HERE’S THE BEEF! 1952 MASSEY HARRIS 55 DIESEL
Massey-Harris tractors had a solid reputation north and south of the border when they debuted a big diesel tractor for 1949. The gasoline version of the Model 55 had debuted first in 1947, which also happened to be Massy-Harris’ corporate centennial and the diesel version covered them in that new segment of the market. The 55 emerged as the top tier of four new or restyled full-sized Massey-Harris (M-F) tractors that included the 45hp Model 44, the 36hp model 30, and the 31hp model 20.
Where the smaller tractors came in rowcrop or standard configurations, the big 55 came only as a standard, fixed-tread tractor with a swinging drawbar. It was primarily designed for heavy tillage on the wheatlands of the northern plains, but Rice and Hillside Specials were also offered. These special tractors differed mainly in their track (70 inches vs 57.3), tires, high-clearance arched front axle, and hand clutch. The Rice Special used extra-deep lugged tires in back and single rib tires up front. The Hillside Special had tripleribbed tires up front and less deep-cleated rear tires. In 1951, the Hillside Special became known as the Western Special, but both terms are commonly used. While the Rice and Western Specials came standard with a hand clutch and the Standard 55 with a foot clutch, you could specify foot or hand clutches in any of the three models. Options included a variety of tires, steel wheels, extra lighting, and hydraulic systems.
The Massey-Harris 55 was introduced with a directstart 382ci OHV gas engine, as well as a distillate (essentially kerosene) version. The diesel came for 1949 with the same displacement and largely the same lower-end architecture. An LPG fuel version would come later. Like all the engines used by M-H in that day, they were from Continental. It was a big, slow turning unit with a Lanova combustion chamber M-H called the “Dyna-Cell.” Like other Lanova diesels, it was torquey, quiet, and fuel efficient.
The post-World War II era left the ag landscape with big equipment shortages, so new companies started up and the existing ones radically increased their footprints to feed the need. By the early ‘50s, the market became more saturated and the economy was in trouble due to the Korean War. Like many other companies, M-H soon found themselves with a cash flow problem. A potential answer came in a chance to merge with Harry Ferguson Inc., makers of the Ferguson tractors in England and Detroit. That occurred in late 1953 and the company became Massey-Harris- Ferguson. The original plan was to keep it a “Two Line” company, maintaining separate M-H and Ferguson sales identities all the way down to the dealership level. It sounded reasonable in the beginning, but resulted in vicious turf battles in the boardroom and unproductive sales conflicts at the dealership level.
By 1958, the internecine battles for turf made tough decisions necessary. When the smoke cleared, the Harris name had been dropped from the corporate identity and the equipment lines were merged into the Massey-Ferguson (M-F) brand. Unfortunately, much of the Massy-Harris technical DNA disappeared in a flurry of redesigns and outside-purchased, rebadged tractors taking the place of the existing M-H units. Still, things did pick up for the reformed company after that and Massey-Ferguson became a powerhouse brand that still exists today in the AGCO stable of ag equipment.
The M-H Model 55 diesel was built into 1955, when it was replaced by the very similar but improved 555. The big news with the 555 was power steering and a new hydraulic system. The original 55/555 DNA disappeared in 1958, when Massey-Harris became Massey-Ferguson. The 555’s place in the line was taken by the M-F 95, which was essentially a restyled, rebadged Minneapolis-Moline tractor. The other Massey-Harris tractors disappeared in the same way and the M-H brand loyalists of today neither forgive nor forget.DW
TYPICAL SPECIFICATIONS: 1952 MASSEY HARRIS 55 DIESEL
ENGINE: JD382 Massey-Harris /Continental
DISPLACEMENT: 382 ci
BORE & STROKE: 4.5 x 6 in.
*RATED PTO POWER: 60.3 @ 1351 rpm
*RATED DRAWBAR POWER: 54.9 @ 1350 rpm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 15:1
TIRES: Front- 7.50-18 Rear- 14-34
*FUEL CONSUMPTION: 3.94 GPH
*DRAWBAR PULL: 5865 @ 16.6% slip
WEIGHT: 5,125 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY: 27.5 gal.
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