1952 Model 30 Massey-Harris

Reliable & Red: Massey-Harris Model 30 still going strong

| August 2011

Upon returning home from Europe in 1945, my grandfather made a decision concerning his future as a farmer: He was going to buy a tractor. While stationed in Scotland waiting for D-Day, he’d been impressed by the mid-size tractors then in common use on farms as well as military bases. Although he was a horseman until the end of his life, Grandfather saw that the future for him was on a tractor.

When Massey-Harris released its Model 20 in 1947 to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary, Grandfather immediately bought one. A year earlier he’d purchased a team of big work horses, hedging his bet in case the tractor didn’t work out. However, the Model 20 did prove itself. It plowed, planted and harvested its way through five seasons on the farm, delivering good performance and helping increase crop production quickly.

By then, Grandfather had more land under cultivation, mainly potatoes, oats and buckwheat. He also had beef cattle and hogs. It became clear that a bigger tractor was necessary. At the dealership, the Model 30 captured his interest.

At the time, most farmers bought wide front models, but Grandfather chose the 30 in a narrow front (in the U.S. it would be referred to as a row crop model). His reasons were simple: A major part of the new tractor’s work would be in the lumber woods, and the turning/pivoting abilities of the Model 20’s narrow front end had impressed him. A wide front would require a bigger headland to turn (at that time fields generally were divided by lines of trees and rock piles, and many were bordered by forest). The slick turning, narrow front end could maneuver more easily.

Continental set the pace

Power for the 1952 Model 30 gas tractor was supplied by a 162-cubic inch Continental 4-cylinder L-head. The engine had a bore and stroke of 3-7/16 by 4-3/8 inches and a compression ratio of 6.23 to 1. Continental had built engines for many years and by the 1950s produced what were arguably some of its finest engines. Enthusiasts can attest to the thousands of Continentals still running strong today. The engine was rated at 30 hp @ 1,800 rpm on the pulley as per test #409. While that seems unimpressive today, at the time it was sufficient for most farm work. The transmission was five forward gears with one reverse.

The tractor came with hydraulics installed and a 6-volt electrical system that is still maintained: no conversion to 12-volt for our Massey. The 30 came with a pulley for jobs such as threshing, wood cutting and running cement mixers. The 4-cylinder was well engineered for this work and the 30 often replaced other tractors at the pulley.