IT is only fitting that the man associated with the invention of the mainstream modern tractor and three-point linkage is Irish.
Hailing from Co Down, Harry Ferguson was an engineer who, amongst others achievements, built an aeroplane, a four-wheel drive system and raced cars.
Harry began dabbling in the design and sales of tractors before WWI, and had various arrangements with David Brown and the Ford Motor Company in the years that followed. In 1945, Ferguson teamed up with the Standard Motor Company to manufacture the iconic Ferguson TE-20, which affectionately became known as ‘the little grey Fergie’.
The TE-20 model number refers to Tractor Europe, 20hp. However, the TE-20 employed numerous engines over its production run of 11 years. Initial models were powered using a petrol engine which was produced by the Standard Motor Company and is identified as the TEA-20.
TVO models had a spilt fuel tank and required petrol for starting the tractor. However, when operating temperature was reached, the operator switched over to TVO (tractor vaporising oil) and these models are denoted as Ted-20.
Diesel variants come from two stables – firstly the TEF-20 with the Standard Motor Company engine or the three-cyclinder Perkins P3 which was the beginning of a longstanding association with Massey Ferguson and Perkins engines.
Integral to TE-20’s design was the Ferguson three-point linkage design which allowed for the uniform attachment of implements to the tractor. This system relied on hydraulic oil pressure to raise, lower but also regulate the depth of an implement, such as plough or harrow, in the soil when working; all the while maintaining the constant working depth selected by the operator. So successful was this system, that when the patent expired, all tractor manufacturers adopted it for their tractors and it still forms the fundamentals for today’s modern tractor linkage system. Ferguson also designed a whole range of implements, especially suited to the tractors capabilities.
Interestingly, the Ferguson 20 was the first mechanised vehicle to reach the South Pole, overland, in 1958. On an expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary, seven tractors using tracks and improvised cabs claimed the title for the Ferguson badge. Massey Ferguson further added to the trophy shelf in 2014, claiming the first wheeled tractor to reach the South Pole on a 5,000km return journey.
Years of manufacture