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09 Ford tractor prompted start of Nebraska tests
This 1909 Ford tractor might have been one of the worst farm tractors ever built. It ran so poorly it prompted the start of the Nebraska Tractor Tests in 1919 after Nebraska state legislator W C. Crozier made the mistake of buying one.
The tractor now makes up part of a collection of 42 antique tractors at the University of Nebraska looked after by Les Larsen, 82-year-old professor emeritus who headed up the Nebraska Tractor Test Labs for 29 years.
"The Ford tractor was named after Paul Ford, not Henry. He was an electrician at a small tractor company in Minneapolis that was trying to capitalize on the well-known name. It was one of .hundreds of small tractor manufacturing companies that sprang up in the early 1900's - at one time after World 'War I there were 1,200 different tractor models being manufactured. The Ford tractor was built until 1918, when the company went bankrupt," says Larsen, adding that when Henry Ford came out with his farm tractor he had to call it the "Fordson" because the Ford name had already been claimed.
Farmers paid $350 for the Ford tractor in 1909. It had 8 drawbar horsepower and 16 hp. on the belt. The 3-wheeled, 2-cyl. tractor had two drivewheels up front and'a single steering wheel in back. It was started with a crank inserted between the spokes of the left front wheel. Larsen says one of the tractor's problems was that the rear end skidded around, especially when pulling equipment, making it difficult to steer. Another problem was that all the transmission gears were right in the open, making them difficult to keep free of dirt. Some farmers complained that the tractor broke down before they could even get them home.
"It required a lot of maintenance and parts were not available. Most of the tractors probably ended up on the junk pile," says Larsen. State representative Crozier became so disgusted with his Ford he introduced a bill in the Nebraska legislature that required that one model of each tractor sold in Nebraska be tested. The bill passed in 1919.
The 1909 Ford in the University's collection was loaned to the school by Roland Spenst, an Alsen, N. Dak:, farmer who bought the tractor from its original owner in 1963.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lester F. Larsen, 1205 North 42nd St., Lincoln, Neb. 68503 (ph 402 466-1128).

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1990 - Volume #14, Issue #6