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Ford’s Powerhouse Horsepower

Twice Ford reigned supreme in the world of tractors. By the late 1950s, however, the glory years and high sales of the Fordson and N-series eras had faded. To complicate matters, Ford was being left behind in the horsepower race. Its largest machine delivered less than 50 hp. Competitors, in the meantime, were bringing out new models in the 60- to 80-hp. range.

Ford was losing market share, and the eyes of over 350,000 stockholders were riveted on the company since it had gone public in 1956. In reaction, the company not only set about retooling its tractor line but also, for good measure, restructured itself. In 1961, the separate British and U.S. tractor operations were merged, creating the Ford Tractor Division. Sales of Fords may have weakened in the U.S., but what was said of the British Empire also applied to Ford in that the sun never set on its truly world market.

A newfound enthusiasm to reassert itself as a major farm manufacturer was reflected in the introduction of the model 6000. This high-styled machine offered a beefy 242-cubic-inch six-cylinder diesel. Here was the precursor of great things to come from Ford engineering.

Equipped with a hydraulic system, the 6000 employed an accumulator to store hydraulic power that supplemented the pump during times of high demand. Other advances included disk brakes, a category II three-point hitch with lower-link draft sensing, and Ford’s unique 10-speed Select-O-Speed transmission. In the rush to get the 6000 to market and to prove it could produce a higher horsepower machine, the tractor wasn’t fully field tested. From the start, problems plagued the tractor’s engine, hydraulic system, final drive, and transmission. Eventually, Ford recalled all the tractors to rebuild them and fix these issues.

When those tractors returned to their owners, they came with a new color scheme of blue and light gray, heralding a significant change about to occur. Red was dead; the new world color was blue. What happened next to the Ford line was a series of dizzying, almost nonstop, introductions. In 1962, the models 2000 and 5000 hit the market.

In 1965, the 2000, 4000, 5000, and 6000 were retooled with a wider offering of standard equipment and options. These models came with either a gas or a diesel engine. The new model 6000 was now trouble-free. Ford engineers weren’t done yet. In 1968 came the arrival of the big blue muscle machines led by the model 8000.

The 8000’s eight-speed manual tranny would be upgraded in 1969 with a partial-range powershift unit that offered 16 speeds. Topped off with a true operator’s platform with a 43-gallon tank located behind the operator’s chair, the 8000 was equipped with three hydraulic pumps for full-farming power.

One pump supplied the power steering. The second unit fed the differential lock and PTO. A third pump pressurized the three-point hitch and remote outlets. The results were far more responsive hydraulics. The PTO didn’t lag if the three-point was activated, for example.

Leap Ahead of the Horsepower Race

Now keeping up with the horsepower pack, Ford took a leap by introducing the beefy model 9000 in 1969. This tractor looked like an 8000, but there was a richer package of performance goods. A turbocharger (a first for Ford) was paired to the 401-cubic-inch diesel, allowing the 9000 to turn out an impressive 131 maximum PTO hp. The engine platform had been fortified throughout its structure and improved with a higher capacity fuel pump, radiator, and oil cooler.

The 9000 was also option-rich, reflecting farmers’ demands for more performance. Customers could add a two-range powershift auxiliary gearbox (with 16 speeds), a cab, dual rear wheels, and beefy 18.4-38-inch rear rubber wheels. 

The 8000 and 9000 created the platform upon which a new generation of high-horsepower Fords would be launched. In 1973 came the 8600 (110½ hp.) and 9600 (135½ hp). Ford capped this off by bringing out a line of four-wheel-drive machines (built by Steiger) in 1997.

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