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The Ferguson Tractor Story

The Ferguson Tractor Story

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The Ferguson Tractor Story

339 pagine
2 ore
May 12, 2020


The little grey Fergie is Britain's best-loved tractor, the light user-friendly machine that finally replaced the horse on farms. This highly illustrated account covers the full history of Harry Ferguson's tractor products from his pioneering work before the 1930s to the merger with Massey in 1957. The author has had access to fresh archive material and has interviewed many of the surviving men who were associated with Ferguson. The appeal of the Fergie lay in its lightness and utility, and also in the system of mechanized farming of which it was a part. Throughout the book, reference is made to the implements which lay at the heart of the system. Stuart Gibbard has won "Tractor and Machinery" magazine's award for the best British tractor book five years running.
May 12, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

The little grey Fergie is Britain's best-loved tractor, the light user-friendly machine that finally replaced the horse on farms. This highly illustrated account covers the full history of Harry Ferguson's tractor products from his pioneering work before the 1930s to the merger with Massey in 1957. The author has had access to fresh archive material and has interviewed many of the surviving men who were associated with Ferguson. The appeal of the Fergie lay in its lightness and utility, and also in the system of mechanized farming of which it was a part. Throughout the book, reference is made to the implements which lay at the heart of the system. Stuart Gibbard has won "Tractor and Machinery" magazine's award for the best British tractor book five years running.

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The Ferguson Tractor Story - Stuart Gibbard

‘Beauty in engineering is that which is simple, has no superfluous parts and serves exactly the purpose.’


The Ferguson Tractor Story

Old Pond Publishing is an imprint of Fox Chapel Publishers International Ltd.

Copyright © 2000, 2020 by Stuart Gibbard and Fox Chapel Publishers International Ltd.

The moral right of the author in this work has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of Fox Chapel Publishers, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in an acknowledged review.

ISBN 978-1-912158-44-7 (paperback)

978-1-913618-06-3 (ebook)

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Fox Chapel Publishing, 903 Square Street, Mount Joy, PA 17552, U.S.A.

Fox Chapel Publishers International Ltd., 7 Danefield Road, Selsey (Chichester), West Sussex PO20 9DA, U.K.

Frontispiece illustration: One of hundreds of thousands of Ferguson tractors still working worldwide, this TE-20 is used for launching fishing boats on the Norfolk coast.



Author’s Note






The greatest enjoyment that comes from writing a book is not, as many will think, from seeing your name on the cover and your words in print. That is a novelty that quickly passes. No, for me, the real pleasure is in the research and the opportunities it brings - in particular, the opportunity to talk to the people who were in at the deep end. There is no greater privilege than being given the chance to meet, talk to and learn from the men who designed, built, demonstrated and sold the tractors. It is a pleasure that still remains undiminished after many books.

Each book is different, as is each company, but the warm welcome, considerable assistance and encouragement that I receive from the people who patiently and knowledgeably answer my questions remain the same, and the Ferguson men were no exception.

These were the people who brought the story alive, not me. It was difficult not to be moved by their pioneering spirit and the inspiration that pervaded their conversation, or be swept up by the emotion of the triumphs and tribulations as the events were recounted as if they were yesterday. I often realise what a task I set those willing few when I expected them to remember every detail of something that happened more than sixty years ago when I can’t even remember where I put my pencil ten minutes ago.

There was, however, one difference between the Ferguson men and people I have interviewed from other organisations. I am always aware of an overwhelming sense of loyalty to the product or company, even if that concern has long since disappeared. But here the loyalty seemed almost tangibly greater, and much of it reserved for the one individual who had obviously had a strong influence on their lives. That man of course was Harry Ferguson.

There are many ex-Ferguson personnel to be acknowledged, and sadly several of those who helped with the book are no longer with us. They include Alex Patterson, who was not in the best of health when I interviewed him, but his mind was as sharp as ever and his attention to detail was unsurpassed.

Alex’s help was invaluable and there were few questions that he could not answer, having joined Harry Ferguson in 1938, and becoming superintendent of engineering during the TE-20 era. He also kindly read my manuscript and filled in any missing information.

There were many other ex-Ferguson men who kindly made time for me, were at the end of a telephone, invited me into their homes or met me over a pint to share their wonderful reminiscences. They included: Jack Bibby, Dick Dowdeswell, Bill Halford, Roy Harriman, Nigel Liney, Nibby Newbold, John Roberts, Colin Steventon and Bud White. To this list, I must add Jim Wallace.

Special thanks were due to the late Erik Fredriksen. Erik traced most of my contacts and set up the meetings with many of the above gentlemen. He kindly gave up three days of his time to accompany me (I could say navigate me, but he continually got me lost) around the Coventry area on my visits and steer me around what few archives remained at Banner Lane at the time. He helped me with a great deal of information, and for anybody wishing to learn more about the ‘big Fergie’, I can heartily recommend trying to find a copy of his little booklet, The Legendary LTX Tractor.

I must pay special tribute to another ex-Ferguson man and writer, the late Colin Fraser, who I had the opportunity to meet during the course of my research. Colin’s biography, Harry Ferguson - Inventor & Pioneer, remains the benchmark Ferguson history and is every Ferguson enthusiast’s bible. It is impossible to write about Ferguson without first delving into this important reference work.

At the time of my original research, Banner Lane was still in operation and was still regarded as home to the Massey Ferguson tractor, but all that has now gone with the closure of the plant in 2002. Massey Ferguson has been part of AGCO since 1994, and many of the personnel from that organisation, as well as its Coventry plant, kindly assisted in the preparation of this book. I would like to make particular mention of Jim Newbold and Ted Everett from the photographic library.

Although John Briscoe was not directly involved in this book, he was a useful contact to me over all the years since I began writing. Thanks to him, I had already amassed a certain amount of information and photographs on Ferguson tractors before I even started this project. He often suggested that I should turn my attentions to grey or red/grey tractors rather than waste my time on other manufacturers while he patiently sourced photographs for my other books or articles. Ironically, by the time this Ferguson book was planned, he had retired from AGCO.

Ferguson tractors and equipment have a following like no other make, and the Ferguson enthusiasts and collectors who worship the grey are a learned and dedicated band, always willing to share their extensive knowledge of the marque. Sadly, Selwyn Houghton and Ben Serjeant are no longer with us. Selwyn’s understanding of Ferguson-Brown tractors was unmatched, and Ben started researching Ferguson history before anyone else and inspired me to follow his lead.

Three individuals in particular gave me unrivalled assistance, loaned valuable documentation and photographs, and allowed me access to their own research. They were: Mike Thorne, a true enthusiast who provided all the right contacts; Ian Halstead, who always said that I should write a Ferguson book; and Jim Russell, whose Ferguson knowledge is eclipsed only by his photographic skill. Thank you gentlemen, it was most appreciated, and I know your shared interest in the marque remains undiminished.

I must also thank Jim Russell and his, wife, Jane, for kindly providing me with (quality) accommodation and food during my time at Coventry, even if Jim did get his own back by keeping me up until after midnight with Ferguson bedtime stories. I am equally grateful to the many Ferguson enthusiasts who helped, provided information or photographs or allowed their tractors to be photographed at the time. Amongst their number were Noel Collen, David Lory, Tom Lowther, John Moffitt, John Popplewell and Robin Price.

I am aware that in the 20 years that have passed since this book was originally published in 2000, many of those who assisted me are no longer alive, or will have retired from the positions they held at that time (as given in parentheses). However, all are equally deserving of full acknowledgement, and include: Martin Cole, Mark Farmer, John Farnworth, John Foxwell, Phil Homer (Standard Motor Club), Sandra Nichols (Ford Motor Company), Stephen Perry (Perkins Engines), Derek Sansom (DSA), Clive Scattergood (Perkins Engines), Robin Shackleton (Hydro Agri), Bonnie Walworth (Ford Motor Company) and David Woods (New Holland).

Finally, the first edition of The Ferguson Tractor Story would not have been possible without the wonderful team at the original Old Pond organisation: editor, Julanne Arnold; designer, Liz Watling; and my good friend and publisher, Roger Smith (who also took several excellent photographs for the book). Thanks are also due to the team at Fox Chapel for this new edition. As with all my books and articles, I must also thank my long-suffering wife, Sue, who reads everything I write and adds her own constructive comments.

Author’s Note

It is always a dilemma for an author of an historical book whether to use imperial or metric measurements. I was brought up with imperial units, but was forced into metrication during my teenage years. Being a traditionalist, I tend to favour the former.

The method I have tended to adopt for my other books is to use the system most in keeping with the period that I am writing about, and the era of the Ferguson remains firmly in imperial times. Having said that, however, most UK motor manufacturers preferred to quote engine capacities in cubic centimetres, while manufacturers in the USA used cubic inches. It seemed only right to do the same while giving the alternative figures in parentheses. Therefore, the sizes of the North American engines are given in cubic inches first followed by the metric equivalent in brackets and vice versa for the European power units.

The Standard Motor Company also tended to refer to its engines by their bore sizes in millimetres; for example, the 80 mm engine or the 85 mm engine. It would be illogical to present these any differently.

Several different systems for calculating or measuring engine power have been used over the years. Those figures that I can verify as true brake horsepower (bhp) are given as such, while others may be rated, drawbar or pto horsepower.


Writing a book about a machine as famous as the Ferguson tractor is a daunting proposition. Few tractors have captured the imagination as much as the ‘little grey Fergie’. I can think of no other agricultural machine that has won such universal acclaim or been so fondly remembered. For many farmers, particularly those with smaller or more remote holdings, it was their first true taste of mechanised farming, and most people who have lived or worked in the country will have had some experience or knowledge of the Ferguson tractor.

The TE-20 has become an icon of Britain’s engineering heritage of the twentieth century, as legendary as Sir Nigel Gresley’s Pacific railway locomotives or Sir Alec Issigonis’s Mini car. To the layman, the Ferguson is the classic tractor personified, and it still remains the first choice for many smallholders, ‘weekend’ farmers or the Pony Club fraternity with a small paddock to mow.

Dare I say that having been brought up on an all-Ford farm, with just one solitary TE-20 that was used as a yard tractor and for spraying duties, I was brainwashed into believing that the praise heaped on the Ferguson was no more than just hype? We knew our Fordson Diesel Major tractors were more powerful and believed them to be superior, even if they lacked draft control hydraulics. A friend of mine once disparagingly remarked that the ‘Fergie’ was only really suitable for the man who had one acre and a goat. Had he got a valid point or was he being unfair to the Ferguson tractor?

An ex-Ferguson training instructor once admitted to me that the tractor was possibly the weak link in the Ferguson System and had its limitations in terms of size and power. When towing from the drawbar, he said, ‘It wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.’ His words, not mine.

The author was introduced to the Ferguson System at a young age. This TE-20 model was the sole Ferguson among a fleet of Fordson tractors on his family farm.

However, he qualified this by saying that when full use was made of its hydraulic system with the correct implements, the Ferguson tractor was transformed, as if by magic, into an unbeatable machine that would run rings around the opposition. Here indeed was beauty in engineering.

It must not be forgotten that the Ferguson tractor brought affordable and practical mechanisation to the less-favoured areas and opened up the marginal land of many developing countries, or that it could till or plough hillside and stony land and inaccessible fields where no other machines could go. It brought motive power to upland and lowland farmers, market gardeners, hop, wine and fruit growers, local councils and municipal corporations the world over. Over one million Ferguson tractors were sold between 1936 and 1957, and over one million people cannot be that wrong.

I came to this story with an open mind, willing to be persuaded that the Ferguson tractor was or was not the stuff that legends are made of. No doubt, I have been more than a little influenced by the many ex-Ferguson men I have spoken to, and perhaps subconsciously affected by the magnetism of Harry Ferguson’s words and philosophy that are the very fabric of every piece of Ferguson literature I have read. I was also greatly impressed by just how much more could have been achieved had the LTX prototype been allowed to go into production, and have finished this book a firm advocate of the Ferguson tractor.

Having said that, I have not embellished or glorified the story and have presented the trials, tribulations and mistakes as well as the triumphs, successes and achievements. I have left it up to the readers to make their own minds up as to whether the Ferguson tractor really was the machine that revolutionised farming.

I have also tried to give both sides of the story of Harry Ferguson’s successive partnerships that were formed on the road to realising his dream to build the tractor that finally replaced the horse. That vision is an inseparable part of the story and I felt I could not consider the tractor without looking at Ferguson, the man, and the greater concept of his complete farming system. This is not the first book to be written on Ferguson, nor will it be the last, but I hope it provides a further insight into the machine that became affectionately known as the ‘little grey Fergie’.


January 2020


By the late Alex Patterson, Engineering Workshop Manager,

Harry Ferguson Ltd. and Massey Ferguson, 1945-1967.

My association with Harry Ferguson began in Belfast in 1938 when I joined his company as an apprentice. Little did I realise at the time that I would, in one way or the other,

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