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.
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 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.
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.
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