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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


 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. 


LindaG said...

Our brother-in-law is a doctor. He has one of those.
He wants us to buy it.
One of his patients came in badly burned from one. I am not clear on the details, but the gas tank or battery or something under the seat caught fire and now the BIL wants to get rid of it.

We currently have a Yanmar cub cadet sub compact. Hubby loves it.

We do wish we had bought something a little bigger, but being first time owners, we didn't know it then. (Took me a while to talk him into getting what we have, he thought a riding mower would be sufficient.)

I would love to get one of the older tractors though. Especially if I knew someone who could teach us how to repair it.

Thanks for your post!

CrankyPuppy said...

Our first tractor, which we still have, is an 8N. Well, actually we call it FrankenNine. It's an 8N with a 9N motor. Or something like that. Runs like the wind and very easy to fix. A simplistic machine for sure. We've moved onto a John Deere 850, which is quite a big bigger, but we will always have a fondness for FrankenNine. I doubt we'll ever get rid of it and it will probably outlive us!

Anonymous said...

Your posts always do two things, A. give me a glimpse of the past and B. educate me about something I'll save in my metal notes for later!

rkbsnana said...

My husband and Uncle love to tractor gawk whenever we take trips. 8N's are easily spotted.

Stoney Acres said...

Growing up we had a very similar tractor. It's been so long ago that I'll be honest I don't remember what make or model it was. The one thing I do remember is it was indestructible. We put that old tractor through a lot of hard work and it just kept going! Thanks for a great post!!

Rae of Sunshine said...

Is that snow form this year? You guys got more then us! I can still see my grass and usually we have about 2 feet of snow.

Charlotte said...

Fun pictures. True about not owning it. I've that about my house and those who have lived in it before and will after.

marisa said...

Great article Dale. I wonder if one of the tractors I used to ride at Grandpa's was an 8N. Regardless, it brings back memories.

Anonymous said...

I read this Wednesday morning, then that evening, as I was reading the farm & garden Craigslist for m y area-- there was the Ford 8N advertised for sale! If I was on a piece of land, I would have called and got it- the pic showed it was in good shape. I know to keep my eyes open next year when I am able to move!

Ang said...

love seeing someone with as much snow as us!! Great article!

Clint Baker said...

That brings back memories, My dad, uncle and all us cousins restore an old Ford tractor like that one. I used to ted and rack the hay with it. It was so much fun!

Dave said...

My sentiments exactly!!!....Only for the farmall cub, great piece of American farming history and a machine to pass down for generations. My dad still has the cub his father used on the farm and some day it will come to one of us and I have no reason to believe it will not be around my kids someday.

Nice article, nice to remember the past with fond memories. We may forget those hot days running the tractor between pastures, towing wagons, plowing and raking, but I doubt there will be many memories forgotten being pulled on a sled from the back of the tractor!