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N-SERIES FORD TRACTOR SERIAL NUMBERS AND MODEL IDENTIFICATION

I have copies of several "official Ford" documents service bulletins and manuals that list serial numbers by year for 9N, 2N, and 8N tractors. Sadly, they are all different, especially for 9N and 2N tractors. Some of these show the change from 9N to 2N happening in 1943 rather than 1942. Some appear to show that 9N and 2N tractors may have been built at the same time in 1942 and 1943. Another reference used to compile N-Tractor serial number data is a list of Monthly tractor production for the 9N tractor that was provided by Mr. Harold Brock (1914-2011). He was the lead engineer in charge of the 9N tractor project.

Industrial machinery is not like automobiles. New models are not introduced every year. Design changes can occur at any time. Many improvements might wait until older style parts already made are used. At the time these tractors were being designed, Ford Motor Company was using single letter designations for each new vehicle development project. Successful projects that made it to production such as the Model "A" and Model "T" are very well known. Many projects never made it all the way to production. The letter "N" was chosen for the new tractor project that would design an affordable tractor using the Harry Ferguson hydraulic plow system. The designation "9N" stands for 1939 Model Tractor. The 9N tractors were produced from 1939 to 1942. They are all officially 1939 model tractors. Ford Motor Company changed the model designation only when it was felt new changes were so extensive, a new model was needed. "2N" stands for 1942 Model Tractor and "8N" stands for 1948 Model Tractor. Obviously, the newer your tractor is, the more factory improvements it will have.

In addition to the basic "9N" and "8N" model prefix, you may find some serial numbers like "9NAN", "BNO", or "9NBN". The "NAN" designation was for a kerosene burning tractor. Mostly sold in Europe, they are very rare in the USA. A "BNO 40" or "BNO 25" serial number prefix indicates a Moto Tug. These were stubby tractors with smaller tires and special sheetmetal, mostly used at airports. The "9NBN" serial number prefix is for a military tractor. There are others. This turned out to be a very popular engine. Ford sold engines for a lot of equipment and machinery made by other companies. Many tractors may have had engines replaced with engines that were originally installed in a completely different vehicle, stationary pump, or generator.

We normally refer to our tractors by year of manufacture, and model designation. The serial numbers stamped on the engine block are consecutive numbers that were hand-stamped on the assembly line. We can use the serial number to figure out the year the tractor was built, and about when it was built during the year.

All N-Series Tractor Serial Numbers were hand-stamped on the engine block, up high, on the left side above the starter. Look for a flat spot in the casting a few inches back from the oil filter, just below the cylinder head. The serial numbers are usually difficult to read and they used some odd characters so a "6" will look like a lowercase "b". All 9N serial numbers will have a small star symbol ☆ stamped at the beginning and the end. Most 8N serial numbers will also have these star symbols. After serial number ☆ 8N433578 ☆ the stars were changed to diamonds (like this ♢ 8N433579 ♢ ) to designate the change to cast sleeves in the cylinders. Do not depend on the stars or diamonds when buying parts to rebuild an engine. Many engines with the stars have been rebuilt using cast sleeves.

Many parts (including engines) are interchangeable. Any tractor that has been in service for over 50 years has had plenty of opportunities for parts to be swapped around. My first 8N tractor turned out to have a 1940-9N engine block. The transmission and axle castings were from 1948 and 1949. My 2N tractor had late 8N rear fenders. A song by Johnny Cash comes to mind, but wasn't that a Cadillac? Maybe he had a tractor too?

Again, these serial number listings are based on an official 1961 Ford TSB document.

BASIC SPECIFICATIONS

Ford 9N

9ntractor
9ntractor

28 H.P., 119.7 cubic inch displacement, 4 cylinder "flathead" engine with direct-driven, front-mounted, distributor, 3-speed transmission, 6V positive ground electrical system, generator, Ferguson hydraulic implement attachment and control system, Power takeoff, and 5-lug 19” front wheels.

[Image Ford 9N Hood Emblem]

Built from June 1939 - 1942 at Dearborn, Michigan
Serial Numbers

1939☆ 9N1 ☆to☆ 9N10310 ☆
1940☆ 9N10311 ☆to☆ 9N45975 ☆
1941☆ 9N45976 ☆to☆ 9N88885 ☆
1942☆ 9N88886 ☆to☆ 9N99000 ☆

Ford 2N

2ntractor
2ntractor

Ford changed Tractor model designations only when there were major design changes. Due to war restrictions on domestic production all rubber tires, generators, starters, and batteries were for military vehicles only. The first 2N model tractors had all steel wheels. The generator and distributor were replaced by a magneto ignition. The hand crank was standard instead of just an option because there was no starter or battery. Since the engine had to be hand-cranked, the choke knob was relocated to the front of the tractor. The government soon realized that food production was very important in wartime. With less manpower available to work the farms, wartime restrictions were soon relaxed for tractors. Very few "wartime" 2N tractors were produced before the specifications were changed back to standard 9N production. Many of the wartime 2Ns were upgraded with rubber tires, batteries, generators, and starters when those parts became available. Collectors have been restoring a few early 2N tractors to their wartime specifications.

[Image Ford 2N Hood Emblem]

Built from 1942 to 1947 at Dearborn, Michigan
Serial Numbers - (Note Prefix is still 9N)

1942☆ 9N99001 ☆to☆ 9N105372 ☆
1943☆ 9N105373 ☆to☆ 9N126535 ☆
1944☆ 9N126536 ☆to☆ 9N169979 ☆
1945☆ 9N169980 ☆to☆ 9N198728 ☆
1946☆ 9N198729 ☆to☆ 9N258501 ☆
1947☆ 9N258502 ☆to☆ 9N306183 ☆

Ford 8N

8ntractor

I couldn't resist. This is of course not an original 8N, it is the picture of my 1952. The vertical exhaust is an aftermarket improvement, the original exhaust ran under the right floorboard.

The new 8N was a major redesign that went much further than the new "red belly" paint scheme. The front-distributor, 4 cylinder "flathead" engine got a slight increase in compression, and the transmission was now a 4-speed. Modifications to the hydraulic implement control system added a new position control lever under the seat. These changes may have been an attempt to avoid violating the Ferguson patents and the "Ferguson System" emblem was no longer displayed on the grill. Full-length running boards were added and both brake pedals were moved to the right side. Rear wheels were redesigned with smaller hubs and the front wheels were changed to 6-lug, 19” or 16”.

As in the past, improvements continued to show up on the 8N tractors, without regard to a particular model year. The steering gear was redesigned sometime in 1949, the new side distributor engine appeared in mid-1950, and headlight "wing" mounts changed to the round type. By the time production ended in 1952, a proof-meter had been added to the dash, the upper lift arms were improved, and the transmission housing got a "bump" in the side to provide space for a future slower (larger) reverse grear.

[Image Ford 8N Hood Emblem]

Built from July 1947 - 1952 at Dearborn, Michigan
Serial Numbers - (Note Change To 8N Prefix)

1947☆ 8N1 ☆to☆ 8N37907 ☆
1948☆ 8N37908 ☆to☆ 8N141369 ☆
1949☆ 8N141370 ☆to☆ 8N245636 ☆
1950☆ 8N245637 ☆to☆ 8N343592 ☆
1951☆ 8N343593 ☆to♢ 8N442034 ♢
1952♢ 8N442035 ♢to♢ 8N524076 ♢

Higher Serial Numbers

There are individuals who claim to have 8N tractors with higher serial numbers. Would you believe ♢ 8N567420 ♢? I'm a bit skeptical of one that high. So far, serial number ♢ 8N524076 ♢ is the highest 8N number that seems to be verifiable. If anyone has documentation of a higher number, with photo or some other way to document it, please send it to me.

Please remember, it has been well over 50 years since production of the 8N tractor ended. Many parts are interchangable. Older tractors may have been upgraded with newer parts or old parts may have replaced broken parts. Many tractors have had engines and other parts replaced. It can be difficult to determine if a tractor is all original. Many dealers took tractors in trade and reconditioned them to "like new" condition. This process often included a complete strip and painting them the latest color scheme. Layers of paint and dirt can easily conceal mismatched parts. There is nothing wrong with mis-matched parts if you are looking for a working tractor.

Other identifying marks are casting codes, which usually include a date, or date code. The trick to reading those seems to vary from one part to another. Some codes are four digits like D128. The letter indicates month with "A" being the first month "January", so "D" in this example would be "April". The next two letters are the day of the month, and the final letter indicates the year.

Ford made many changes nearly every year these tractors were produced. Based on those changes and casting date codes it is often possible to determine when a tractor was built even when the engine is a mismatch. The absolute best site for this type of ID search is John Smith's N-Tractor site. He has an awesome photographic record of production changes for each model year, including in many cases the serial number where a change was introduced. In fact, if there is a more accurate serial number list, I believe it would be what John Smith has put together on his model identification page at Smith's Old Ford Tractors - ID History

VALUE - "What's My Tractor Worth?"

The value of antiques is generally in direct proportion to their rarity. N-Tractors may never be considered "rare". The average, non-running, field ornament, can often be hauled away free-of-charge. I wouldn't offer more than $500 for a non-running tractor, unless it was sitting on a good set of original "hat" rims. Good rear tires are worth at least $400, since new ones will cost at least $800 by the time you have them mounted. Prices for running N-Tractors, start around $1000. New paint costs about $50, but seems to add $1000 to the asking price. So, DO NOT be fooled by a new paint job! An honest value in Central Virginia for a good running, N-Tractor, with straight sheet metal, good tires, and no major mechanical issues is around $2500.

Low serial number tractors for each model are worth more to collectors. The earliest 9N's had cast aluminum hoods that are very rare and collectable today. An early, original 1939-9N might be the holy grail of collectable N-Series tractors. An early 2N on steel wheels with magneto ignition is another collectable. Funk 6 cylinder engine conversions, and others, such as the Flathead V8, are in a completely different price bracket. A well done conversion, in poor condition might start at around $5000. If you are just looking for a working tractor, the higher serial numbers for each model will have the most factory upgrades. Overall Condition has more bearing on value than anything else, unless you are a collector. Even a complete basket case is not beyond redemption if you can get it cheap. Most parts are still readily available. These well designed, extremely durable machines continue to do real work while other tractors of the same era were scrapped long ago.

HOW MANY N-TRACTORS ARE THERE?

The Ford N-Series tractors were very successful. Over 800,000 tractors were produced from 1939 to 1952, and about half of them may still be lurking in barns and fields. Some N-Tractors were shipped overseas, but to put the number in perspective, there may still be as many as 20 actual running N-Tractors per county in the USA, plus another 40 or 50 per county lurking in barns and fields, waiting to be restored!

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