Massey-Harris becomes Massey-ferguson

Massey-Ferguson TractorIn this time period, the Canadian manufacturer Massey-Harris became Massey-Ferguson, expanded their international operations and laying claim to the title of largest worldwide agricultural manufacturer. In the post-World War II boom, Massey-Harris had moved ahead of Oliver, Cockshutt, Case and Minneapolis-Moline in ag equipment sales. But it was still selling only half of the tractors that John Deere was, and Deere was only number two behind International Harvester. Massey-Harris would claim industry leadership through a series of mergers during the 50s and 60s.

In 1950, Massey’s strength was in it self-propelled combines. Its weakness was its tractor line. The tractors had a reputation for being built well, but they lagged behind competitors in power and features. Massey-Harris needed an advantage, and they found one by taking on the cantankerous Harry Ferguson as a partner.

In the previous decades, Harry Ferguson and Henry Ford had partnered to produce the revolutionary Ford-Ferguson Model “9N.” Ferguson had developed his three-point hitch mechanism in 1926 as a way of preventing a tractor from rearing up when the plow it was pulling hit a rock or hard patch of ground. A linkage between the plow and a high point of the tractor would transfer force from the plow to keep the front end of the tractor down.

By 1946, the handshake agreement between Ford and Ferguson came to an end, and Ferguson began producing his own tractors in England and later the U.S. Both the British Ferguson and Canadian Massey-Harris firms were chasing their competitors, and the two firms had talked over the years about various possible joint ventures. Finally, in 1953, Massey offered to buy out Ferguson’s company. Ferguson accepted.

The merged company became Massey-Harris-Ferguson and, in one fell swoop, became the number two manufacturer in the world behind IH and ahead of Deere. All of the new tractors offered the three-point hitch and that was a major selling point.

But the merger also caused problems for a few years. The merger had put Harry Ferguson on the new board of directors and the company agreed to continue to market separate lines of tractors – one under the Ferguson brand and the other under the Massey-Harris brand. There was even an entirely separate dealer network for the two brands.

That produced confusion in both the dealers and – worse – the customers. It also produced conflict over future designs. Harry Ferguson was a proud and headstrong man, and in just under a year, he left the board in a dispute over the design of the Massey-Harris Model “50.”

The “Two-Line Policy” continued until a new CEO, Col. W. Eric Phillips, brought in management consultants in 1958. They were appalled by the confusion the policy created, and the policy ended in 1958. The company name was shortened to Massey-Ferguson, and it began to exploit its historic emphasis on global manufacturing and marketing. They standardized their offerings, so that the same tractors were sold in Canada, the U.S. and Europe as well as around the world.

By the mid-60s, Massey-Ferguson claimed to be the largest farm equipment of tractors in the world.

Because of the merger and “Two-Line” product offerings, it’s difficult to chart the tractors themselves. There were overlapping models offering the same horsepower and features from the same company. But we can outline the major series of tractors during this period.

  • Post-war Massey-Harris “22,” “30,” “33,” “44” and “55.” To take advantage of the post-war farming boom, Massey brought out a new line that, for the first time, featured engines that they built themselves (as opposed to buying from other manufacturers). This line was introduced in 1946 and continued until around 1955. This was also the first line of Massey tractors that featured their red color styling. The “22” was rated at – as you might expect – 22 horsepower on the drawbar. The “30” produced 26 HP, and was built until ’52 when it was replaced with the “33” with 35 HP. The “44” was tested at 39 HP, and was upgraded to the “44 Special” from ’53 to ’55 with 43 HP. The “55” produced between 52-57 HP depending on the type of fuel. Between 1948 and ’58, Massey also produced the “744” and “745” in Great Britain, both with around 46 HP.
  • The Massey-Harris Pony. In 1947, the company brought out the Model “11” Pony tractor that was rated at 10 HP on the drawbar. Designed for small operations and truck farms, the Pony was produced for 10 years.
  • Ferguson “TE-20” and “TO-30.” When he was on his in the early ’50s, Harry Ferguson essentially reproduced the Ford-Ferguson model in his English factory and called it the “Ferguson TE-20.” The designation stood for “Tractor, England – 20 Horsepower.” In 1948, he wanted to sell the tractor to America, so he bought a plant in Detroit and renamed the new tractors “TO-20,” for “Tractor, Overseas.” In 1951, he upgraded the power (to 30 HP) and came out with the “TO-30.”
  • Two Line Policy Tractors. Between ’53 and ’58, there was a plethora of models. In the 30 HP class, there was the “Ferguson TO-35” and the “Massey-Harris 50” which became the “Massey-Ferguson 50” when the company dropped “Harris” from the corporate name. There was also what might be called the triple numeral series. The “Massey-Harris 333” had 33 HP and was produced from ’53 to ’57. The “MH 444” was rated at 44 HP, and the “MH 555” produced 52 HP.
  • The First Massey-Ferguson Line. In late 1957, Massey introduced the “Massey-Ferguson 65” rated at 38 HP. The “MF 85” had a gasoline engine and “MF 88” had a diesel engine. Both were both rated at around 55 HP on the drawbar. Oddly, the company also chose to market the “MF 95” with around 55 HP and based on a Minneapolis-Moline tractor called the GBD. The “MF 98” topped out the horsepower lineup at 73 HP and was based on the Oliver Super 99 GM tractor.
  • The Sixties Begin. In 1960, the “Massey-Ferguson 35” replaced the “TO-35” at the same 30 HP rating. A year later, the “MF 65 Mark II” got a power boost to 51 HP. The “MF Super 90” shot up to 70 HP, and the “MF 97” topped the line at 90 HP. Finally, in 1963, the “MF 25” was introduced to the small tractor market with 20 HP.
  • The DX 100 Series. Faced with competition and consolidation in the industry, Massey-Ferguson designed a whole new line that it introduced in 1965. White Corporation had acquired both Oliver and Minneapolis-Moline and would no longer supply tractors for Massey to repaint and sell as their own. The new lineup was anchored by the “MF 130” at 20 HP, followed by the “MF 135” at 30 HP, the “MF 150” at 33 HP, the “MF 165” at 45 HP, and the “MF 175” and “MF 180” both with around 55 HP. The “180” had a higher clearance and was designated a row crop tractor.
  • The DX 1000 series. Massey-Ferguson entered the high power sweepstakes with the 1000 series. In 1967, the brought out the “MF 1100” that boasted between 85 and 90 HP from its six-cylinder Perkins diesel engine. A turbo-charged version, known as the “MF 1130” produced 109 HP on the drawbar. A year later, a four-cylinder version came out and produced 80 HP.

Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2007. A partial bibliography of sources is here.

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