Small, Tall Tractor

1967 Massey Ferguson 165 Hi-Hi

Consult the books on Massey Ferguson tractors and you will see no high clearance model of the MF165 listed. So what are you looking at here?  Well, it’s the real deal but it’s not the factory real deal. It, and a number of others, was converted by County Commercial Cars in England and here’s as much of the story as we know.

This British-built tractor sits very tall in the saddle. A high clearance tractor coming from England is more than a little unusual because the market such tractors there in is just about nil. The most likely theory is that the Country conversion were done for an export buyer. Possibly the contract came from MF for a special order from a dealer. The Country Commercial Cars has been out of business since 1990, so any records are probably long lost.

The Massey Ferguson 165

For 1964, Massey-Ferguson updated their line of tractors … pretty much worldwide. MF’s were popular the world over and well respected in Europe. Their big factories were located in Detroit, Michigan, USA, and Coventry, England, but MF also had factories in France, Australia, Argentina and Italy and they were pretty big stuff in the ‘60s. The American and British product lines were largely the same, tweaked as needed to suit the markets. A few of the models were new, especially at the bigger end of the line, and more would appear, but most of the smaller tractors were refreshed versions of the old line. Such was the 165, an evolution of the very popular MF65.

The way the front axle was on done the MF165 is similar to the Ford setup, with those unique curved stabilizer bars. County was known for good engineering so this was likely a good setup. Taller tires were part of the package but we don’t know exactly which were installed. Today the tractor has 7.50-18s up front and 13.6-38s in back. Tall and skinny!

The MF165 debuted in the compact line with brethren MF135 and MF150. The MF165 was offered in several configurations; standard, row crop and low profile. The row crop, often called the “high arch,” had an adjustable front axle and a higher stance versus the standard. It’s sometimes confused with a high clearance tractor but if you compare the this conversion, or any other true high clearance tractor, with it, it’s still a low rider. The stand was a utility tractor and the low profile was suitable for mowing or industrial use.

09 03

The A4.212 was a direct-injected four, making 212 cubic inches from a 3.875×4.50 in. bore and stroke. It had five main bearings and wet sleeves. It was part of a family of four-cylinder engines that started in production in 1964, with the A4.236 being first.  They were inspired by a six-cylinder brother, the equally legendary 6.354. The whole family of engines with this basic design became cornerstones of reliability and were Perkins’ first direct injected engine family. They were used in every possible venue and cemented the reputation of Perkins as an engine builder. Other displacements followed, the A4.212 being the smallest. The A4.236 had a larger 3.877-in bore and a longer 5.00 inch stroke. The big boy in the group was the A4.248 with a 3.975 and a 5.00 inch stroke. This series engine had a long life, to at least 1987. They were also turbocharged in this general era and made about 80 horsepower. Interestingly, when this tractor was built, Perkins was owned by Massey Ferguson.

The American version of the MF165 was initially offered with a 176 cubic inch Continental gas four or a 58 flywheel horsepower 203 cubic Perkins A4.203 diesel four. Shortly, the gasser would be replaced by a 212 cubic inch Perkins gas four (a rarely seen gasoline Perkins) or the 212 cubic inch A4.212 Perkins diesel. Only diesels were offered in Europe, starting with the same A4.203 Perkins initially and then with the Mark II MF165, which debuted in ‘67, came with the larger A4.212.

The County Connection

County Commercial Cars had been doing specialty conversions to Ford and Fordson tractors since 1948, first turning Fordson Majors into crawlers and later adding four-wheel drive to various Ford and Fordson models, as well as a smattering of other makes. Not generally known are the County high-clearance conversions, commonly called “High Drives.” County was known to have converted some Ford 5000 tractors to high clearance models, some of which found there way here into the U.S. Almost forgotten is the High Drive Conversion of the British-built MF165.

Part of the high clearance conversion were these drop housings. We don’t know if there is any gear reduction built into these, but that would be typical to make up for taller tires. The stock tractor could do about 20 mph.
The working end shows a 540 rpm PTO and three point hitch. These were standard items on both the American and British built Row Crop models. The three point was the Ferguson type, which was the heart of the original Ferguson system that changed farming back in the 1930s.

Beyond a few pictures of a few under construction at County and this survivor… which may be the only one… little is known. According to Aaron and Larry Helman, the current caretakers of this tractor, they have been told no more than 30 to 40 of these tractors were built. That isn’t verified and our research couldn’t turn up much more information. Today these tractors are knows as the MF165 “Hi-Hi.”

Found as a Derelict

How this particular tractor came to be here is unknown. It was in terrible condition when Dave Helman, the late father of Aaron and Larry, acquired it more or less as scrap in 2009. It took a fair bit of time and parts scrounging to get it restored. High clearance tractors are generally used for rice or sugar cane and since it had some logos on it in French, speculation was that it came from the Caribbean where lots of sugar cane is grown. Of course, the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada is also possible but it’s a bit too cold there for rice or sugar cane. Bottom line, neither we nor the Helman family know much about this unusual tractor model, so if you can shed some light, please contact the editor. The Helmans intend to show this tractor as a testament to their dad, who died late in 2020 at age 85 still showing up for work almost every day.


1967 Massey Ferguson 165, County High Drive Conversion

Engine: 4-cylinder, Perkins A4.212
Displacement: 212 ci
Bore & Stroke: 3.875 x 4.50 in.
Flywheel Power: 62 hp @ 2200 rpm
Flywheel Torque: 168 lbs-ft @ 1250 rpm
Compression Ratio: 17.5:1
Transmission:  6-speed (3×2)
Weight: 4,400 lbs (std. tractor)
Fuel Capacity: 18 gal.
Tires:        Front- 7.50-18
Rear- 13.6-38


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Small, Tall Tractor

1967 Massey Ferguson 165 Hi-Hi Consult the books on Massey Ferguson tractors and you will see no high clearance model of the MF165 listed. So […]