British Fordson Tractors

Tracing lineage of the Fordson tractor from the Model F to the Dexta in Great Britain through two world wars.

| November 2018

  • British Fordson tractors
    Executives of Henry Ford and Son, Inc. stand proudly with a 1918 Fordson Model F tractor. Edsel Ford is on the left and Henry Ford is in the center (wearing a fedora). The puddle of oil beneath the tractor is not a good sign.
    Photo courtesy Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
  • British Fordson tractors
    This photo shows the 1914-15 Model T-to-tractor experiment. One tank held gasoline; the other held extra water for the radiator. The Model T “powershift” transmission was used.
    Photo courtesy Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
  • British Fordson tractor
    This 1916 prototype tractor was a complete departure from those based on the Model T car. A Hercules engine was used, along with a 3-speed conventional transmission and a worm-gear final drive.
    Photo courtesy Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
  • British Fordson tractors
    In October 1917, a delegation from the British Ministry of Munitions inspects the Fordson prototype. Henry Ford is shown at right, wearing a bowler hat.
    Photo courtesy Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
  • British Fordson tractors
    In this Oct. 6, 1917, photo, a Ministry of Munitions (MOM) tractor, one of the 6,000 exported to help with British tillage, is being loaded for shipment to England.
    Photo courtesy Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
  • British Fordson tractors
    Henry Ford II tries his hand with a new E27N Fordson Major at the Dagenham, England, plant, in 1946.
    Photo courtesy Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
  • British Fordson tractors
    The E27N version of the Fordson was built between 1945 and 1952. It used the same basic engine that was used in the 1917 model.
    Photo by Robert Pripps
  • British Fordson tractors
    The Fordson Model N in blue livery. The blue-and-orange color scheme was discontinued in 1938, but then brought back after the war.
    Photo by Robert Pripps
  • British Fordson tractors
    A rare narrow-front 1958 Fordson New Major, the first all-new tractor from British Ford. It replaced the aging E27N Major. The New Major was rated at 45 hp.
    Photo by Robert Pripps
  • British Fordson tractors
    The late Jack Garner shows off his 1962 Fordson Super Dexta that was imported to the U.S. as a Ford 2000 Diesel.
    Photo by Robert Pripps
  • British Fordson tractors
    The Fordson Dexta Diesel was introduced in 1957. Until late in 1960, the headlights were mounted on the side of the radiator shell. After that, the headlights were placed in the grille where they would not interfere with front-end loaders.
    Photo by Robert Pripps
  • British Fordson tractors
    The headlights on this 1964 Super Dexta have been moved to the radiator shell in order to use the fancy front bumper.
    Photo by Daniel Simecek

  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractor
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors
  • British Fordson tractors

British Ford Motor Co. (England) Ltd., a semiautonomous branch of Henry Ford's automotive empire, was established in 1909 under the chairmanship of English motor vehicle manufacturer Lord Percival Perry.

At first, the company sold imported Model T automobiles while an assembly plant was set up in an old tram factory in Manchester. Opening in 1911, the factory employed 60 workers building the Model T. In 1914, Britain's first moving assembly line was initiated, producing 21 cars per hour. The Model T soon became the largest-selling car in Britain.

By 1915, the Model T was well established as the "universal car," and Ford (as well as others) began tinkering with Model T–to-tractor conversions. Ford's goal at that time was to use as many car parts as possible to keep costs down. Ford Motor Co., however, was owned by a small group of stockholders, some of whom did not share Henry Ford's enthusiasm for tractors. Accordingly, using his own money, Ford set up a new, family-owned company, with his only son, Edsel. The company was named Henry Ford and Son, Ltd. A completely new tractor — the Model F — was designed using the unit frame concept pioneered by Massey-Harris.

Fordson wins hearts and minds

With the outbreak of World War I, Great Britain faced food shortages when able-bodied men and horses were conscripted for the war effort, leaving much land untilled. The British Ministry of Munitions issued a plea for all manufacturers of tractors, foreign and domestic, to supply tractors for food production.



Lord Perry, aware of Henry Ford's progress with his new tractor design, called upon him to quit the experiments and start production. Ford not only agreed to that (and to export of at least 6,000 tractors to Great Britain as soon as possible), but also agreed to establish a factory in Ireland (from which the Ford family had emigrated). In 1917, a plant opened in Cork, Ireland, for manufacture of the tractor, now called the Fordson Model F. The Fordson (and others) went on to save the British people from starvation during World War I, and the Fordson endeared itself to the British population.

Peace time between World War I and World War II was limited to just 21 years. Mindful of the country's experience during the first world war, the British War Agricultural Executive Committee stockpiled hundreds of upgraded Fordson Model N tractors in the intervening years. When German U-boats cut off overseas shipping, the Fordson was once again ready to go to work, further endearing the tractor to the British populace.



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