The Farmall M and the Red Tractors of Great Britain

The line of Farmall M tractors brought International Harvester Company's tradition of excellence to Great Britain.

Farmall M

The first Farmall M produced at the Wheatley Hall Road, Doncaster, plant in England was delivered in 1949 to Alan Neale, the son of former IH Great Britain chairman Arthur Neale, who, following his retirement, turned to running his own 1,200-acre farm near Cambridge. Farm and tractor are still in the family.

Photo courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society/24762

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Red Tractors 1958-2013 (Octane Press, 2013) is an authoritative and unparalleled look at the tractors built by International Harvester Company and Case IH. Author Lee Klancher leads a research team that has collected more than 380 pages and 700 images, documenting these beloved machines built in America and abroad. In this multi-part series, Farm Collector shares the first chapter of Red Tractor, "1958-1959 The Hinsdale Connection". This first chapter excerpt, from contributor Martin Rickatson, heads across the pond for a look at the Farmall M line, IHC tractors of Great Britain.

You can purchase this book from the Farm Collector store: Red Tractors 1958-2013.

International Harvester Company of Great Britain (IHGB) was founded on December 31, 1906, with offices in London. It wasn’t until 1947, though, that the firm began manufacturing machinery in England, at a factory at Doncaster, 170 miles north of the capital.

In September 1949, the first Farmall M tractors rolled off the Wheatley Hall Road production line, while a second IHGB tractor plant opened in 1954 in the nearby town of Bradford. In 1964 IH added a second Doncaster plant, at Carr Hill. The Bradford facility closed in 1982, at the height of IH’s financial troubles, while the Wheatley Hall Road and Carr Hill factories in Doncaster transferred to new ownership in 1985, with Tenneco’s purchase of the IH ag group. Wheatley Hall Road continued to produce tractors and components (alongside the former David Brown/Case plant in nearby Meltham) under the Case-International/Case IH banners, while Carr Hill, which had been mothballed in 1983, reopened as a component plant in 1986.

Meltham closed in 1988, but the Wheatley Hall Road factory in Doncaster continued to produce Case IH tractors until Fiat’s purchase of Case Corporation and the subsequent forced divesture of the Doncaster plant in 2000 to ARGO, purchaser of the McCormick brand. Carr Hill, which had reopened to produce components, was also sold, to Italian transmission company Graziano. At the end of 2007, ARGO closed Doncaster and moved McCormick tractor production to its Landini factory in Italy.

McCormick International B-250 and B-275

Production of IH tractors in the UK began in 1949 with a British version of the Farmall M, but by 1958 engineers at IHGB had designed a range tailored specifically to the needs of UK and continental farms, where fields are smaller and roads narrower than in North America, and row crops are not as widely grown as cereals and grass. The following year, exports began to North America to meet the growing demand for smaller farm-chore tractors.

Built in the IH Bradford factory, the smallest of these, and the first to be introduced, was the B-250, launched in its home market at the end of 1955 at the Royal Smithfield Show in London’s Earl’s Court.

Designed to offer a pint-sized alternative to the likes of the Fordson Dexta and Massey Ferguson 35, the B-250 was small, nimble, and lightweight. Despite its size, it was comprehensively equipped, with a specification that included live hydraulics for uninterrupted flow, inboard disc brakes, differential lock, and an automatic pickup hitch (although not all of these features were offered in overseas markets). The 30-horsepower, four-cylinder diesel tractor put its power to the rear wheels via a five-forward/one-reverse gearbox.

Three years later the B-250 welcomed a bigger brother: the B-275. Of a similar design, the larger tractor not only produced an additional 5 horsepower from a tweaked version of the same BD-144 engine, but incorporated an eight-speed transmission that combined a four forward/one reverse gearbox with a high/low range to double the number of available speeds.

The two tractors were notable in U.S. export form for their dual badging as International McCormick tractors, as compared with U.S.-made machines, which were branded McCormick if in row-crop format and International if conventional.

McCormick International B-276

The B-276, a refreshed and restyled version of the B-275 with a new white and darker red hood, succeeded the B-275 in 1968 and was produced until 1974 in both diesel and gas variants. Driver comfort was enhanced with repositioned controls and a better seat, while ease of servicing was also improved thanks to a front-mounted air cleaner that could be accessed through the removable radiator grille.

McCormick International B-450

Debuting in 1957, with production commencing the following year, the B-450 was a very different beast than the other IHGB tractors. Essentially a restyle of the BWD-6, it remained in production until 1970, despite its elderly appearance.

The tractor’s four-cylinder, indirect-injection BD-264 diesel produced 55 horsepower at the flywheel, driving through a 5F/1R gearbox. Like its IH contemporaries it incorporated features rarely seen in North America at the time, such as a differential lock and disc brakes. There was also a weight-transfer response-control system that allowed the weight of soil-engaging implements to be progressively transferred onto the tractor’s back wheels to improve traction. The system operated in two stages, with the first two-thirds acting to transfer weight, and the last third raising the machine out of work. FC

Read more from Red Tractors 1958-2013 in:

• International Harvester Company Reveals Return of the Large Tractor at Burr Ridge Farm
• International 460 Ushers in New Era for International Harvester Company
• The Next Generation of Red Tractors: The 40 and 60 Series
• The International 460 and the Evolution of Red Tractors
• International Harvester Invests in Germany       
IHC and McCormick Deering: The Red Tractors of France
Red Tractors Down Under: International Harvester Company of Australia

Reprinted with permission from Red Tractors 1958-2013: The Authoritative Guide to International Harvester and Case-IH Farm Tractors in the Modern Era by Lee Klancher and published by Octane Press, 2013. Buy the book from our store: Red Tractors 1958-2013.