White Farmalls

Everyone knows Farmalls are red ... except for the special white Farmall dealer demo models

| February 2000

The December issue of Farm Collector contained a letter from Kevin Riddle of Eagle Rock, Va. Mr. Riddle told of the Farmall Cub in his family that was originally painted white. He asked if the white Farmalls were really dealer demo models, how many tractors were painted white at the factory, and if there were any mechanical differences. He wondered about a white Farmall's value as compared to that of the familiar red model. 

Red Power Magazine says that no production figures for the white Farmall tractors were kept at the factory, so I'm not sure anyone knows for certain how many tractors were painted white and used as demonstrators. Darrell Darst from Moscow Mills, Mo., is a well-known IHC collector, as well as being a director of the International Harvester Collectors Club. Darrell wrote a story about IHC's Louisville, Ky., tractor plant for the September 1995 club newsletter.

IH had planned to build a new tractor plant near Alton, Ill., where the Missouri River empties into the mighty Mississippi, when World War II intervened and the new plant was put on hold. The Curtiss Wright airplane plant in Louisville, Ky., became surplus when the hostilities ceased, and the price was right, so IH bought that facility from the government in 1946.

Southern farmers lagged far behind those in the midwest in trading animal power for tractors, and Fowler McCormick, IH president at the time, saw that as a great opportunity. In March 1947, IH began building the smaller Farmall A and B tractors, which were the ideal size for southern farms, at the factory. Later, in May 1947, the first Farmall Cubs were built at the factory, and then, when it was introduced in 1948, the Farmall C. By 1950, the Louisville Tractor Plant was turning out Farmall Cubs, along with the Super A, and C models, in great numbers. Company records from April 1950 list the daily average production figures for the month: Cub, 155; Super A, 100; and Model C, 176.

To take advantage of the mid-century year of 1950, someone in IHC's advertising department hit on a promotional scheme to paint some of the 1950 tractors white. These machines would be used by dealers as demonstrators, as well as display models in showrooms and at county fairs, and it was hoped that the unusual color would catch the farmer's eye and improve sales. At least one dealer used the pitch "Buy a white Farmall, we'll paint it red, and you'll be fanning in the black."

For about three months in early 1950, every Cub, Super A, and C tractor built at Louisville was painted white. Using the daily IH production figures from April 1950, which were based on a 20-day month, one could estimate that some 9,000 Cubs, 6,000 of the Super A, and more than 10,000 of the C models were painted white (some sources say that around 7,400 Farmall C's were white from the factory), although I don't think anyone knows for sure.