1968 County 1124
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 settled towards 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 wasn’t 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 to power units and 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 weren’t 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, County tractors are fiercely collected and highly prized. 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.
[divider] Specifications [/divider]
1968 County 1124
Engine: 6-cylinder, IDI Ford 2704E
Displacement: 363 ci
Bore & Stroke: 4.125×4.52 inches
Flywheel Power: 113 hp @ 2,250 rpm (gross, 96 net)
Flywheel Torque: 276 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm (gross)
Compression Ratio: 16.5:1
Transmission: 8-speed (4×2)
Weight: 8,900 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 20 gal.
Top Speed: 19.82 mph
Northwest Ohio Antique Machinery Association