The Massey-Ferguson 97 & Minneapolis-Moline 706
Badge engineering is nothing new. Tractor companies did it as far back as the first decade of the 20th century. It happened a lot, sometimes with one company wanting to add tractors to its line of ag products and other times it was a particular type or size of tractor that was needed. You contract with another company for one of its tractor models, most often dolled up in some way to reflect your own company—and voila, you added a tractor or tractors to your lineup. The actual manufacturer gets to keep its plant cranking out more equipment and generally everyone is happy.
When Massy-Harris merged with Harry Ferguson, Inc. in 1953 to become Massy-Harris-Ferguson, it looked to be a happy time for both companies. They decided to maintain two separate identities by adopting the so-called “Two-Line Policy,” perhaps with some technology exchanges, but brand loyalists in both camps began fighting at both the customer/dealer level and within the company. Continued economic strain on the ag manufacturing industry in general and the vicious internal turf war eventually led to the company downsizing and consolidating into one identity, Massey-Ferguson.
One of the more surprising and disappointing aspects of the consolidation, especially if you were a Massey-Harris fan, was the entire Massey-Harris tractor line being quickly phased out. Ferguson had been a master of the small tractor, but Massey-Harris had some well-respected large tractors that could have formed a foundation for upgrades beyond what had already been done. The Ferguson line produced some larger new models, but they weren’t quite up to the old Massey-Harris 55 and 555 units in power or stature and M-F found itself without a beefy prairie tractor for the wheat belt. This problem was solvable in the short term via badge engineering.
For 1958, Massey-Ferguson debuted the Model 95. This unit came from Minneapolis-Moline and was a dolled-up, repainted version of the GBD or G-VI models, featuring a big 425 cubic-inch, 80 PTO horsepower 6-cylinder engine. This held the line as the M-F big boy until it was replaced by the Model 97 for 1962. The Model 97 featured an enlarged version of the long-running 425 that displaced 504 cubic inches via a 3/8-inch bore increase. Making a Nebraska-certified 101 PTO horsepower, the model 97 was based on the updated M-M G705 and G706, the 705 being a rear-drive tractor and the 706 having a driving front axle.
The Model 97 version was very much like a Moline but mounted a Massey-Ferguson nose and grille and came in red and gray versus the Moline yellow and brown. They used either diesel or LPG-fueled versions of the 504 engine. Unlike Moline, M-F didn’t give the two- and four-wheel-drive tractors separate model designations. The Moline/Massey four-wheel-drive tractors used Elwood front axles through 1962, which were adapted war-surplus GMC 6×6 front axles. For 1963, they switched to Coleman axles, which were built from scratch in Aurora, Colorado.
The 504 diesel was based on a 425 cubic-inch gasoline six Moline had debuted back in the 1930s. M-M was late to the diesel game but found its big six suitable for upgrade to a diesel using the Lanova Power Cell system starting in 1953. Many parts interchanged between the gas/LP engine and the diesel and the gentle combustion of the Lanova made that possible. The four-main engine featured cylinders cast in banks of two and three separate cylinder heads. This was handy because damage to one cylinder or one set of valves could be repaired more easily.
The M-F 97 was a fixed tread “wheatland” or “prairie” tractor with a handy array of standard features, including power steering, a suspended seat (the “Float-o-Matic”), a swinging drawbar, dual hydraulic remotes, rear PTO (a live system optional), and an optional side mounted belt PTO.
White completed the purchase of Minneapolis-Moline in 1963 and that event likely did not go unnoticed by Massey-Ferguson. Some time earlier, the company began the development of its own tractor to replace it and this culminated in the Perkins-powered, 94-horse 1100 tractor in 1964 and the turbocharged 1130 in 1965. Leftover M-F 97s and 1100/1130s coexisted at the dealers for a while until existing stocks of 97s were exhausted.
The production number of M-F 97s is not exactly clear, but it appears that somewhat over 4,000 diesels of all types were produced into 1965. It isn’t clear how many of those were four-wheel-drive versus two-wheel-drive, but the four-wheelers are easily the least common survivor.
1963 Massey-Ferguson 97
Engine: 6-cylinder diesel, M-M D504-6
Displacement: 504 ci
Bore & Stroke: 4.62 x 5.00 in.
Flywheel Power: 108 hp @ 1,600 rpm
*Rated PTO Power: 101.7 hp @ 1,600 rpm
Power: 89.2 hp @ 1,605 rpm Compression Ratio: 14.8:1
Tires: Front- 9.5-24
*Fuel Consumption: 7.54 gph @ full power
*Drawbar Pull: 11,491 lbs. @ 2.87% slip
Weight: 9,165 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 38 gal.
*Top Speed: 18.3 mph
*As rated by Nebraska Tractor Test 833 (M-M 706)
Alvordton Plow Days