What’s the difference between a Farmall and an International tractor?
The short answer is – not much. The International Harvester Company used a handful of different brand names for its tractors, like “McCormick,” “McCormick-Deering,” “International,” and “Farmall.” Very similar tractors were sold under these names at the same time – sort of like the relationship between a Lincoln Navigator and a Ford Expedition. Often there’s a good, understandable reason for the name of a specific model tractor – and sometimes, the factory just put on whatever nameplate or decal they had leftover.
The longer answer – and some of the reasons behind IHC’s tractor naming policies – starts with a history lesson.
The International Harvester Company was born on August 12, 1902 when McCormick, Deering, and three smaller companies merged. The resulting company was massive – it controlled 90% of the grain binder production and 80% of mower production in the United States.
Early tractors produced by the company had names you might recognize, like “Mogul” and “Titan.” Others used a combination of a company name and a number, like the International 8-16 or the McCormick Deering 10-20.
Things really took off for the company in 1924, when the first Farmall tractor was sold to the public. Originally, Farmall was simply a model name for a tractor that could do all the jobs on a farm – get it? The Farmall was a row-crop tractor, capable of cultivating in between the rows of growing crops. The ability to cultivate crops was the key selling point for many farmers, making the tractor a viable alternative to horses.
By 1931, the name had stuck. International began to use the name “Farmall” to describe other row-crop tractors as well, including the F-30. The next year, the F-20 was introduced – also with the name “Farmall” emblazoned on the hood.
When the letter series was introduced, the company’s division between Farmall- and International-branded tractors became clear. Row-crop tractors were designated Farmall, while utility (IHC called them “standard”), wheatland, and industrial tractors received alternate model names and numbers.
For standard tractors, the hood often read “McCormick-Deering Standard,” or “McCormick Standard,” depending on the date (Deering was dropped from the name midway through 1949). Industrial tractors were labeled “International,” although some early models may have the McCormick-Deering nameplate.
So, for example – the Farmall H is a sister tractor to a McCormick-Deering Standard W-4 (utility version) and an International I-4 (industrial version).
This same distinction was continued in the 50s, with the introduction of the hundred series tractors. The Farmall and International versions of the same tractor took on even more similarities – in many cases, the only differences were in the axles/tires and the name on the hood. As far as I know, tractors from this point on were no longer branded with just the name “McCormick,” except in Germany (but that’s a different story).
Things changed when herbicidal weed control gained popularity. Farmers no longer needed to cultivate their crops in the traditional manner – instead, they demanded more power.
IHC made tractors with either configuration (with the appropriate name on the hood) during this transition. For example – the 340 could be purchased as either a Farmall row-crop tractor or an International ‘Utility’ tractor.
The distinction started to blur, though, as tractors became larger and more powerful. The “06” series of tractors were some of the last that could be purchased with the name “Farmall” prominent on the hood. IHC moved towards using a large “International” nameplate on the hoods of all their tractors, with the (much smaller) “Farmall” designator added just above the model number. The 06 series up used the International side emblem on the standard tread ‘Wheatland’ tractors and also started using it on the 826 up Row Crop tractors. IHC officially ended use of the name Farmall in 1973, but it took two years (until 1975) until existing stock of nameplates were used up and the transition was final.
These are the general rules, but there’s plenty of odd exceptions. If you are restoring an old IHC tractor – particularly an unusual one – and want to be sure you get the name on the hood right, I highly recommend Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar’s “Originality Guide” series, which gives highly detailed information on specific models and their factory decal specifications.