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Discussion Forum

Fordson Model F

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08-20-2010 13:37:24

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First post here for me, hoping for some info.

I am looking at buying a 1923 Model F. The tractor is in great shape from what I can tell, 100% original, never any sort of attempt at a restoration by anyone. First thing I have noticed is that where I believe the governor should be, there isn't anything. Did all of these come with a governor? What about ignition parts? Are these hard to come by? The lid is missing from the coil box, but apparently when the guy bought the tractor from the original owner, he took the (wooden?) coil box out and put it in his shop for safe keeping, and still has it. Anything to look out for? The block appears to be in good shape, and the radiator even looks great. Steering wheel is all there as well. I will try and post some pictures here when I get that figured out.

Thanks in advance![/img]

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08-21-2010 19:53:25

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to REPO, 08-20-2010 13:37:24  
Thats great info! I will definetly get a manual "IF" I buy the tractor.

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Maine Fordson

08-21-2010 10:53:32

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to Alaric, 08-20-2010 13:37:24  
Mea culpa. I didn't see the rear filler cap when I looked at your pictures. You are correct: With the dual-chamber fuel tank, the starting tank (smaller chamber, for gasoline) is an integral part. Once the engine was warmed up, it could be run on kerosene (from the larger chamber of the main tank). The earlier-style auxiliary starting tank (cast-iron, approx. 1-gallon capacity) is not needed, and so it was removed.
Now you have another reason to look up the serial number: The dual-chamber fuel tank was not introduced until June 1924, so the fuel tank is either a replacement, or the tractor was manufactured later than 1923. (Go here to see a diagram of the serial number location. )
It's difficult to get a picture of the commutator installed, as there is so little room between the front of the engine and the radiator. This is a very common part (the identical part was used on Model T automobiles), so yes, they are available. The commutator, also known as the timer, is a common tune-up part. You'll need new wires and the linkage (assuming that it's missing and not sitting atop the crankcase, loose) that connects the spark lever to the commutator (this advances or retards the spark, as mentioned above). Follow the link in my previous posting to go to The Fordson House's web site; they have everything you need, and you can also see the associated pieces and parts of the commutator assembly.

Keep an eye out for a Fordson owner's manual on eBay; sometimes you can find one for $10 or so. There are folks on this site who sell them for $45, but I'm pretty sure you can find a copy cheaper than that. This manual will show you all of the parts of your tractor, plus exploded diagrams, plus maintenance requirements -- all of which are very helpful when you are working on something this old.
If you go to flea markets or swap meets, you'll likely find parts much cheaper than if you shop on-line.
-- Maine Fordson
This post was edited by Maine Fordson at 11:25:28 08/21/10 4 times.

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Maine Fordson

08-21-2010 06:11:11

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to kenneth armour, 08-20-2010 13:37:24  
You can't see the commutator in your photos because of the angle at which they were taken. It's just a small part, about 3 inches in diameter, and about an inch thick. Go to to see a picture of this part.
I'm standing by my opinion of the purpose of those two studs at the front of the engine (i.e., being the remnants of a governor attach point). If you look at the manifold in the fifth photo of your last posting, in front of the #2 spark plug you'll see where the governor was attached to the manifold. Either it malfunctioned and was removed, or someone needed it worse than the current owner. (Which would explain the missing commutator linkage.) A governor is not essential, but it's a nice accessory if you are doing belt work; it saves the trouble of constantly adjusting the throttle. (This engine was designed to run at 1000 RPM, and no faster.)

The rest of the tractor looks great. Radiator looks good, the radiator sides are not cracked or broken, fenders are in great shape, and almost everything is there. The only other thing I see missing is the starting tank, which should be attached to the air washer (in the same pictured referenced above, look to the left of the manifold, behind the fuel line and below the air intake. The rectangular place with the two mounting ears is where the starting tank should be mounted. Most importantly, the manifold looks good, and seems complete. The manifold is a Holley 295, which is a later style, so that means the manifold was replaced sometime during the last 85 years. Also, the coil box looks to be the later style (but my memory fails me as to what year the change occurred). Replacement covers are available.
Have you looked up the serial number? It's stamped into the block just above the first manifold bolt, nearest the radiator. (You may need a small wire brush or a scraper to remove rust or grease.) A production matrix is available on this site. Serial Number List for FDS: Model F

Buy it!
-- Maine Fordson
This post was edited by Maine Fordson at 06:13:24 08/21/10.

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08-21-2010 09:13:29

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to Maine Fordson, 08-21-2010 06:11:11  
Thanks for all the info! I do not have the serial number yet, only pictures of the tractor so far.

As for the starting tank, I was under the assumption that it was built into the main tank? There are 2 fuel caps, the rear I thought was for gas, while the front would be for kerosene? If so, would it still have had the starting tank? Also if so, what is it used for?

As for the governor, that makes sense to me. I wouldn't require it, as I would be happy to just get it to idle, possibly drive it around the yard a bit, but thats all. My main concern is that commutator. I have been searching all the posts I can so far, with no luck on a picture of the commutator mounted. Would you, (or anyone) have some good clear pictures of this mounted on the tractor? Is this something that can be purchased if the entire thing was missing?

Thanks again!

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08-23-2010 19:48:34

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to REPO, 08-21-2010 09:13:29  
Look up Andersontimer, lots of pics and projects

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Maine Fordson

08-20-2010 20:20:16

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to mike Farmer, 08-20-2010 13:37:24  
The little lever is meant to be connected to the commutator (a roundish part which is kinda like a distributor) at the front of the engine, fitted on the end of the camshaft. Turning this will advance or retard the spark (when starting the engine, the spark must be retarded as much as possible to prevent the crank from kicking back).

As for the two studs, my best guess is that they are the remnants of a governor mount.

The tractor looks good; the fenders (a desirable accessory) are in good shape, with the tool box lids straight and no rust-through. Also, the lugs on the rear wheels are not excessively worn.

Buy it!
-- Maine Fordson

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08-20-2010 21:07:58

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to Maine Fordson, 08-20-2010 20:20:16  
Would anyone have some good clear pictures of the commutator? Is this something that can be purchased? I guess it is missing, because I don't see it in the pictures.

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Maine Fordson

08-20-2010 16:34:41

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to Brian Allen, 08-20-2010 13:37:24  
It's difficult to say from your description; they could be any number of things.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there were a lot of aftermarket accessories available for the Fordson, ranging from external magnetos to water pumps to varying styles of drawbar/hitch to entire manifold/carburetor assemblies to primitive power take-offs powering mowing machines, binders and early combines. The only thing that comes to mind from your description (re: a "lever that looks like it would rotate, that seems to go back to the carb/butterfly housing area") would be remnants of a governor, but without a photo to consult, it's just a guess.

Don't worry about the engine being stuck; it's a common malady. Just pull the plugs, squirt in a little light oil (e.g. Marvel Mystery Oil, or plain transmission fluid), then replace the plugs and leave it alone for a few days. With the weather as warm as it is now, the heat will help the oil work its way down by the pistons, and hopefully free them up. Sometimes it helps to stand on the starting handle (crank), if you're not too heavy. (Use your best judgement.)

Before you try to run the engine, it's a good idea to do an oil change. Use non-detergent 30-weight in the engine crankcase.
Also, if you look through the archives on this site you'll find tons of useful info, hints, even pictures.
-- Maine Fordson

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08-20-2010 17:27:23

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to Maine Fordson, 08-20-2010 16:34:41  
Thanks for all the info. I will try and get some pictures posted later tonight, then possibly you all can have a look and tell me what you think.

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08-20-2010 18:54:35

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to REPO, 08-20-2010 17:27:23  
If you can't get your photobucket account working, you can use the Upload Photo on the posting form. I set your account so it doesn't have new user restriction.

Thanks and welcome,


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08-20-2010 20:04:57

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to YTSupport, 08-20-2010 18:54:35  
Ok, hopefully this works. Here is the picture of the front of the engine showing the little lever, and the 2 studs where I think something was mounted previously. Hopefully someone can shed some light on this for me!

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08-20-2010 20:11:01

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to REPO, 08-20-2010 20:04:57  
Ok, so the first one worked, so I am going to post a series of pictures, hopefully you guys/gals can look them over really well, and point out any missing items. I have not purchased this tractor yet, and am a little scared that when I do, I won't be able to find the items I need. Please let me know what you think!

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08-20-2010 20:41:42

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to REPO, 08-20-2010 20:11:01  
Here is another picture of the front of the engine area, you can see those two studs sticking out again.

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Maine Fordson

08-20-2010 15:12:38

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to Jared Chaddock, 08-20-2010 13:37:24  
The Fordson Model F is a bare-bones tractor, very basic in design. Henry Ford and his son Edsel, who started the company, wanted as few moving parts as possible to keep production costs down and also to make maintenance and upkeep cheaper. So, there was no governor (but many Fordson owners installed aftermarket governors), no water pump (the engine relied on thermosyphon cooling), and no oil pump (splash lubrication did the job more or less adequately). Fenders were an additional $35 added to the purchase price, as was a belt pulley. In the early 1920's, Fordson tractors made up 75% of all tractors sold in the U.S. It was only in the mid-1920's that Fordson lost market share to up-and-comers like Deere and Farmall, who were also manufacturing custom implements to fit their tractors.
As far as the ignition system goes, if you are familiar with Model T automobiles, there are no surprises. Sixteen magnets attached to the flywheel pass by a pickup post, and the current generated thusly goes to one of four coil boxes (one for each cylinder), where it is stepped up and sent to each respective spark plug. Fordson/Model T ignition parts are very easy to come by, as there are several suppliers around the country who specialize in Model T's. (For starters, try Lang's Old Car Parts in Winchendon, Massachusetts; their web site is www.ModelTFord.Com. Good folks to deal with.) A replacement coil box cover is available if you can't locate the original.
Things to look out for? Fordson manifolds (the intake and exhaust manifolds are a single one-piece casting) are a weak point, and good-quality repros cost about $350. Make sure that the vaporizer/carburetor assemblies are intact, as they, too, are expensive. Check the steel wheels for rust-outs from sitting in one spot for too many decades. Look the fuel tank over very carefully. In 1923 the fuel tank was a large, single-chamber tank with a cast-iron auxiliary tank marked "Gasoline For Starting Only." If it's missing, it'll cost about $150 to replace. The main tank is prone to rust-through where the tank straps hold it to the dash and radiator tank.
Fordsons are great tractors and a lot of fun to work on -- and work with. You'll be amazed at the old-timers who will stop and chat at length about their memories of working with these machines when they were quite young.
There is a lot of knowledge in these forums if you have questions or run into trouble.
- - Maine Fordson

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08-20-2010 15:46:13

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 Re: Fordson Model F in reply to Maine Fordson, 08-20-2010 15:12:38  
If I could get my Photobucket account to work properly, I would have already posted some pictures, hopefully later on tonight.

From what I see and am told, the manifold is not cracked. Currently the motor is stuck, but nothing is open/missing. I don't think it is filled with water, but possibly stuck due to condensation.

What is normally bolted on the front of the engine, slightly to the right side? (when facing radiator) There are 2 bolts sticking out that give me the indicaiton that something was there previously. (just below the fan a bit) I also noticed that up at the front, at the top of head, there is a lever that looks like it would rotate, that seems to go back to the carb/butterfly housing area? What is that for?

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