In about 1934, in company with David Brown, Harry Ferguson formed the Ferguson-Brown Company and the two men produced the Model A Ferguson-Brown tractor with a Ferguson-designed hydraulic hitch. Ferguson surmised that the tractor hitch was the key to having a better plough and designed a simpler tractor attachment for it.
Agreement with Ford
In 1938 Ferguson made a handshake agreement with Henry Ford to produce Ferguson System Ford-Ferguson tractors using Ferguson's own self-regulating three-point hitch system, beginning with the Ford-Ferguson 9N tractor. This tractor is recognizable by the blue Ford emblem on the front of the hood and the Ferguson System emblem on the grill. The three-point hitch soon became the favorite hitch attachment system among farmers in North America and around the world. This tractor model also included a rear Power Take Off (PTO) shaft that could be used to power three-point hitch mounted implements such as sickle-bar mowers. This PTO location set the standard for future tractor developments.
Agreement with Standard
In December 1945 Standard Motor Company Limited announced that an arrangement had been made to manufacture Mr Harry Ferguson's world-famous tractors and Standard's newly acquired factory at Banner Lane Coventry would be used for the project. These tractors would be for the Eastern hemisphere, Ferguson tractors built by Ford in America for the Western hemisphere. Production was expected to start in 1946. Implements would be sourced separately by Ferguson who would also merchandise the tractors and the implements.
Split with Ford
In 1946 the Ford Motor Company parted from Ferguson and a protracted lawsuit followed, involving Ford's continued use of Ferguson's patents. Ford altered the hydraulic design of its postwar tractors to avoid Ferguson's hydraulic system patent, but continued to produce machines equipped with the basic Ferguson hitch arrangement. Equipped with the three-point hitch, the postwar Ford 8N became the top-selling tractor of all time in North America.
After the split with Ford, Ferguson took the opportunity to have the Standard Motor Company of the UK produce a new design, the Model TE20. The model name came from Tractor, England 20 horsepower (15 kW) but is affectionately known as the Little Grey Fergie. There were several variants of the TE20; the first tractors were designated TE20 only and had an imported Continental Z120 engine. In 1948 the TEA20 was introduced with a Standard brand petrol engine, following the introduction of the TED20 which ran on TVO (tractor vapourising oil, similar to paraffin). Later a diesel model was introduced, the TEF20. There were other variants with narrow wheelbases for working in vineyards and orchards, such as the TEB20 and TEC20.
In all over 500,000 Little Grey Fergies were built between 1946 and 1956, and a surprising number survive today. So successful was the TE20 that Ford nicknamed it the "Grey Menace" as sales of the tractor spread across the world. They were even used on an expedition to the South Pole in 1958 by Sir Edmund Hillary, a testament to the durability of the machine. Ford ultimately settled the legal proceedings with a multi-million dollar sum that allowed Ferguson to further expand his own manufacturing interests.
There is a monument in Wentworth on the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers in commemorating the time in 1956 when both rivers flooded and a fleet of little grey Fergies was used to build banks to save the town.
The principal feature of the Ferguson System was the three-point linkage. This allowed trailed implements to be supported on a hydraulic system with the two drag links attached under the rear axle and a single compression link, connected to the upper rear transmission case, that was automatically regulating the hydraulic suspension's height. Thus the implement could be built at a minimum weight because it needed no attached wheels, manual controls and so on. It was also assisting the tractor to maintain traction because it was applying a combined drag and rotary force to the axle that kept the driving wheels, on that axle, on the ground and the steering wheels held onto the ground too. Consequently the "rearing and bucking" of overloaded tractors was overcome, making tractors much safer.
Ferguson designs for tractors were the first with single-wheel brakes that allowed the driver to turn sharply by braking the inside wheel. The TE20 was one of the first tractors to have a four-speed gearbox with integrated differential and hydraulic system.
Merger with Massey-Harris
In 1953 Ferguson and Massey-Harris merged and the combined company Massey-Harris-Ferguson (later shortened to Massey Ferguson) became the manufacturer of the tractors and other designs. By then many manufacturers had developed their own three-point linkages and the linkage had become standardised worldwide.
- Standard Motor Company Record Turnover And Profit, Mr. C. J. Band On Expansion Policy The Times, Friday, Dec 21, 1945; pg. 10; Issue 50331
- Settlement In Suit Against Ford Company £3M. Award To Fergusons The Times, Thursday, Apr 10, 1952; pg. 6; Issue 52283
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