The History of Farmall Tractors: 1930-1935

In order to keep up with the progress of competition, Ed Johnston proposed improvements to make the Farmall a better tractor. Discover the changes that occurred to create more modern, small-scale F-20s, F-30s and F-40s.


| December 2015



1936 Farmall F-20

1936 F-20. Ed Johnston created a nonadjustable wide front end for both F-20 and F-30 models in the spring of 1932. This coincided with the beginning of production for both models.

Photo by Randy Leffingwell

Discover the complete history of Farmall, from the early days of McCormick and Deering to the latest models, in Farmall (Voyageur Press, 2015) by Randy Leffingwell and Robert N. Pripps. The following excerpt discusses the various changes to Farmall tractors between during the early 1930s, including increased horsepower, redesigned engine components and more.

You can purchase this book from the Capper's Farmer store: Farmall.

1930-1935: Farmall Becomes a Big Family

Progress,” Johnston told IHC’s EC, “has put our competitors in a position to increase the horsepower for the size of engine and to improve the fuel consumption. We are suffering in the trade.” He urged the EC to adopt a program to produce a more powerful Farmall, and even a smaller one. EC members promptly approved three sizes, counting the current Farmall and the proposed “increased-power Farmall” as one. The second was an intermediate Farmall, using an increased-power engine for the 10-20 tractor. Third was a large Farmall designed to use the increased-horsepower 15-30 tractor engine.

While the power increases came from a new head, intake manifold, and piston design without changing bore or stroke, to Johnston, the term “increased power” meant “improved tractor.” He installed a water pump with a more effective thermostatic control to improve cooling. He strengthened frames because some Industrial Model 20s in Europe had broken. In August, he created a wide tread for the Farmall from 10-20 parts for crops around San Francisco. The GPED’s experimental engineers turned out new engines and strengthened unit-frames on IHC’s wheel tractors. Johnston’s dictum to improve the tractors became the goal throughout GPED.

In New York, while stock market prices still fluctuated wildly, President Herbert Hoover asked Alex Legge to help stabilize farmer market prices. Legge had resigned from IHC’s presidency to head the Federal Farm Board in June 1929. He remained on IHC’s board, however, and occasionally returned to Chicago for meetings that particularly interested him, especially when his efforts in Washington made little progress.

On December 1, 1930, Legge redefined the experimental Farmalls in terms farmers understood. The Increased Power model would handle two plows; the Intermediate, based on the improved 10-20, would run three plows; and the Large 15-30-derived Farmall pulled four. Then he wondered if this incremental power increase was large enough. Baker idly suggested fitting four-speed transmissions into the Large and Intermediate models and simply dropping the two-plow original “regular” model. A newcomer to NWC meetings, John L. “Mac” McCaffrey, IHC’s thirty-eight-year-old assistant manager of domestic sales, disagreed. He reported that his boss, Maurice F. Holahan, manager of domestic sales, “felt we should put out the Increased Power Farmalls only at this time.”





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