Backyard farmers with larger properties soon realize the necessity of a tractor. You need a mower and harrow for maintaining the pasture, a blade for moving dirt and snow around, a wagon for moving stuff and other implements that make jobs so much easier. But your budget of $3,000 will not get you much more than a big riding lawnmower. Those new Kubotas and John Deeres are expensive. So you start looking for a used tractor.
You don’t have to look much farther than the nearest country corner and there sits a gray and red tractor with a “For Sale” sign on it. If you don’t know much about it, you are looking at a true piece of Americana. This is baseball and grandma’s apple pie, all wrapped up in cast iron and sheet metal. This is an 8N Ford, the most mass produced tractor every made. And guess who made it – Henry Ford. This is the Model T of agriculture. From 1947-1952 Ford built over a half million of them and they were gobbled up at a price of $1,000-$1,400 by the WWII veterans who were now back on the farm. They were simple to operate, powerful (27 PTO Horsepower!) and easy to fix. But most important, they were built to last. So much so that half of them are still operating 60 years later! There is no other piece of mechanical equipment in the world with that longevity.
This story even has a famous lawsuit to go with it. In 1938, Henry Ford made a handshake agreement with Harry Ferguson to use his patents in the 9N Ford, the predecessor to the 8N. When the new 8N Fords rolled off the assembly lines with Ferguson’s patents used in them but without his permission, Ferguson sued and got $5,000,000 dollars after court costs, not much compared to the $500,000,000 in sales that Ford got out of the tractors.
When I grew up on the farm in Idaho, it seemed like every other farm had an 8N sitting around for yard work. My Uncle Wallace next door had a Ford Jubilee, the successor of the 8N, which I drove a lot. At Ricks College, I rebuilt the engine on an 8N Ford in my farm mechanics class. The first day we moved to Antietam Glen 14 years ago. I saw my neighbor, Bill, drive by on a 8N Ford. For the next few weeks as I talked with Bill, he seemed interested in my farm background and mechanical ability. I finally realized why when he asked if I wanted to buy into this neighborhood owned tractor. I jumped at the chance. Bill is gone now and I am the primary mechanic. I have done substantial work on it to keep it running but it has been worth it. I love mowing the pasture with it. And I love pulling the kids behind it on their sleighs and skis when it snows. I have got to fix the electrical system before spring. If you’re reading this Mark (my other neighbor), I am not quite ready to give it up yet.
So there you are staring at a priceless antique which can be yours for a mere $2,500. The price even includes an old PTO mower on the three point hitch. And you have $500 left over for anticipated repairs. So go ahead and buy it. Get on line and purchase the shop manual which will give you simple instructions on how to fix it. Locate your nearest New Holland dealer which sells every part for it or buy the parts online. But just remember, you don’t really own it. You are just passing through. That 8N Ford will still be around a long time after you are gone.