Austin Rothwell is a self confessed Ford tractor fanatic, especially those models with six cylinders under the bonnet, although he is partial to anything in the famous blue livery.

Each year he holds a couple of private events at his farm in Co. Kilkenny to which he invites fellow enthusiasts to work their tractors on his land.

During the summer, he holds a silage day but come early autumn, when the fields have been cleared of crops, it’s time to get the ploughs out and start turning the land.

Tractors ploughing at Austin Rothwell
Fields are soon ploughed with three mighty Fords on the job

To help in this happy task, there usually arrives a good crowd of tractors and their owners to pull the assorted implements across the 16ac he sets aside for the occasion.

This year the numbers were back a little, but there were still over a dozen machines at work, all of them from the era of raw diesel glory, when advanced electronics meant two speed wipers and personal data was one’s entry in the telephone directory.

This period spanned the years between the emergence of the modern tractor with a standardised system of linkage and power take off (PTO), to the cusp of the digital tsunami which brought us up to the point where manufactures talk more of connectivity than they do of power output.

Take a look at the classic tractors in action in the video below.

Ford force

It could be argued that the early 60s marked a major shift in tractor design; John Deere abandoned the horizontal two stroke, International was going great guns with the B450 and Ford moved on from the Major and Dexta, with a brand new range known as the 6X models.

The idea was right but its execution left much to be desired, that is until the heavily revised 6Y, or Ford Force, machines arrived and became a firm fixture of the farming landscape.

One of the great successes was the Ford 5000 which appeared with 75hp and went on to become a best seller.

Ford Force 5000
Still working in her original trim, this Ford 5000 exemplifies while they were so popular

Later, it was decided to bolt a turbocharger to the 5000 and strengthen the engine internals to cope with the 94hp it now developed.

Quite who thought of the idea is open to debate, but the world was introduced to the resulting Ford 7000 in 1971.

Ford 7000
The Ford 7000 was another big win for the company. It was a beefed up version of Ford 5000

The iconic TWs

If ever there was a tractor range which which stood out from the crowd as a symbol the increasing power being brought to farming in the last quarter of the 20th century then this is it.

The TWs were all based around the 401 six-cylinder engine which had appeared in America powering the 100hp Ford 8000 in 1968.

The capacity was 6.6L or 401in³, and it was eventually taken from this modest output, up to 187hp in the TW35.

There were several TWs on the field and their sharp-edged styling gives them an unmistakable presence which modern tractors, with rounded curves, tend to lack.

TW20 in Kilkenny
Introduced in 1979 the TW20 had 145hp on offer from its turbocharged ‘401’ engine
TW25 on 16 acres
This very well preserved TW25 is a credit to its owner and has 165hp on tap
TW35 powred by 401 engine
This magnificent TW 35 has an equally magnificent soundtrack and was originally sold to Finland, hence the front PTO for snow blowing. Proud owner is Matt O’Brien with Jessie Flusk as rookie driver

The Ford 30 series

By the late 80s the TW’s were falling behind the competition and to breathe new life into the range, Ford fitted a power shift transmission from Funk in the United States and renamed it the 30 series, although it had already had a 30 series of smaller tractors.

It certainly seems to have impressed John Deere which bought out Funk within a year, thus ensuring it had control over Ford’s supply of gearboxes in this growing power segment.

8830 power shift transmission
Big TWs went out in style. The 8830 was the last in the line of the models and appeared just as the tractor division was being merged with Fiat and the branding was changed to New Holland
Ford 8830 before New Holland
From 1990 this would be an early 8830, although production lasted only until 1993

Ford 10 series

We often think of tractor technology as only that which is found in the cab, but computing has had a vast influence on the way that tractors are designed and built.

In the late 70s, Fords initiated a new design programme utilising Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and an extra 200 engineers.

The result was the ’10’ series launched in 1981.

the ten series classic tillage
The early 7710 models had the original Q cab and 97hp, they were later fitted with the Force II flat floor unit
7910 in two wheel drive
Being two-wheel drive, this 7910 would not have made the best use of its 98hp when ploughing, but it would have suited a double chop forage harvester
Ford tractor kilkenny
With 115hp on tap the 8210 nestled just under the TW’s in the power stakes
Ford 10 ten series computer aided design
The much loved and 7810 was first conceived by South Essesx Motors which placed a six-cylinder engine in a four-cylinder chassis to produce a legend amongst tractor enthusiasts

The end of the line

In 1986 Ford bought Sperry New Holland to form Ford New Holland. In 1990, Fiat acquired an 80% stake in the company and so Ford ended its long association with tractors to concentrate on the automotive market.

The plans for the latest range of Ford tractors were well under way by this time and due to Fiat wanting an easy transition to the New Holland branding, they were still labelled Fords despite being launched in 1991.

Ford 8340 oval badge
The 8340 was one of the last of the Ford tractors. It provided 117hp from the new Genesis engine

The rise of New Holland

Although Fiat had a long and proud history of tractor production dating back to 1918, the company was aware that there was a mismatch between the perceived quality of Ford and Fiat in the market.

The New Holland name was therefore chosen as a neutral brand that already had strong roots in the important North American market.

The famous Ford oval badge was last used in August of 1994, although the name still lingered on the bonnet, to reassure customers that the engineering remained the same behind the new name.

the end of the Ford line
This 100hp 7840 bears a New Holland badge with the word Ford written on the side. Its driver on the day was Kate Kendall, partner of its owner, James Byrne

In the end there was little or any disruption to sales due to the transition, and the spirit of Ford lives on in the guise of New Holland.

It is thanks to the incredible generosity of enthusiasts such as Austin, that we are still able top enjoy seeing the products of the Ford tractor division, which left an indelible mark on the farming scene over the years.