Did you know that Henry Ford experimented with a row-crop tractor before making the 9N Ford? Check out this 1937 experimental Ford tractor!
The tractor has a V8 truck engine, along with several other parts from Ford’s automotive lines (steering components, radiator, lights, and others). Henry Ford showed this prototype tractor to the press on January 7, 1938. Ford was “as pleased as a small boy with a fire engine” during the demonstration. He asserted, “I don’t care if we can’t make a cent of profit. The main thing is to get something started.”
This tractor was developed as a potential replacement for the Fordson tractor. After it wasn’t placed into production, it was tied up in a lawsuit between Ford and Ferguson and was eventually used to pull a manure spreader on the Ford farm.
Much of the work on the tractor’s design was done by Howard Simpson, a Ferguson engineer from England. He was in the United States to help with the production of the joint Ford/Ferguson Fordson tractor. From 1934-1935, he worked closely with Ford in Dearborn, Michigan on the development of the experimental tractor. After the falling out between Ford and Ferguson, Simpson returned home to England.
Henry Ford had planned to sell this tractor for $250. Henry really liked the Ford V8 engine since he had also tried it in airplanes and boats. However, it would not have been economical for farming since it would have cost way too much in gas (although that wasn’t a huge concern for farmers in this era). Also it would have had more power than needed.
The tractor was displayed at Greenfield Village from 1954-1958, then parked out in the orchard. Trees grew up around the tractor, and the wheels sank 6” into the ground. It sat there until 1981, when it was sold at auction. Dick Cummins bought it at the 1981 auction for $950 (his original bid was $75!). He restored the tractor over the following years and now displays it at shows.
It’s fun to think of what could have happened if this tractor was produced instead of the iconic 9N tractor – but hard to imagine a world without the 9N (and 2N, and 8N). How about you? Do you think this V8 row crop would have been successful?