energy (why brake when you are trying to pull?!?) and can be dangerous. It’s better to use these techniques to get your tractor balanced and even so that you don’t have to resort to braking to get down the track.

Be sure your tractor is perfectly tuned. Use a dyno to test your horsepower (a local dealer or vocational school may have one you can use). This will tell you if you should fix the timing and carburetor main jet to get maximum horsepower. You can usually gain 5-6 horsepower by fine tuning, and this can be the difference between first and second place. Similarly, always start the season with fresh spark plugs, fresh gas, and a clean fuel filter.
IMG_0219Finally, get some practice in! Have a friend follow you in a 4×4 pickup connected with a chain. When your friend applies the brakes, you’ll hear the governor kick in under a load. Get used to driving with this drag so that there are no surprises in front of a crowd. Practice driving slowly, too – most associations have a strict speed limit.

With these tips, you’re ready to get started in stock tractor pulling. Spring is just a few months away – get to work tuning things up now, and your old iron will be bringing home trophies in no time.

Tractor Story – Ford 8N

This is my Ford 8N. I got it from my Grandpa. It’s been neglected for a few years to say the least. I’ve had to rebuild the steering box and now I’m working on s stuck clutch. All the sheet metal is bad so I have to replace it all. My Dad and my son have been helping on the project It’s neat for me to share this with my son cause I remember riding this tractor when I was around his age. There’s been a lot I’ve fixed on it but there’s a lot more to go also. Hopefully soon I will be able to post pictures of it finished. I just think it’s pretty cool keeping the tractor in the family.  As you can see in the pics my son is more than eager to help out. Thanks for reading.

Doug Lohrey
Gratis, Ohio

1953 Golden Jubilee – Think Pink

Matthew-LisI went to a barn sale for a farmer that was retiring. I asked his wife if they had any old tractors for sale. She said that they had an old one in the field. Her husband said he forgot about that one. We went out and looked at it. It was a 1953 Golden Jubilee. I bought the tractor right then and there. I went back the next day with my chain saw and cut it out and brought it home. I was able to get it running 3 weeks later. My wife thinks I am crazy but I always wanted one of these old tractors.

Matthew Lis
Dayton, Ohio