June 30, '01: The origin of the Dexta diesel engines
Many people (myself included) always assumed that the Dexta came with Perkins engines. Brian Dye, however, knows better! This is what he has to say on the subject!

"It is a common mistake to refer to the engine as a Perkins. This is not really correct. Perkins were developing a P3 engine which did not meet Fords requirements. This was the P3.144. The engine fitted to the Dexta was an F3.144. The Super Dexta engine was the F3.152. Ford required an inline injection pump and other changes which Perkins agreed to carry out and the deal was struck. All the major castings were made at the Ford factory at Dagenham; Perkins only made the smaller items like manifolds and assembled the engine. Engines were built as required and transferred from the Perkins Factory each day. Lorries took engines from Peterborough to Dagenham and returned to Peterborough with the machined castings for the next days assembly. No stocks of the engine were held at either company. When Ford discontinued the Dexta the engine was then sold as a Perkins P3.144 to companies like Massey Ferguson to fit in the MF 35 etc. Perkins books from the factory have no mention of the P3.144 until after Dexta production ceased."

"It seems that a lot of people have not understood the tie-up between Ford and Perkins. Would you give full control of your little tractor engine to your rival? Massey Ferguson bought Perkins and Ford needed to retain control of its power unit."

"The P3.144 engine was a replacement for P3 engines and was rated at 35hp at 2000 rpm. This engine used the CAV in line pump rather than the Simms pump and was eventually fitted with the CAV DPA pump when the bore size was increased to 152. Perkins assembled the F3 engines and designed some of the parts but Ford had a far higher input than they were given credit for. Perkins assembled 154,322 F3.144 engines and 64,496 F3.152 between August 1957 and October 1964."

Many thanks to Brian for setting the record straight and putting this misconception to rest!
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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June 23, '01: What are the different Dexta models made over the years?
The following Dexta models were made:
  • The 1957/1958 standard model (F3.144 engine, diesel), blue/orange, with horizontal (underswept) exhaust.
  • The 1957/1958 standard model (F3.144 engine,diesel), blue/orange, with vertical exhaust.
  • The 1958 industrial model (F3.144 engine,diesel), blue/orange, with horizontal (underswept) exhaust; this Dexta was finished by County Commercial Cars at their Fleet factory. It had a hydraulic braking system, front-wheel fenders, rear-view mirrors and came standard with lighting and a speedometer (which were optional at the time on the agricultural Dextas). These adaptations permitted the tractor to operate on public roads on non-agricultural licenses.
  • The 1958/1959 petrol Dexta, blue/orange, with vertical exhaust (see below for further details).
  • The 1960 restyle (F3.144 engine,diesel), blue/orange, with vertical exhaust; this Dexta had the headlights incorporated into the grille. Also, the side Fordson Dexta decals on the bonnet first appeared (before then, only the nose decal was used). All tractors came with vertical exhausts from now on. From April 1962 onwards, Simms Minimec fuel pumps were used.
  • The 1962 Super Dexta (F3.152 engine, diesel), blue/orange; the Super Dexta emerged with a different nose bonnet and had more power due to its bored-out engine.
  • The 1963 standard model (F3.144 engine, diesel), blue/grey; the first Dextas with the blue/grey colour scheme.
  • The 1963 new performance Super Dexta (F3.152 engine, diesel), blue/grey; these had their output power increased to 44.5 HP due to increased engine revolutions up to 3,000 rpm. They were only made from June 1963 until September 1964.
  • The Diesel 2000 for US export - this is the name given to the Super Dexta in the USA.
  • The 1963 Dexta Special (Germany only); this Dexta was specially made for the German market. It featured broad rear-wheel fenders with a seat, direction-indicators, horizontal (underswept) exhausts and decals reading Fordson Dexta Special. There were also a number Super Dextas made for the German market with the same characteristics.
  • The Manuel/Roadless 4WD Dexta; see below for details or click link.
  • The Narrow Dexta; this one had a minimum width of only 52" and a maximum of 76".
Please note that there appear to be quite a few Dextas out there that do not seem to fall within one of these categories! First, a number of 'transition' units were made during periods of change-over at the plant (and to use up old parts that were still in stock). Second, many Dextas that have survived over the years have been kept running by using parts from other Dextas, resulting in 'mosaic' tractors. This can also make it more difficult to date the tractor properly (see Serial Numbers and Production Dates).
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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March 22, 2002: What are the facts about the petrol Dexta?
Apart from the common diesel-equipped Dextas a relatively small number of petrol Dextas were made, which were equipped with a 4-cylinder Standard 87 mm engine. Engine aside, there are a number of differences between the diesel and petrol versions:
  • Petrol Dextas are longer than diesel Dextas due to the extended hood and the longer clutch housing.
  • The location of the exhaust manifold (on the right side of the hood).
  • Petrol Dextas have an extra fuel tank located where the battery is on the diesel versions; the battery has been moved to the footplate near the rear axle.
  • The dashboard is quite different (see picture, 53 KB, opens in new window):
    • the choke knob is located where the engine-stop cable is positioned on the diesel version; the petrol version has no engine-stop cable;
    • the proofmeter turns clockwise, instead of counter-clockwise on the diesel version;
    • the starter-button is located where the heating-filament button is positioned on the diesel version, and the starter-lever as used on the diesel version is absent.

See Petrol Dexta specifications for technical data.

No official sales brochures of the petrol Dexta seems to exist anymore. Power ratings and other specifications have to be obtained from the few surviving tractors. There are still a few of them around (see also Mark Pugh's Petrol Dexta). The exact number produced is unknown, though an estimate of 1,200 units is frequently reported. Other sources claim only 50 units were made world-wide! Compared to the diesel versions, this is a very small number indeed! During a recent trip to Denmark I saw one standing by the roadside for days on end, unattended. This was a really special one as it did not have the extra fuel tank! Also, it had headlights incorporated into the grille (as opposed to attached to the hood as was standard on petrol Dextas). See the pictures below (click to enlarge).

There's a lot of controversy about the production dates and serial numbers of the petrol Dexta. The "common view" (as documented in a number of books) is that petrol Dextas were made during 1958 and 1959 and were sold only in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand. The serial number prefix was thought to be 959E (the same format as the 957E prefix used for the diesel Dextas that were made before November, 1961). Check out Serial Numbers and Production Dates for an overview.

This "common view" is contradicted by a multitude of reports from petrol Dexta owners around the world (including countries where the tractor wasn't even sold according to the "common view"). They posted their information on the Fordson Bulletin Board. The evidence presented by them makes it clear that petrol Dextas were also produced after 1959 and differed from the earlier ones in appearance and serial number prefix:

  • People from Canada claim to own Petrol Dextas, but according to the "common view" the '58/'59 batch was never exported to the US and Canada.
  • My fellow Dutchman Bart Lansink has owned 2 Petrol Dextas, one with the 959E prefix and one with the 09C prefix. The former one has a very low engine number. Both were post-1959, because the 959E tractor had its headlights incorporated into the front grill (a change made in 1960) while the 09C tractor was identical to the 959E in terms of construction but had the blue/grey colour scheme.
  • I myself took the two pictures shown above of a Danish Petrol Dexta that is clearly a post-1959 tractor: headlights into front grille, no nose decal, and colour differences on the bonnet where the lost side decals used to be.

So, either production of the Petrol did not stop in '59, or if it did stop there must have been later, additional production runs that were never documented in the various books on Fordson history. The low engine number of Bart's 1960 Petrol with the 959E prefix suggests a second production run.

Based on all this, I put forward the hypothesis that there are 4 different kinds of Petrol Dextas out there:

  1. The 1958 - 1959 version: blue/orange, vertical exhaust, a single nose decal, external headlights, 959E prefix.
  2. The 1960 - November, 1961 version: blue/orange, vertical exhaust, no nose decal, two side decals, internal headlights, 959E prefix. Bart Lansink owned one of these.
  3. The November, 1961 - June, 1963 version: identical to the previous tractor except for the prefix, which changed to either 09A, 09B or 09C (depending on the year).
  4. The June, 1963 - September, 1964 version: blue/grey, vertical exhaust, no nose decal, two side decals, internal headlights, 09C or 09D prefix. Bart Lansink also owned one of these.

The tractor I photographed falls into category 2 or 3. Donald Provost emailed me 4 images of his petrol Dexta that is currently being lovingly restored. Donald is from Canada, a country where the petrol Dexta wasn't even sold according to the "common view". This tractor belongs to category 4 (note that Donald has removed the second fuel tank and put the battery back under the hood):


Rear axle

Engine (left)

Front

Engine (right)

Most people who deny the "common view" insist that there were no petrol Dextas made during 1958 and 1959; instead, they claim production didn't start until 1960. I disagree with them: the book Classic Tractor Special: Fordson Dexta 957E 1957-1964 presents pictures of a petrol Dexta that clearly show a tractor of category 1.

The debate continues; as soon as new information comes available you'll find it first on the Fordson Bulletin Board and then here.

Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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April 17, '00: How should a 1939 Fordson N be started up, and how can I set up (i.e. tune) the engine properly?
This question was emailed to me by Jan Meeuwissen. I haven't got a clue myself! Anybody who has any advice to offer is invited to respond!
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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April 12, '00: What's the history of the Super Major?
The following was posted by Steven Barker on the Fordson bulletin board at Yesterday's Tractors Magazine:

The Super Major was the last in the of E1A series of tractors produced from 1951 to 1964 at Dagenham, England. I do not know the actual figures but I would guess that 99% of Super Majors were Diesel. There were no TVO or Kerosene versions, There was a Petrol version but they are rare. They were produced in such quantities that towards the end of production, over 300 were being made each day.

There are three variants of the Super Major. Released in 1960, the tractor had the following changes when the Power Major was superceded:
-Disc Brakes
-Diff Lock
-Position ConTrol/Qualitrol hydraulics
-Strenthened differential
-Changed styling on front cross member
-Fenders/wings modified for disc brakes
-Head lights moved into grill on UK market
-Horizontal bars on grill for export market
-Changed badging

In 1962, the Simms injector pump was replaced by a Minimec unit (this still has Simms on the casting). This injector pump has a mechanical govenor instead of the pneumatic type of the previous model. This change gave a slight horsepower increase from 52 to 54.

In 1963 the "New Performance" Super Major was introduced. This model was the last E1A Major's and the most visible change was the colour, instead of light blue with orange wheels, it was light blue with grey fenders, wheels and seat. Also the chrome "Fordson SUPER MAJOR" badge was replaced by a blue and silver "FORDSON" decal and the badge on the front had grey letters. The front wheels were changed to steel from cast on the UK market in line with some export tractors. Some of these tractors were badged as "FORD 5000 Super Major" with a grey bonnet/hood in the USA. The major mechanical improvements with this model are:
-Changed gearbox and diff ratios
-Drop control for the three point linkage
-New hydraulic pump with increased flow
-Improved swirl on the intake ports, the cylinder head being identified with the letters "FL" cast near number one injector

All of these tracors are first class. They are built like an Iowa class battleship. There are a number of options that are highly desireable. Live PTO is top of my list, then the Raised PTO. The raised PTO allows you to disengage a mower but still use the hydraulics. lastly, power steering. The steering on the majors is not to heavy but if you have a front end loader, this is a must have.

These tractors are reliable, easy to start, stong pullers, easy to work on, economical, parts are readely available, and, all in all, one of the best tractors in the world. I have a late 62 Super Major, and I love it."

As an addition, there were Super Majors with 4 cylinder engines and others with 6 cylinder engines. On top of that, there were some equipped with Manuel/Roadless 4 wheel drive. There are a few 6 cylinder 4WD Super Majors in Holland. and those are AWESOME in terms of power, performance and looks.
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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March 26, '00: Is it harmful to use ether while starting a tractor?
Yes, it is. An engine only needs fuel, air, coolant, oil and a good battery to get it running and keep it running. If it doesn't, something's wrong with it. Using ether won't fix that; it'll only get a faulty engine started, while instead you should have it checked and fixed. Even worse, ether is likely to damage the engine. I have two cracked pistons sitting at home as proof of that (the previous owner also liked ether very much). After starting using ether, there's no way an engine's going to start without it, even in summer. To summarize, don't fight the symptoms (with ether), but solve the underlying problem instead. Engine damage aside, using ether can also be outright dangerous. After all, it's being sprayed in the air inlet, and it's likely to meet a heating filament on the way to the engine. That would cause the ether to catch fire in the air inlet manifold, which could have disastrous impact on your health.
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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September 06, '99: What are the color codes of all the relevant Fordson paint colors - blue, orange, white, red (Dexta, Major) and creme (Dearborn)?
Opinions vary on this subject. Here are some thoughts. Adam Bosch was kind enough to send me the following information on paint colours:
"I will begin with paint numbers, all the following are DITZLER paint numbers that any DITZLER dealer can work with, other companies could cross the numbers. All colors are accurate reproductions, these are correct.
American F or Irish built Fordson:
    THIS WILL MIX ONE QUART OF GREY PAINT:
  • DMR 475-12
  • 440-26
  • 486-74
  • 491-278
  • 400-398
  • 490-418
  • DXR 495-438
  • DMR 499-1074
    THIS WILL MIX ONE QUART OF RED PAINT:
  • DMR 401-20
  • 406-180
  • 405-648
  • DXR 495-668
  • DMR 499-1144
English built Fordson N paint 1933-1939
  • BLUE - DAR10984 (Called "Morning Blue")
  • ORANGE - DAR60521
English built Fordson N paint 1940-1945
  • GREEN - DAR2806 "Called "Spanish Green")

As I mentioned before all above numbers are DITZLER numbers, the last three are a number that is assigned to a code, the paint shop will look up and mix the paint accordingly."

Many thanks, Adam! Brian Dye also was kind enough to send his thoughts on the matter:
"When the Fordson Major came out in 1952 it was painted Fordson New Major Blue and Orange for the front and rear wheels. The Orange was far nearer Howard Rotovator orange than the Fiat colour which has a "brownie" look to me. When the paint on the wheels faded it went a yellowish colour. The New Fordson Major was a very "bright" coloured tractor after the dark colours of the Fordson Standard and E27N Major. The colour remained the same until the Grey Wheeled Super Major of 1963 when the blue was lightened to New Performance Super Major Blue. The Grey of the wheels is more cream than grey. I have noticed a wide variety of "blues" at various shows and feel that this is due to the wide range of paint manufacturers ideas of the original colour. I do remember clearly, that when driving a New Major in the early 1950's in the semidarkness of evening it became almost a light grey, similar to the Ferguson. I get my paint from the local CNH dealer who can still supply the Fordson Major Blue."
Thanks a lot, Brian! Obviously, it's difficult to draw a hard line between the 'right' and the 'wrong' colours! As for myself, for the blue, orange and white found on the Dexta, Super Dexta, Major, Super Major and Power Major I'd recommend visiting your local New Holland dealer. Since the merger of Fiat Agro and Ford you'll find it all under one roof (the orange for the wheels is very similar to the orange Fiat used to use on their tractors).
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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July 25, '99: Are there any health-hazards involved with restoring or repairing an old Fordson?
Yes, unfortunately there are.
First of all, the lining of the brake shoe assembly (Part No. 957E-2019 for the Dexta, Dutch: remschoenen) are made of the highly toxic asbestos (Dutch: asbest). This material causes lungcancer, and has been banned from use around the world. Even worse, as the shoe erodes with use, amounts of powdery asbestos collect within the brake housing. You can easily breathe in this highly carcinogenic powder! Even with precautions, working with asbestos is quite dangerous. The best thing is to let professionals handle this particular job. It will cost you some, but you won't put yourself and others in danger. Back in the '50s and '60s, the dangers of asbestos had not been discovered yet, and the material was used extensively in all sorts of applications. After people who had been exposed to asbestos started dying of lungcancer by the hundreds, science caught on and the material was banned.
As for other dangers, there are plenty. Diesel fuel is flammable, it is bad for your skin and it's a pollutant. You can burn yourself on hot engine parts or on hot oil. You can damage your hands when a nut suddenly comes loose from the bolt. Serious accidents can happen when you crick up the tractor to work under it; under no circumstance work under cricked-up a tractor! Always secure the tractor with metal garage-stands or large wooden blocks. Using ether can also be quite dangerous (see other question below). Even a seemingly harmless activity such as inflating a tyre can be very dangerous; tractor tyres need to be inflated inside a special metal cage to prevent pieces flying around if the tyre blows. People have lost limbs and suffered hearing damage because of blowing tyres. If a tyre starts to make creaking noises while inflating then move away and warn other people, as it's likely to blow soon.
Most of the dangers can be spotted with a little common sense. Haste is the most common source of accidents. Work slowly and meticulously. Ask for advice from experienced mechanics, read manuals and study repair guides. Don't think it'll only happen to someone else! Remember, if anything should happen, it's going to be nobody's fault but your own!
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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May 6, '99: Do 4-wheel drive Dexta's exist?
Yes, as a matter of fact they do. Manuel/Roadless made a conversion kit. A section was added between the gearbox and the rear axle with a driveline running alsongside the tractor to the front axle. Not many of them around, now, and very hard to find. There's a picture of a 4WD Super Dexta in the Photo Album.
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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May 6, '99: How can you add fresh oil to the steering gear of a Dexta?
The steering gear of a Dexta contains approximately 1 litre of oil. Though there is a removable plug (Part No. 88358-S) at the top of the steering gear, a better way to add oil is to disconnect both arms (Part No. 957E-3590), remove the large nut (Part No. 957E-3516) at the top of the steering wheel, pour a little oil in the hollow shaft, replace the nut and turn the wheel until all the oil has disappeared into the shaft. Keep at it until the oil no longer disappears, then reassemble.
Please post your comments on the Fordson Bulletin Board.
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