Are Used Antique Ford Tractors Worth It?

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Boomers have invested in classic Ford cars and trucks, but what about their tractors? Are they worth the money? Is an antique Ford tractor a good investment?

Antique Ford tractors are probably not the investment to make if one needs to turn a handsome profit. These past relics bring a deep sense of nostalgia and pride, but generally, most buyers do not recoup their investments (there are exceptions). Many people use old Ford tractors for daily tasks.

If you were raised in the Midwest as a boomer, you might have a childhood memory of riding on an old tractor as it bounded through the field. If you do, the tractor was probably made by John Deere, International Harvester, or Ford. The Ford N-series was the staple for many farms across the nation. When it was introduced in 1917, it quickly became the most popular tractor of its day. For years, The Ford N-series was as reliable as harvest time. It didn’t matter if you needed to plow the back forty, mow down the hay in the west pasture, or just haul feed to the livestock on a bitter winter day; this sturdy old beast did the job. And that is the reason why so many farmers are investing their money into these antiques. Some buy these tractors for nostalgia and a connection to the past, others for daily use. (Older tractors cost less, are easier to work on, and are often more reliable than new units. But are they a good investment? Should you buy an older model Ford tractor to build future income? After careful analysis, let’s look at just how strong the market for antique tractors is and see if we can determine whether to build your nest egg around one.

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Are Ford N-Series Tractors A Good Investment?

Many of the Ford 9N, 2N, and 8N tractors that were made by Ford from 1939 - 1953 are still running and are being used daily on farms across the US and Europe. While these classics are great machinery, most farmers do not purchase them as collectibles. Instead, they are used for light-duty work or as backups to other more modern equipment.

Auction houses sell many Ford tractors, but despite that, the prices cannot be guaranteed to hold their value. Some tractor models are more valuable than others, but they are purchased for nostalgia (a grandfather used one on his farm). While owning an antique tractor might give an owner a sense of pride or a connection to history, most Ford forums indicate that investing in classic Ford tractors is not how to build a sizeable retirement fund.

What Makes A Ford Tractor An Antique?

As a general rule, any tractor that is over 25 years old is considered an antique. Some old American Fordsons (built 1917 - 1928) have longstanding value, but the popularity of the Ford N-series (almost everyone had one) makes the supply push prices down.

What Is The Rarest Ford Tractor Ever Built?

The 1937 Ford Prototype for the N-series is the rarest tractor in that there is only one of them in existence. (Only three were ever built). The owner found the tractor and spent almost eleven years restoring it, and as you might imagine, he won’t sell it for any price.

How Can I Tell The Different Kinds Of Ford Tractors?

The easiest way to determine the type of Ford tractor you are looking at is to find and read the serial number. For early Fordsons (1918 - 27), you can find the serial number stamped on the upper right front on the engine block between the number one cylinder’s exhaust/intake ports.

The N-series has a serial number stamped or painted on the left side of the engine block behind the oil filter. (Look for a star at the beginning and end of the numbers if it’s a 9N, 2N, or Ford 8N. Anything made after 1953 had diamonds beginning and ending the sequence). The numbers sequence is a good clue because the sequence will start with a 9N or 8N.

When Did Ford Stop Making Tractors?

Ford produced its last tractor in 1991 when it sold its tractor division to Fiat. The Ford Tractor division suffered greatly from stiff competition like Massey-Ferguson and John Deere and could not compete.

The History of Early Ford Tractors

The first Ford tractor was produced from early 1917 to 1928 and aptly named “ The Fordson” (for Henry Ford and Sons). The initial tractor enjoyed vast success in the US and Europe (over 75% of all tractors sold in the US during the twenties were Fordsons).

The old Ford tractor was the first mass-produced tractor in history. The assembly line work that Ford Motor Company utilized allowed the company to produce more Fordson units at less cost. Finally, farmers could afford to purchase and operate farm equipment that would make them much more productive. As the Industrial Revolution began to invade America’s heartland, farming was transformed as the reliable old Ford tractors began to do the work of twenty horses.

Despite its success, Henry Ford abandoned tractor production in 1928, presumably to put all the company’s energy into making automobiles. It would take over a decade before he returned with the introduction of the Ford 9N (1939). This tractor was a joint venture (sealed with a handshake) between Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson (who had been making farm implements). The tractor division of Ford Motor Company would supply the tractors, and Ferguson would supply the implements with a new hydraulic lift that enabled a three-point hitch system. The tractors were an immediate success, and the Ford-Ferguson tractor was born.

In 1942, Ford Motor Company offered a newly improved tractor called the 2N. With updated hydraulics, more substantial radiators, and enlarged cooling fans. The 2N production was hampered by the war effort, as companies stopped using rubber tires or batteries for anything but military purposes. (it is not unusual to see a 2N with steel wheels).  The combination of Ford raising the price of the tractor to record levels and the wartime limitations hurt production and sales.

After WWII, the company introduced the Ford 8N in 1947. This tractor had a 4-speed transmission and new internals giving it more pulling power than its predecessors. The 8N sales skyrocketed, and it soon became the best-selling tractor in the United States. The new tractor also had a “Position-Control” system that allowed the implement to stay more consistent as it plowed through the soil.

In 1953, Ford introduced a newly designed tractor named the Golden Jubilee (also known as the NAA). The Golden Jubilee was produced for only two years, but over 130,000 units were sold then. The tractor was bigger than the N-series and featured an overhead cam engine. This Ford tractor was the first equipped with a steering box and power steering.

1954 began the reign of Ford’s three-digit series (100, 200, and others), improving on the NAA. Later versions improved the tractors (1 series - 1957 to ‘62), the “Thousand” Series (62 -79).

Ford purchased New Holland in 1986, but by this time, John Deere was monopolizing the market, and Ford knew that the demise of their tractors was all but inevitable. Finally, in 1991, Ford divested itself of the farm tractor business by selling it’s division to Fiat.