This 1955 33D is owned by Jason and Kathy Abbott. We were unable to connect with them at the Northwest Ohio Antique Machinery show when we shot this tractor back in 2018. Judging by the center mounted weights and tow bar, this rare tractor does a little work at antique tractor pulling events. It’s a rowcrop model with a narrow front.

1955 Massey-Harris 33D

When you talk to Massey-Harris tractor collectors, one 1950s model stands out as a proverbial “hen’s tooth” tractor, the Model 33 diesel. Produced from late 1953 through 1955, it held up the smaller end of the Massey-Harris (MH) diesel lineup. The Model 33 gas tractor had been introduced in 1952 and there was a kerosene-fueled model but the 33D diesel was the smallest oil burner in that era. There were gas tractors smaller than the 33, such as the Pacer, but they were gradually being phased out after the ‘53 merger of Massey-Harris and Ferguson.

The 33D Exposed

The 33D row-crop model was available as a narrow-front row crop unit, as shown here. A wide, adjustable-width, high-arch front axle was also available in the row crop configuration. The standard model featured a heavy, fixed-width wide axle. The 33 was also available with a single front wheel. A swinging drawbar was standard for the row crop, along with a three-point hitch, which MH call the “Hitch-All, and a live PTO commonly seen on row-crop models.  The Hitch-All had hydraulic depth control. Hydraulic remotes were not part of the base package but were optional and are commonly seen. Seldom seen, but available, was a side-mounted belt pulley.

This 1955 33D is owned by Jason and Kathy Abbott. We were unable to connect with them at the Northwest Ohio Antique Machinery show when we shot this tractor back in 2018. Judging by the center-mounted weights and tow bar, this rare tractor does a little work at antique tractor pulling events. It’s a row-crop model with a narrow front.
The working end shows the standard row-crop equipment, swinging drawbar, 3-point “Hitch-All” hitch, and live 540 rpm PTO. This tractor also has an optional hydraulic system with two remotes.

Like most MH tractors of the era, the engine came from Continental Motors. Displacing 201 cubic inches, the ED-201 used a Lanova combustion chamber and thus got the advertising moniker, “Cushioned Power.” The ED-201 was also used in stationary power units and had a couple of similar six-cylinder stablemates.  The Continental in the 33D was backed up by a five-speed gearbox.

An Enigmatic Massey

When you look up information on the Model 33, you will find it one of the least covered units. While as many as 12,000 Model 33s were built between 1952 and 1955, the known production lists do not break out how many of those were diesels and the configuration of each of those diesels. If the survivors can be used as a guide, it’s clear row crops were the most popular, equally divided between wide and narrow front axles. Standards seem very rare and we couldn’t find a surviving single-wheel diesel 33. The common estimates of diesel 33 production range from 50 to 150 but the more studious types in the Massey Collectors Association are leaning towards 150 or more. No matter what, Model 33 diesel in any configuration is a rare bird.

The engine is from Continental Motors, who supplied many of Massey’s powerplants. The ED-201 was a relatively new engine when it appeared in the 33D. The same basic engine was built out as a diesel, a gas, and a kerosene-fueled engine. The diesel version used the Lanova-style combustion chamber and was very gentle on lower ends. It was a 3-main engine with wet sleeves. At over 600 pounds, it was robust but not particularly powerful. Continental rated it at a maximum of 46 intermittent horsepower at 2000 rpm for industrial use, but in the tractors, it was only wrung out to 1500 rpm and delivered about 36 horses at that speed. The engine was a good cold starter for the period, having an intake manifold heater that used a spark plug and a small injector to get the fires going. When the 333 took over for the 33, the engine got a 0.0625-in. increase in the bore, upping the displacement to 208 cubic inches.

Torch passed

The Model 33D evolved into the 333D in 1956. It was largely the same tractor but with the displacement increased and the power upped. It is readily distinguishable by the bronze-painted engine. Built only for two years, the 333D is less common than the 33D.

Adios Mr. Harris

The Massey-Harris line faded away in 1958 as the company was consolidated into the Massey-Ferguson identity. Cash flow issues in the early ‘50s had resulted in a merger with Harry Ferguson Inc. in 1953. The two tractor lines were maintained separately, with some tweaks for the first years after the merger. Since the Ferguson tractors were all smallish units, most of the small Massey-Harris tractors were discontinued so as to consolidate production and enhance marketing. Internal power struggles quickly became a problem and the Ferguson side basically won the battle.

The tractor was rather well endowed with instruments for the era, having oil pressure, water temp, and amps. And they are right in the operator’s face. The lack of tech is kind of obvious but not all that many tractors had them in this era.
The operator’s position was about par for the era. You spend a few 12-hour days on this baby and you’ve earned your tough-guy card.

Once consolidated under the Massey-Ferguson nameplate, the Massey-Harris line basically disappeared and the line was trimmed to just the Ferguson units and some outside sourced, rebadged larger tractors. In retrospect, many regards that as a short-sighted move, as it basically left Massey-Ferguson without any in-house built larger tractors. It was a few years before that problem was solved with new tractor designs. Massey-Harris fans are still resentful over it.


1955 Massey-Harris 33D

Engine: 4-cylinder Lanova Cell, Continental ED201
Displacement: 201 ci

Bore & Stroke: 3.625 x 4.875-in.
Flywheel Power: 45.7 hp @ 2000 rpm
Compression Ratio: 15.5:1
Transmission: 5-speed
Weight: 5,200 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 19 gal.
Tires: front- 5.50-16
rear- 11-38

*Top Speed: 13.08 mph

* As Rated by Massey-Harris


Massey Collectors Association

Northwest Ohio Antique Machinery Association


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