The Ford Tractor Influence

A Minnesota man catches Ford tractor fever from his dad.

| March 2017

  • Keith Kvistad with his sons Levi, 8, and Jacob, 11. Keith is holding a model of his 1949 8N; Levi is holding a model of his dad’s Moto-Tug.
    Photo courtesy Gwen Kvistad
  • Keith bought original Tractor Stilt Co. stilts in 1997 and installed them under a 1949 8N he restored. "You don't see something like this every day," he says. "It's cool to put it together for others to see."
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The 1944 Ford-Ferguson Moto-Tug was produced in two versions. Keith’s, a BNO 40, is the larger of the two.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Keith’s Ford 8N highboy and Ford-Ferguson Moto-Tug make an eye-catching display at the Hanley Falls, (Minn.) Pioneer Power show. When the highboy is parked in his shed, Keith positions a Ford 2N underneath it.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A close-up of the highboy shows the operator area and the chain that drives the tractor on stilts. Putting gas in the tractor is a bit of a chore, “But changing oil is a lot easier,” Keith says with a smile.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Keith says a number of early Fords had this type of “Ford Farming” radiator. In the field, the 8N’s radiator was protected with a front screen and a back plate to keep debris out.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • This photo shows how the chain is attached to the original Ford wheels on Keith’s Ford Highboy.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Detail of the engine on Keith's 1944 Ford-Ferguson 2N Moto-Tug.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Rear view of the Ford-Ferguson Moto-Tug. Notice the duals on the rear, which allowed the tractor to carry heavier loads.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Moto-Tug's steering wheel.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A front view of Keith's 1944 Ford Ferguson 2N Moto-Tug. Tugs were commonly used by American armed forces on aircraft carriers and airports.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A side view of the Moto-Tug.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A full-page ad in Flying magazine in the 1940s for the Ford Ferguson Auto-Tug.
    Image courtesy Bill Vossler
  • Working on the stilt tractor.
    Photo courtesy Gwen Kvistad
  • Hoisting the 8N for removal of the wheels and installation of the stilts.
    Photo courtesy Gwen Kvistad

Keith Kvistad doesn’t know for sure where his father’s love of Ford tractors came from, but the Belle Plaine, Minnesota, man got an inkling when he saw an aerial photograph of the aircraft carrier his father served on during World War II. On the deck of the USS Salerno Bay, Keith spotted tug tractors. He later learned they were Ford-Ferguson 2N Moto-Tugs.

Were those tugs the motivation for his father’s choice of farm equipment? Keith doesn’t know – and his father died in 1973, so the question will never be answered. But the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. “My dad always farmed with Ford tractors on the farm I grew up on,” he says, “so I turned that way, too.”

Today he’s reduced his collection of Fords to a unique trio: a 1949 8N, a 1944 Ford-Ferguson 2N Moto-Tug BNO 40 and a 1947 2N. Once he had seven tractors, but since moving from the farm to town, he’s downsized. “Too many batteries and too many carburetors, for one thing,” he says, “and now I have to keep them at my brother’s farm since I live in town. I just don’t have a spot for everything.”

1949 8N Highboy tractor

Keith bought his first Ford – a 1949 8N – in 1996. About a year after he finished restoration of the 8N, he remembered seeing a “really tall” 8N in Clarkfield, Minnesota, near where he grew up.



“I went back and knocked on the door of the people who I thought owned it,” he says, “and asked if they by chance still had that tall tractor.” They did, but they had removed the stilts years earlier. Keith found all the parts – a bit rusted – in a nearby grove. He wanted to buy the seller’s 8N too, but it was still being used. So he decided to put the stilts on his own 8N.

The stilts were originally sold as a factory-built kit by Tractor Stilts Co., Omaha, Nebraska. The aftermarket modification allowed the farmer to drive above corn to de-tassel or drop-nozzle spray the rows. “The stilts enable you to use your existing tractor instead of buying a sprayer,” Keith says. He has the original spray tank and the booms that cross the front axle, but he’s never put them on.