It is very difficult to write a brief history of the ford tractors N series. The span of years across which these tractors were built covered two world wars and the Great Depression. The development and production of the N Series Ford tractors was only a small part of these massive world events.
Many of the inventions attributed to Henry Ford were allegedly actually the work of others. While Henry Ford did not invent the automobile assembly line, or the tractor, it might be more accurate to say that much of the genius of Henry Ford was the ability to select and sponsor the best ideas.
In 1938 Harry Ferguson was working on his tractor and hydraulic system control project in the U.S. for a show with Henry Ford. The new Ford-Ferguson 9N tractor was developed using the best ideas from the engineers at Ford and Ferguson. Model 9N first left the assembly line for model year 1939. All subsequent 9N and 2N tractors were manufactured by Ford, but were marketed and sold under the Ford-Ferguson marque.
The Ford tractors N series with the Ferguson system created new standards for small tractors that were later adopted by almost all tractor manufacturers. The Ferguson System was a significant improvement on the drawbars used in other systems.
For the first time a tractor had a 3 point hitch and a rear power take off. The beauty of the Ferguson 3 point hitch was that it untilised the drag of the towed implement, such as a plough, to increase the overall down force on the tractor’s rear wheels, thus greatly increasing the traction. This solved some of the problems on the previous Ford tractors which could flip over if the plough hit an obstacle.
The new system allowed the Ferguson Ford tractor to be smaller, quieter, safer and more efficient than most other tractors of the time. For the first time a tractor could actually be operated by most women and even children! With the manufacturing methods of Henry Ford’s mass production plant, the new Ford tractors could be built and sold at a much lower price than the competition.
The final model in the N series of Ford Tractors was the 8N which was introduced in 1947. The main changes in this model were the addition of a 4 speed gearbox, leading to an increase in power available to the power take off and changes to the hydraulics system which served the dual purpose of evading the patent conditions on Ferguson’s invention and increased flexibility in working in differing soil types.