Back track: Ferguson TO-20

It's rare to see tractors used in construction these days, but immediately after the Second World War it was not uncommon to find the agricultural machines on building sites, being used to pull posts into place and hauling about old-style graders and the like.

Ferguson, ANALYSIS, PMV

It's rare to see tractors used in construction these days, but immediately after the Second World War it was not uncommon to find the agricultural machines on building sites, being used to pull posts into place and hauling about old-style graders and the like.

The Ferguson TO20, or most commonly known as the ‘little grey Fergie' was a common feature in fields and on bomb sites being cleared throughout the 1950's. What made it special was a three-piece link to conect tractor and attachment that has become virtually industry standard today.

This method of connection was finalized in the 1930's and became Ferguson's unique selling point as complete tractors were put into production. In the same decade, the modern and famous 'suction side' hydraulic control system, which also gave the sales a commercial advantage, was introduced.

However, Harry Ferguson couldn't keep up with demand. In an effort to get production off the ground he struck an informal gentleman's agreement' with Henry Ford to manufacture the Ferguson tractor under license in Detroit as well as in Dagenham, England. In return, Fordson Tractors, the agricultural division of Ford Motor Co, would be allowed to use the patented three-point hitch system on their own line of machines.

About 300,000 Ford-Ferguson tractors were built in 1939 at the Detroit factory only. When war intervened, production was halted until 1946. After hostilities ceased, the reality of making an agreement with a major corporation without a formal agreement hit Ferguson. Ford's grandson Henry Ford Jnr abruptly ended the deal in 1947 forcing Ferguson into a lawsuit and finding a different engine supplier.

Luckily, a deal was struck with car maker Standard Triumph to supply engines for an all-new tractor. From this the famous TO20, (or TE20 domestically) was born. Built in plants in America and England, the gutsy new models featured left and right-hand brakes, a four-speed gearbox and new wiring.

Very quickly, the new machine became a common sight across the globe, with thousands of converts to the ‘Ferguson System'. The lawsuit was settled with Ford in 1952 and the whole company merged with Massey the following year. Though Ferguson himself died in 1960, his name lives on in Massey Ferguson, which is now celebrating its 50th year.

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