Fordson Major: The Tractor of Choice

Josephine Roberts discusses the Fordson Major, one of the most popular tractors in 1960s Britain

| March 2013

  • Doe Triple D
    The most unorthodox Fordson Major conversion of all time, this Doe Triple D created a powerful four-wheel drive tractor at a time when no other high powered tractors were commercially available here. Later Ford tractors were converted into Triple Ds, but the Fordson Major was the first to receive this bizarre, yet somehow blindingly obvious, conversion. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
    Photo Courtesy Tractor Magazine
  • Super Major
    My partner, Alistair’s, 1961 Fordson Super Major. The Fordson E1A, the Fordson Super Major and the Fordson Power Major all look very alike in their bright blue livery. There are small differences between these tractors, but all are commonly referred to as “The Major” over here.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • Fordson Major
    My nephew Matthew is the proud owner of this Fordson Major. It might look like a regular Major, but look closer and you can see that the bonnet has been lengthened to house a much larger engine. The previous owner made a tidy job of fitting this 1958 tractor with an engine out of a Ford D1000 Tipper lorry, thereby creating a beefy tractor powerful enough to tow heavy loads and work on wet land.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • Four Wheel Major
    Many manufacturers used Fordson Major tractors as bases for creating their own specialist machines. This Major, owned by John Cooke, North Wales, has been given a four-wheel drive conversion by Roadless Traction Co. 
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • Arthur And Margaret
    A group of tractors related to the Fordson Major, owned by avid collectors Arthur and Margaret Jennings, Flintshire, Wales. Left to right: a Fordson E27N (the first Major); the Standard (or Model N Fordson), a hugely popular tractor here during World War II; and the Fordson Dexta. A keen ploughman, Arthur ploughs competitively with this little Dexta.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • Roadless Major
    Roadless produced tracked conversions for tractors, and Fordson Majors were popular subjects for such adaptations. This particular Roadless Half-Track Major that I’m pictured sitting on belongs to Alan Kelly, Anglesey, Wales, a massive fan of unusual Fordson Major variations. The half-track conversion provided excellent all-terrain capability with the handling ease of a wheeled machine. However, the advent of four-wheel drive tractors rendered these machines rather redundant.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • E27N
    An archaic-looking Fordson E27N. When they were new in 1945, these tractors were known as Fordson Majors, but once the Fordson E1A came out it became the new Major and the earlier Major was simply referred to as the E27N.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • Construction Major
    This Fordson Major-based pylon tractor (owned by Alan Kelly) was adapted by a power company for use in construction of power lines and poles.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • Clutch Replacement
    Alistair replacing the clutch on his Major.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • Split Major
    Alistair’s Major, split ready for its new clutch.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts
  • County Major
    This Fordson Major, belonging to my brother Pete, has undergone a “County” full-track conversion.
    Photo By Josephine Roberts

  • Doe Triple D
  • Super Major
  • Fordson Major
  • Four Wheel Major
  • Arthur And Margaret
  • Roadless Major
  • E27N
  • Construction Major
  • Clutch Replacement
  • Split Major
  • County Major

Fordson tractors have been here in the U.K. for so long now that we consider them our own, though of course their roots belong in the U.S. with your very own Mr. Henry Ford. The first tractor that was widespread here in the U.K. was the standard Fordson, or the Model N as it was also known.

Although there are examples in the U.K. of the earlier Model F, those are rarities. Ask most farmers of a certain age what their first tractor was, and it will almost always be either the Fordson Model N or the later Ferguson. Here in Wales we affectionately call the Model N the “Fordan Bach” (the little Fordson). The Model N was such a success that it remains popular today amongst collectors and enthusiasts as a reliable and relatively affordable vintage tractor.

Wartime film footage and photographs of farm scenes always seem to feature the Fordson Model N. There were so many Model N tractors in the fields and lined up on the docks of Britain during World War II that it was considered a sensible safety step to change the colour from a rather lurid orange to a more subtle dark green.

Stood the test of time

Ford began shipping tractors to the U.K. by 1917, but the Model F (which preceded the Model N) didn’t catch on in a big way. Many farmers were simply not ready for mechanisation at that stage. The Model N (with production beginning in 1927) became the tractor that would persuade vast numbers of farmers to make that leap of faith toward mechanisation.



Many farmers, like my own grandfather, continued to use horses right up into the 1950s. That is when he was finally persuaded by my father to buy a second-hand Fordson Model N. My grandfather never took to the tractor, and I believe he only ever drove it the once, but by then most farmers either owned a Model N or a Ferguson, which had become popular too.

The Ferguson was a user-friendly little tractor and it had the famous 3-point linkage system, which is no doubt why it went on to become our nation’s most popular tractor. Some say that the Fordson Model N is a rather temperamental tractor. I’ve heard stories of old farmers who left their Fordsons running all night during busy times, as they were afraid they would be unable to start them the next morning if they stopped them. One farmer recalled having to get up in the middle of the night to refuel the tractor, for fear it would run out of fuel and stop by morning. Some of these problems might have resulted from the fact that the owners were not familiar with these modern machines and didn’t know how to handle them. Temperamental or not, the Model N has stood the test of time here in the U.K., and it is a firm favourite for those ploughmen and women who compete in the vintage classes with their trailed ploughs.