Ford’s Long Blue Line Introduced

Ford Tractor Division’s horsepower push in the 1960s re-established the company’s importance in the tractor marketplace and introduced the company’s iconic blue color scheme.

Twice Ford reigned supreme in the world of tractors, owning the marketplace with sales of the Fordson and N Series tractors. By the late 1950s, however, those glory years had faded.

To complicate matters, Ford was being left behind in the horsepower race. Its largest machines
delivered less than 50-hp. Competitors were bringing out new models in the 60 to 80-hp. range. At least three major manufacturers were on the verge of busting the 100 hp. barrier.

Ford, in short, was losing market share. The eyes of over 350,000 stockholders were riveted on the company, which had gone public in 1956. Before this the firm was owned by the Ford family, who ran the company as they saw fit.

Grandson of the company’s founder, Henry Ford II (sometimes known as HF2 or “Hank the Deuce”) spurred company managers to reengineer how the company’s tractor division operated and invigorated company engineers to bring the Ford line out of its horsepower.

In response, the company set about restructuring itself. The separate British and U.S. tractor operations were merged in 1961, creating the Ford Tractor Division. Sales of Fords may have
weakened in the United States, but what was said of the British Empire also applied to Ford — the sun never set on its truly world market. The merger was viewed as a means to reinvigorate horsepower sales across the globe.

The Select-O-Speed

Ford engineers, wanting to strike it big to live up to the success of the Fordson (with its revolutionary unit frame construction) and N Series (with its evolutionary Ferguson three-point system), conceived of a leap in transmission technology: the full power shift Select-O-Speed. Paired with a 242-cubic-inch six-cylinder diesel, the components powered the 6000, a high-styled machine that was the precursor of great things to come from Ford engineering.

The 6000 also employed a unique accumulator to store hydraulic power, which supplemented the pump during times of high demand.Other advances included disk brakes and a category II three-point hitch with lower-link draft sensing.

Also, the tractor was unique in that it was built on a chassis frame instead of the unit-frame construction method (engine block bolted to the transmission and front cross member that created the frame), which had become common with tractors.

Blue appears

In a rush to get the 6000 to market in 1961, 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 that heralded what would become the iconic colors of a generation of tractors: the Long Blue Line.

What happened next with Ford tractors was a series of dizzying, almost nonstop, introductions.

In 1962, the British-made and diesel-powered 39-hp. Fordson Super Dextra and 48-hp. Fordson Super Major were imported into North America and rebadged the models 2000 (the Dextra) and 5000 (Major). The 2000 and 5000 were the first tractors to be painted in Ford’s new blue color scheme.

The following year a gas version of the 2000came to market replacing Ford’s Workmaster series, the models 501, 601, and 701. That same year marked the introduction of the gas-powered model 4000; it replaced the Powermaster models 801 and 901.

Worldwide tractors

The evolving tractor division took another bold step forward in 1964 with Henry Ford II revealing the creation of a World Tractor line. Although it didn’t affect the U.S. market, in Europe the popular Fordson name was retired after being used there to sell tractors for 47 years.

The color white came into use as a highlight color (complementing the blue base color) to replace light gray. In 1965 a mass of tractor redesigns were introduced with entirely new models 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000. The 6000 also underwent a styling change and was renamed the 6000 Commander Ford engineers weren’t done yet. In 1968 came the arrival of the big blue muscle machines led by the 8000.

The 8000’s eight-speed manual transmission was upgraded in 1969 with a partial-range eight-speed powershift unit that offered 16 speeds. It was mated to a 105-hp. six-cylinder diesel. Topped off with a true operator’s platform with a 43-gallon tank located behind the operator’s chair, the 8000 had 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 result? Far more responsive hydraulics, e.g., the PTO didn’t lag if the three-point was activated.

Keeping up with the horsepower pack, Ford took a leap by introducing the beefy 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 turnout an impressive 131 hp.

The engine platform had been fortified throughout its structure and improved with a higher capacity fuel pump, radiator, and oil cooler.

Option-rich 9000

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 category III three-point hitch with an 18,000-pound capacity, cab, dual rear wheels, and beefy 18.4×38-inch rear rubber tires.

The 8000 and 9000 created the platform upon which a new generation of high-horsepower Ford tractors would be launched.

Not so much as an afterthought but in order to fill a horsepower need for midsize farms, Ford finished out its 1000 Big Blue lines with the introduction of the 7000 in 1971.

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