Fordson Tractors and the History of Ford Trucks

Ford trucks brought power to the people in applications like golf course maintenance, road construction and street maintenance

| February 2013

Henry Ford pitched his Model T cars as an inexpensive way for low-income city dwellers and rural folks to become automobile owners, while his Fordson tractors were meant to substitute mechanical power for horseflesh on American farms. Ford believed that using horses for transportation was inefficient and wasteful. He once remarked that he had always disliked horses and mules that ate their fool heads off while working only six months out of the year.

Of course, Ford wasn’t just a philanthropist with the greater good of the people in mind; he was a hardheaded businessman as well. When the early demand for a motorized alternative to haulage led people to convert his cars into makeshift trucks, he began building trucks of his own. He also recognized the additional uses of the Fordson tractor in such non-agricultural fields as golf course maintenance, road construction and street maintenance.

Although Ford offered a “delivery car” that resembled a small sedan delivery truck as early as 1905, and many manufacturers and individuals built commercial bodies on the bare Ford chassis, Ford prohibited his dealers from modifying the cars into trucks.

The official history of Ford trucks began in 1917, when Henry Ford relented and offered a 1-ton truck chassis, although with the exception of the delivery car, truck buyers were responsible for their own cabs and bodies. Ford did not begin to make commercial truck bodies until 1924. His first effort was an open express truck; later Ford produced a platform-stake model. The 1-ton truck was known as the Model TT, although the reason for that designation remains obscure. The TT had a 24-inch longer wheelbase, stronger rear springs, solid rubber rear tires and a heavier worm-drive rear axle, although forward of that it was identical to Ford’s passenger car chassis. In 1925, an optional pickup bed was made available for the Model T Runabout, replacing the rear closed “trunk” with an open box.

Completely Fordized

For several years Ford published a little magazine titled Power and Haulage that touted the use of Fords and Fordsons by public utilities, contractors, road and street departments, and even golf courses and horse racing tracks.

A story in the 1926 edition tells us that Kansas City, Kan., “is Completely Fordized,” with 49 Ford trucks and roadsters and two Fordson tractors in service. A photo shows a 1-ton express truck and a roadster pickup in use by the Kansas City Light, Water & Street Department, while another shows an industrial Fordson with a snug wood and glass cab and hard rubber tires delivering a wagonload of pipe to a construction project.


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