SPLIT PERSONALITY

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.

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This unrestored 1963 Massey Ferguson 97 is owned by noted collector Daren Meyers. It came from Idaho originally and was used for wheat farming there. The extended intake breather and exhaust stack are typical of tractors used in the Wheat Belt and commonly known as a “Dakota Pipe.” The idea was to keep the air intake up high above the dust. This one was home-built by the original farmer back in the day but they also came as a kit for some tractors. It’s pulling a M-F, A-8 six-bottom plow that also has a 1963 manufacturing date. Typical of the rebadged Molines, where the Massey red is worn thin, the Moline yellow is showing through.

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.

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This unrestored 1963 Massey Ferguson 97 is owned by noted collector Daren Meyers. It came from Idaho originally and was used for wheat farming there. The extended intake breather and exhaust stack are typical of tractors used in the Wheat Belt and commonly known as a “Dakota Pipe.” The idea was to keep the air intake up high above the dust. This one was home-built by the original farmer back in the day but they also came as a kit for some tractors. It’s pulling a M-F, A-8 six-bottom plow that also has a 1963 manufacturing date. Typical of the rebadged Molines, where the Massey red is worn thin, the Moline yellow is showing through.

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.

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Minneapolis-Moline was one of the first tractor companies to embrace four-wheel drive early, likely due to the production of military four-wheel drive tractors in World War II. The Coleman axle shown here replaced the Elwood not long before this tractor was built. The Coleman design dated back to the 1920s, when they began producing four-wheel-drive trucks. Colemans can be identified by the large hub caps and large wheel pattern. They were unusual because the “universal joint,” where power was able to pivot for steering, was inside that hub and not on the axle shaft. Imagine a large universal joint that connects to a straight axle in the center and the hub and pivots around it. Though complex, big and heavy, it worked well. The axle was driven from an output attached to the final drive housing.

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.

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The big Moline D504 was rated by Massey-Ferguson at 92 PTO horsepower and 87 on the drawbar. The Nebraska ratings were higher at 101 on the PTO and 89 on the drawbar for the 4×4. It was a huge engine but a slow revver. The early versions were 1,200-1,300rpm units but by the early ’60s they were spinning them up to a whopping 1,600 to make maximum power. With only four main bearings, they were very sensitive to over-revving and overloading. They used a Roosa-Master rotary pump that popped the injectors at 2,000 psi. Meyers’s has adapted to two more modern style batteries.

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.

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The 97 working hard at the 2017 Alvordton Plowing Days with the M-F six bottom plow. In the tough clay ground of Northwestern Ohio, that plow was a bit too much even for the mighty Massey. If you know plowing, you will recognize the plow is not exactly dialed in at this point and a misadjusted plow increases the draft. Meyers and crew spent some time dialing it in but the tractor was still working a bit harder than a 54-year-old tractor should, so it retired for the rest of the day. A five-bottom plow would have been about right.

[Divider]Specifications[/Divider]

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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
*Rated Drawbar
Power: 89.2 hp @ 1,605 rpm Compression Ratio: 14.8:1
Transmission: 5-speed
Tires: Front- 9.5-24
Rear- 23.1-26
*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)

SOURCES

Alvordton Plow Days
Facebook.com/events/307942549661987