TRAC­TOR TALK

1968 COUNTY 1124

Diesel World - - Contents - BY JIM ALLEN

The British County trac­tor isn’t one you see of­ten here in the States, but you may won­der why not after see­ing one. The story be­gins after World War I at Fleet, Hamp­shire, Eng­land. Ernest and Percy Tapp were two for­mer British Army of­fi­cers and WWI vet­er­ans. They set up a trans­fer com­pany to haul meat to a meat pro­cess­ing busi­ness owned by Ernest’s fa­ther in law. Find­ing the avail­able trucks too light for the loads they car­ried, and the trucks that could carry heav­ier loads too large for coun­try roads, they con­verted some of their Ford trucks to a tan­dem axle de­sign, giv­ing them a 2-ton ca­pac­ity.

Those con­ver­sions got enough at­ten­tion to garner re­quests from other op­er­a­tors and pretty soon they had a busi­ness go­ing. In 1929 they went big time, call­ing them­selves County Com­mer­cial Cars, and devel­oped kits that were of­fered by Ford in Eng­land to up­rate their trucks. When the Sec­ond World War hit, they con­verted more than 14,000 trucks to tan­dem drive.

After the war they moved to­ward agri­cul­ture. In 1948 County be­gan build­ing agri­cul­tural crawlers by com­bin­ing Ford­son Ma­jor trac­tors with IH TD-6 track as­sem­blies. In 1954 they did a four-wheel-drive con­ver­sion of a Ford­son, call­ing it the County Four-drive. That trac­tor got them a lot of at­ten­tion and the com­pany be­gan devel­op­ing what would be­come the County Su­per 4 from a Ford­son Su­per Ma­jor. A plethora of trac­tors fol­lowed, all built upon Ford­son or Ford trac­tors.

In the case of the wheeled units, County added new drive hous­ings to the rear that in­cluded a PTO on both sides point­ing for­ward. This was done dif­fer­ently depend­ing on the era, but on each side a drive­shaft led for­ward to an an­gle drive with a steer­ing knuckle. The an­gle drives (our ter­mi­nol­ogy, not County’s) were at­tached to a new front axle that mounted onto the orig­i­nal axle pivot. Though this ar­range­ment sounds strange, it was noth­ing new. In the early 1900s sev­eral four-wheel-drive trucks used this idea, and over the years it ap­peared in a va­ri­ety of ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing ar­mored cars built into the 1950s. The short-lived Dana V-drive of the 1970s and ’80s used a sim­i­lar prin­ci­ple. The nearby im­ages will help you un­der­stand it bet­ter.

As the Ford trac­tor line evolved, so did County. The new­est County mod­els were based on Ford’s lat­est mod­els. County bought the

trac­tors partly built, did their magic and then sold them bear­ing a County, not Ford, em­blem—but still painted in Ford blue. In some cases the con­ver­sion re­quired new sheet metal but most of the Ford tin was re­tained.

In 1967 County de­buted the 1124, which was based on the Ford 5000. The con­ver­sion was a lit­tle more ex­ten­sive be­cause a 6-cylin­der en­gine re­placed the four. This in­volved build­ing a spe­cial sub­frame, be­cause on the Ford setup the en­gine is part of the chas­sis. The Ford “Dorset” six was not built this way, so it re­quired some ex­tra pieces to sup­port the front axle.

The en­gine used was one of Ford’s best 6-cylin­der diesels of the pe­riod, the 2704E. It was 363 cu­bic inches and con­ser­va­tively rated at 112 gross fly­wheel horse­power at a mod­est 2,250 rpm. The Dorset en­gine fam­ily saw use in ev­ery venue from trac­tors to trucks, power units to marine (com­monly as the Ford Lehman). Used ex­ten­sively in trucks all over the world, the early 363 com­monly cranked out 128 gross fly­wheel horse­power at 2,800 rpm (116 net) and 266 lb-ft at 1,400 rpm. A turbo ver­sion was also avail­able in some ap­pli­ca­tions in the mid- and late ’60s that cranked out 140 gross horse­power.

The Coun­try trac­tors de­liv­ered a lot of draw­bar power for their weight, us­ing equal size tires front and rear. Be­cause they were not mar­keted ex­ten­sively in the United States, they never had a Ne­braska test. A few were im­ported but the sales num­bers are un­known, as are the num­ber of sur­vivors. In Eng­land, Coun­tys are fiercely col­lected and highly prized trac­tors. County con­tin­ued to 1990, but then folded. The ’80s re­ces­sion hit the com­pany hard and it was bought out in ’83, but the new own­ers couldn’t main­tain a mar­ket pres­ence. With the ad­vent of fac­tory-pro­duced four-wheel-drive trac­tors, there just wasn’t the band­width in the mar­ket for a small con­ver­sion com­pany.

 This 1968 County 1124 be­longs to the Fredritz fam­ily of North­west Ohio. It’s shown in mem­ory of Roger Fredritz, who had re­cently passed when it was shot at the North­west Ohio An­tique Ma­chin­ery Show in 2017. This trac­tor was im­ported in ’68 by Krys­towski Trac­tor Sales of Welling­ton, Ohio, one of six 1124s they brought in via a spe­cial Ford pro­gram. It was sold to a Welling­ton area dairy farmer, who traded it in dur­ing the mid-1990s. Roger bought the trac­tor used in 1998.

  The Ford 2700 Se­ries “Dorset” en­gines were among the best the com­pany ever fielded in trac­tors. They also proved to be great medium truck and marine en­gines. They were nearly square, with the bore only 0.40-inch smaller than the stroke. The en­gine was in­di­rect in­jected and had seven main bear­ings on a forged steel crankshaft. The trac­tors were fu­eled by a Simms in­line pump, but the au­to­mo­tive usu­ally had a ro­tary CAV. A four-cylin­der 242 cu­bic inch ver­sion of this en­gine was also of­fered. As time went by, the Dorset en­gine evolved to 380 cu­bic inches (the 2710 Se­ries) via a bore in­crease to 4.22 inches. In­dus­trial and marine en­gines were com­monly rated at around 150 hp, but a “Turbo Plus” en­gine is shown at 250 hp and 540 lb-ft. The Dorset evolved into the Dover (2720 Se­ries) in 1982. They were largely the same en­gine, but with many small up­dates and up­grades. The Dover en­gines were pro­duced into the early 1990s.

 The work­ing end of the trac­tor is largely the same as the Ford 5000 would have been: 3-point hitch, live PTO, hy­draulics. There weren’t Ne­braska-rated draw­bar power or pull num­bers taken for these trac­tors, but they would likely have been im­pres­sive. Forry Fredritz re­ports this trac­tor has no trou­ble with a 5-bot­tom plow in tough NW Ohio ground.

 The op­er­a­tor’s sta­tion was more or less just like a 5000 as well. And that wasn’t bad!

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