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Early 1939 9N Ford Tractor Distinctions

Check out this beautiful 1939 Ford 9N! This impeccable restoration (from Mecum’s recent Charles Schneider auction in Lapeer, MI) showcases many of the unique features of the earliest versions of the popular Ford 9N. Early 9N tractors have several distinct characteristics from the later 9N models.


9N was named the 9 for the year 1939 and N, Ford’s designation for the model.

The original selling price for these tractors was $585. In order to keep costs low, Henry Ford used several parts from the cars–The engine is one-half of the Mercury and Ford truck V-8. This half-engine produced 28 HP at the PTO.

It also had an automotive electrical system with a coil on the ignition system, a car battery, truck differential gears and car front wheel bearings. Even the clutch and brakes from automobiles were used with modifications.  

In addition to other features, the earliest 1939 9N tractors included:

Cast aluminum grille with semi-horizontal spokes. The hood and side panels (dog legs) were also aluminum. 


Key and starter button located on the dash, an “Ignition-On” light on the dash, and a four-spoke steering wheel:


Smooth rear axle hubs:


Left and right brake pedals are interchangeable, the radius rods are I-beam type, and the fuel tank cover is snap-type (not hinged). Also in the picture you can see that the dash and steering housing are aluminum.


Other distinctive features of the early 9Ns are a square-type exhaust manifold, 4-blade fan, lack of freeze plugs in the side of the engine block, and fenders that are riveted to the brackets.

Note: This tractor does have running boards which weren’t original to this tractor but are certainly a comfortable feature!

These early 9N tractors are rare and highly desirable. Even non-restored ones sell well. Next time you spot an N tractor in the fence row, check for these features – you just might find something special!







John Deere AR and AO Tractors

For many years, John Deere produced the General Purpose (GP) tractor that, while somewhat successful, wasn’t all that John Deere had hoped for. Therefore, in 1934, they produced the John Deere A row crop tractor.

It wasn’t long until John Deere started producing variations on this popular tractor. This began with with AR, which is basically the standard version of the John Deere A. The company could use many of the same parts for the AR that they used on the A. The R in AR stands for regular.

The new AR tractor was used in small grain farms, and with a few modifications it was also suitable for orchards and groves. Demand was high enough that in June of 1935, an orchard-specific model of the A was introduced. This model was designated the AO.

RG. Rachel with the orchards

The “AR” was marketed for orchards and groves, as well as the small grain farm. Farmers purchasing a new “AR” tractor could purchase orchard fenders, differential brakes, a low air intake and a side discharge muffler to create a tractor that would better suit their needs and the conditions they worked in. Just a few months after the inception of the “AR”, though, in June of 1935, Deere and company made the decision to create an orchard-specific model of the tractor and tagged it the “AO”. The “AO” included low stacks and differential brakes as standard equipment. These tractors made it easier to order a tractor to suit orchard conditions and demonstrated to orchard and grove owners that Deere was producing a tractor aimed specifically at them. Eventually Deere produced the “AOS” which had a shortened wheelbase for better maneuverability.

Over the years, these A varieties were produced in both styled and unstyled versions. The following pictures are from a recent sale where I saw a few of A variations.

RG. John Deere AOS

RG. John Deere AO Unstyled

RG. John Deere AO Styled

Here’s a photo of the John Deere GPO:


This is a John Deere BO. Unlike the John Deere AR and AO tractors, the BO and BR tractors were never styled, they were only available unstyled.

RG. John Deere AO Unstyled different headlights

These tractors are highly collectible. My favorite is the styled AO. What’s your favorite?

Horsepower Myths

Here are two common myths about how to increase the horsepower on any tractor:

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Myth #1: A hotter coil will increase your horsepower.

Some people think that a more powerful coil (sometimes sold as a “Flame Thrower” coil) will increase their horsepower with a hotter spark. This isn’t the case. Let me explain, starting with the basics:

Engines are, at their most basic, controlled explosion machines. Fuel fills the combustion chamber and is ignited by the spark. The force of this explosion moves the pistons, the pistons move the crankshaft, and so on.

More fuel will make a difference in the amount of output, since more fuel means a bigger (more powerful) explosion. A bigger or more powerful spark, however, won’t make the explosion bigger or more powerful.

A standard tractor coil spits off around 20,000 volts. This is more than enough spark to fire your cylinders (probably around 2 times more than you need). Excess voltage just turns to heat.

I suppose that if your tractor’s inner workings had eroded to the point where the gap was larger, it would indeed take more voltage to jump the gap and make spark. This is why standard coils are already over-engineered with excess voltage, giving around 2x as much as you need. If 2x the voltage doesn’t have you firing on all cylinders, you’ve got a problem… and a hotter coil isn’t a good solution. Try a tune-up instead!

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Myth #2: An electronic ignition will increase your horsepower.

There are advantages to an electronic ignition, but increased horsepower isn’t one of them.

It’s the same basic concept – spark is spark, and more of it won’t change the fuel explosion equation.


The Best Tractor Massey Ferguson Ever Made

The Massey Ferguson 135 is one of (if not THE) best tractor Massey ever made, with one important point: be sure you get the right engine.


Did you know that my dad was a Massey Ferguson dealer when I was younger? One year, his dealership sold more compact Massey tractors than any other dealer in the region! Needless to say, I grew up with a healthy appreciation for the brand. My family was proud to sell their newer equipment, but today I’m focusing on one of their old standards: the Massey Ferguson 135.

The 135 was made for 11 years, from 1964 to 1975. In the last year of production, the selling price was $4,385. Today, they are still affordable tractors – some of the best value you can get in the 30-40 horsepower range.

The MF 135 was offered with either a gas Continental engine or a Perkins engine that was offered in either gas or diesel. The engine choice makes all the difference in the world!

I’m not a fan of the Continental gas engine, to say the least. This particular model (either a Z-134 or a Z-145) was a wet sleeved engine. It has a weak valve train and is expensive to fix.

If you’re in the market for a MF 135, choose the Perkins option! The 3-cylinder Perkins engine is fabulous. It’s fuel efficient, highly reliable, and runs like a dream. It is easy and inexpensive to rebuild: everything you could want.

As long as you get a Perkins model, I highly recommend this tractor! The MF 135 came loaded with options, including live power, hi-lo transmission, multi-power, power steering, and spin out rims. Tractors with combinations of these options are even more desirable and fun to work with.
Out of all the Massey Ferguson tractors, the model 135 is my favorite. How about you? Does the MF 135 win first place on your list, or do you prefer a different model? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Date your Ford Tractor

You can learn exactly when your Ford tractor was manufactured. It just takes a little bit of know-how to find and decipher the codes on your tractor. Here’s how:

First, locate the date code. You’ll find it on the right side of your tractor, imprinted on the flywheel housing. Look just behind the starter and above the lug nut in the flywheel housing.


You should find a series of three codes. The first is the tractor’s model number. The second is the production code. The final is the tractor’s serial number. These three numbers can give you TONS of information about your tractor, but today we’re going to focus on finding out the exact production date of your tractor.

To determine this, look at the tractor production code, also known as the unit date code.


The first digit of the tractor production code gives the production year. For tractors manufactured between 1965 and 1974, the digit corresponds with the last number in the year. So a tractor that is manufactured in 1965 would have a production code that begins with the number 5. A tractor manufactured in 1971 would have a 1 at the start of its production code (shown above on my Ford 3000).

Next comes a letter, which represents the month. January is A, February is B, and so on.

Then comes the day. This is a simple numerical date, 1 through 31.

Finally comes the shift. A tractor made on the midnight shift has a production code that ends with the letter A. The day shift got B, and second (afternoon shift) got C.
I know that this method works for Ford models 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000, but I’m not sure about other models. Let me know what kind of results you get on your own tractor!

Why are Allis-Chalmers Tractors Orange?

DSC (8)Have you ever wondered how Allis-Chalmers tractors got their distinctive shade of orange? It’s not because orange was the only color left! (Although to be fair, a desire to be different might have had something to do with their color selection).

The very first AC tractors were a dull shade of green. Everything changed in 1929, when Harry Meritt took a trip to California. Merritt was the manager of Allis’s budding tractor department. He must have been thinking over the question of color one day when he traveled past a field of brilliant, blooming poppies. As they waved in the breeze, the color struck a chord with Merrit.

He went back to the factory and convinced his colleagues that orange was the right choice. The shade was named Persian Orange after the poppies (a native crop of ancient Persia, now modern-day Iran).

If you are painting an AC tractor, you should know that the company used two different shades of Persian Orange (Persian Orange #1 and Persian Orange #2). If getting the shade exactly right is important to you, then you’ll want to do careful research to determine which color to use. Later AC tractors used a different orange altogether, called Corporate Orange.

As a child, I painted my bedroom a similar shade of bright orange (much to my mother’s chagrin). While it might be a bit much for a little girl’s bedroom, the color sure makes a statement!

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Farmall Super MVTA Restoration

Here’s a restoration project to drool over – a very rare Farmall Super M-VTA, restored to perfection by Eric Shuster of Moweaqua, Illinois.


As far as I can tell, this tractor is one of just 44 built to these specifications. While the Farmall M is an incredibly popular tractor, this variation was very specialized. Here’s the breakdown:

Start with your standard Farmall M – an iconic American tractor, tens of thousands manufactured over the years.

After 14 years of production, Farmall added the “Super” designation in 1952 – essentially the same tractor, but with slightly larger engines and hydraulics as standard equipment.

After 2 years, Farmall further tweaked the design by adding a Torque-Amplifier (the TA in the model designation). The  Super M-TA was built only in 1954, with production ending in October of that year.


A Super M-TA is rare enough to be noticeable – but a high clearance really  sets this particular model apart. Only 64 Super M-VTA tractors were built. Out of those 64 tractors, 44 of them used gasoline. This tractor is one of those 44 gasoline-burning Super M-VTAs built.

Based on the serial number and information from the IH Archives, we believe this tractor was built in the last month of production, October of 1954. Our best guess is that this was the 2nd to last Super M-VTA (gas) ever built.

Not much is known about this tractor’s path from the factory to restoration. We suspect it was a southern tractor, used in farming tobacco or cotton. By the time it was picked up for restoration, it was in rough shape.


The hardest part of the restoration project was the hood – it arrived at the shop without one. Because this particular model’s hood was longer than the standard, it was hard to locate a restorable hood for this model. Eric located one but it was in rough shape. More than 50 hours of work went into this piece of sheet metal alone – and it looks great! If you didn’t know the story, you’d never suspect the hood ever had any repairs.


With so few tractors like this made, information on the correct details is hard to come by – and parts are even harder to find. Experts at the IH Archives and the Red Power Magazine helped with research. By the time he was through, Eric had completed an incredibly detailed restoration – right down to the original hardware, radiator shutters, wiring harness, fuel line, manifold cover, and correct tires. Eric had help in this restoration from the tractor’s previous owner, Dale Smith of OEM parts, who had started the restoration process and custom fabricated many of the parts before he passed away.


As you can see from the pictures, the crowning glory of this restoration job is the perfect paint. Shuster’s Tractor Restoration really outdid themselves on this project, using 11 gallons of Iron Guard 2150 paint.

What a beauty! This tractor will be on display and offered for sale at the Mecum Gone Farmin’ Auction in Davenport, IA in just a few weeks. Thanks, Eric, for sharing your story with us – well done!



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6 Reasons to Pick a Favorite Tractor

Multi-Brand Do you have a favorite antique tractor brand? If not, you should! Here are six reasons why brand loyalty matters:

  1. Repairs are easier. Once you’ve worked on one model of your preferred brand, you’ll probably have an easier time working on other models from the same maker. Every company has their own way of doing things, and learning this system makes things a lot easier.
  2. Learn from a local dealer. Even though many of our favorite brands are no longer producing new tractors, their old dealerships might still be around. If the major dealer in your hometown sold your preferred brand of tractors, you’re in luck! Make friends with the dealership owner or service manager for helpful tips and even (if you are extra lucky!) a source for rare literature. Soak up this knowledge while you can!
  3. Scope out the salvage yards. If your favorite brand is popular in your area, you might be able to find old gems in fence-rows and salvage yards near your home. My dad has saved more than one rare tractor from the scrapyard this way. If you become known as the go-to collector of a certain brand in your area, you might start getting tips from salvage yards around town too!
  4. Travel to fewer shows. This one might sound like a negative, but hear me out – I really like single-brand tractor shows. It seems like every major brand has one or two huge, national shows that draw the crowds. This is where the top-tier collectors bring out their very best. Compared to smaller, regional, all-color shows – well, the single-brand shows usually take the cake! If you want to see something really unique, picking a favorite and traveling to the biggest single-brand show is probably your best strategy.
  5. In-depth knowledge about your preferred company. Let’s face it: our brains can only hold so much! Instead of knowing a few things about many brands, some people prefer to learn EVERYTHING they can about just one brand. These are the folks I call when I have a serious question about a certain tractor.
  6. Everyone knows what to buy you as a gift. When your favorite colors are known to your family and friends, your birthday gets a whole lot easier!

How about you – are you brand loyal? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Allis-Chalmers Products You’ve (probably) Never Heard Of

While you might know Allis-Chalmers for their tractors, that’s not all the company made. In addition to a full line of tractors and associated equipment, the highly diversified company made all sorts of things. Here are six you might not know about:

  1. Radiation equipment. Allis-Chalmers made the radiation-producing equipment (called a betatron) used in early research of radiation as a cancer treatment. (1952, other years too)
  2. Beach Sanitizer. Sorted trash from sand, and could clean up to 3.75 acres per hour. Designed to be pulled by the Beachmaster tractor, a version of the 190. Produced 1964-1970. allis chalmers beach sanitizer
  3. Spacecraft equipment. Allis-Chalmers was awarded some early contacts from NASA, using fuel cell technology to produce power and oxygen systems for spacecraft. The success of these systems helped prove that manned spaceflight was possible. Sadly, AC equipment never made it on a manned flight – the company discontinued their research in fuel cell technology in 1970.
  4. Superchargers for jet engines. During World War 2, Allis-Chalmers became one of the world’s largest producers of aircraft superchargers – allowing Allied planes to fly higher and more safely. A-C made loads of other components for the war effort – including factory machinery for other companies. Here’s a picture of President Roosevelt touring an A-C plant. allis chalmers space craft franklin rosevelet
  5. Mining equipment. Check out this huge stone crusher (called a gyratory breaker) that A-C produced for the Utah Copper Company. allis chalmers mining equipment stone crusher steiner tractor parts
  6. Terra Tiger. A six-wheeled, 10-horsepower ATV with a watertight fiberglass body. It was marketed as a “go-anywhere” vehicle. I couldn’t find records on how many were produced – I assume it was very few.

allis chalmers tera tiger

How about you – had you heard about all these A-C products? Do you have a favorite (non-tractor/equipment) product that I didn’t mention? Share in the comments below.