THE MUSTANG OF TRACTORS

1972 FORD 8000

Ford Tractor Operations turned a major corner in 1968 when the new 8000 debuted. It replaced Ford’s First six-cylinder tractors, the 6000 and 6000 Commander (’61-’67), and did so in a big way. Significant resources were expended to make this a world-class, cutting-edge tractor. Ford’s ag operations were global in scope and, as much as possible, the tractor lineup was designed to be universal in most markets.

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This 1972 Ford 8000 has an important job. It’s got grass duty at the WACO Air Museum, which is an operational grass airstrip in Troy, Ohio, and the old test facility for the Waco Aircraft Company (pronounced Wah-Ko, not Way-Ko as in Texas), which originally stood for Weaver Aircraft Company before being changed to Waco Aircraft Company. The air museum has several buildings with vintage aircraft and memorabilia. This tractor is an open station, wide-front Rowcrop model with Dual-Power. This tractor was designed to be loaded heavy. It could carry up to sixteen 100-lbs. suitcase weights on the front rack and up to twelve 100-lbs. weights on the rear wheels.

The 8000 was largely developed on a clean sheet of paper, and the new 401-cubic-inch, direct-injected inline six that powered it was too. While it was patterned in many ways on Ford’s diesel engine thinking of the day, and shared some design characteristics with earlier Ford diesels, it was quite a different engine than the 242 ci Dorset engine that had powered the 6000. Displacing 401 cubic inches from a square 4.40″ X 4.40″ bore and stroke in naturally aspirated (NA) agricultural use, it made about 117 hp on the flywheel at a low, ag-friendly 2300 rpm, and Nebraska rated it at 105.73 hp on the PTO.

In 1969, a turbocharged version would appear for the 9000 series tractors that debuted that year. It would deliver a stunning 131 horsepower on the PTO. The NA and turbocharged version would improve and reset for the ’72-’76 8600 and 9600, ’77-’79 8700 and 9700s, and the TW-20 that came in ‘79. In 1985, a road version was developed for use in trucks. Called the 6.6L, it was turbocharged and made 160-170 flywheel horsepower depending on application. It would be a staple until 1994, when it was phased out in North American service.

Three Variants, Many Options

The 8000 was introduced in three variants: a narrow front Rowcrop, a wide adjustable-width front Rowcrop, and what was called an All-Purpose, with a wide, set-back front axle with adjustable width. The two Rowcrops came standard with a live 540/1000 rpm PTO and a three-point hitch. The All-Purpose came standard with a swinging drawbar and no PTO, but the PTO and three-point was optional. The All-Purpose was what other manufacturers called a standard or wheatland tractor, and the set-back axle (91.5″ wheelbase vs. 108 or 100 on the Rowcrops) gave it extraordinary maneuverability.

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The 8000 Rowcrop came with a two-speed PTO, Cat II three-point hitch and a standard drawbar. Standard on the All- Purpose tractor and optional on the Rowcrops was a wide-spring drawbar that swung 17″ to each side of center. The power-adjust rear wheels opened the rear track from 60 to 97 inches and these tractors were ready for duals. The Rowcrops had either 34- or 38-inch-diameter wheels and the All-Purpose used 30- or 34-inchers.

Ford had a huge selection of implements and tools, but relating directly to the tractor were 2100- and 2500-pound loaders and cabs with air-conditioning. The 8000 had three separate hydraulic systems—one directly driven by the engine for the power steering, another for the PTO and diff-lock clutches, and the last for the three-point and remotes. For this last pump, 13 gpm was standard but a 16 gpm was an option.

Evolution

In 1969, some big things happened. For one, the 8000 got a big brother, the 9000. It was much the same tractor, but with a beefed-up, turbocharged version of the 401 and a powertrain to match. The 8000 and 9000 both got the option of Ford’s Dual-Power system. Call it a partial power shift or a torque amplifier… they both fit. It split the gears and turned the normal four-speed trans with a two-speed over/under into a 16-speed that could split gears in each range. By 1973, Ford reckoned some changes were in order, so the 8000 updated to the 8600. Beyond changes in graphics and minor engine tweaking that gained five horsepower on the PTO, there wasn’t much to talk about. The 8600 updated to the 8700 with a fair bit of restyling for 1977, which also happened to be the 60th anniversary of the Ford tractor.

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The Ford 401 ci six was square, with the same bore and stroke dimensions, which is unusual in the diesel world. It was a direct-injected, seven-main-bearing, parent-bore engine. According to most sources, in the early days it was built both in the Cleveland Engine Plant and in Basildon, England. Later it was built only in Basildon. Some regard the lack of sleeves as a weak link. Maybe it was, but you could bore it four times and then install dry sleeves. Other than that, they didn’t have any particular weak links and made about 117 hp on the flywheel. In this era, Simms/Minimec injection pumps were used. The turbo version made about 160 on the flywheel, with torque in the 375-lbs-ft range at 1600 rpm. In 1985, they designed a truck version of the engine and also stroked it to 7.8L. Both the 6.6L and 7.8L were turbocharged and, with many modifications, saw extensive use in Ford trucks, especially the B-Series school bus chassis. In that guise, you saw up to 170 hp and 402 lbs-ft. The 7.8L cranked out up to 240 hp and 606 lbs-ft. The final evolution, called the “Genesis” engines, lasted to 1997.

The 8000 lineage continued well into the ‘80s with the TW-20, then the TW-5. The TW-15, TW-25, and TW-35 came in 1985, which is when New Holland took over the Ford lines. Though the styling and cabs had evolved greatly, these Fords continued on the basic platform that had begun with the 8000. By 1990, the Fords had evolved past that platform, even though a much updated 401 was still in the lineup in front of some modern drivetrains and four-wheel drive tractors.

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The Ford 8000 tractors had few vices and no major troubles to garner headlines in farmer gossip columns. Neither did they set major benchmarks nor inspire the kind of fervor a few tractors of other colors have done. They did their jobs and continue to do them, and that’s about all you can ask of a good tractor.