With no practical use whatsoever, other than wow, dazzle and amaze, we check out a very extreme 1953 Ferguson TE20 customisation project.
Simon Henley reports...
This is a Ferguson TE20 V8. It is powered by a Range Rover 3.5-litre V8 engine mated to a Ferguson four-speed gearbox, and it will accelerate from a standing start to its top-speed of 40mph in about six seconds flat.
The tractor features a modern seat, a custom-built safety-frame, a foot throttle, retro LED lighting, a tachometer to monitor the engine speed, a fire-extinguisher and oversized tyres to handle the engines power.
It is superbly engineered, beautifully painted and with its twin stainless-steel exhaust stacks, it sounds absolutely sensational.
From a practical perspective, this V8-powered Ferguson does have a few inherent weaknesses.
For a start it barely does five-mpg, and if it was attached to a cultivator or a heavy trailer, giving it too much throttle would almost certainly either burn-up the clutch or destroy the transmission.
This tractor was built purely for fun, yet believe it or not the idea of actually farming with a V8-powered Ferguson tractor dates back to the late-1940s.
The farmers’ quest for greater power is as old as the tractor itself, and the first engine conversion kits for Ferguson-designed tractors in the USA can be traced back to 1948, when the Funk Manufacturing Company in Oklahoma produced a kit to allow the fitment of a six-cylinder Ford truck engine into the Ford 8N, and earlier 9N and 2N tractors.
This gasoline-powered engine conversion was popular with Ford tractor owners, and over 6,000 conversion kits were sold.
However, there were still farmers who wanted more power, prompting Funk to produce a similar kit which used the popular Ford Flat-Head V8 engine.
Unfortunately only 140 V8-kits were sold, as the engine’s 100hp output was too much for the tractors’ differentials to handle under a heavy load. Production of the Funk kits would eventually cease in 1953.
Fast-forward 70-years, and the satisfaction of dropping a thumping V8 into a Ferguson tractor still appeals to some tractor enthusiasts, and Leicestershire-native Roger Twigger, aka Dodge, is no exception.
"The Rover V8 is the perfect sized engine for the TE20," reveals Mr Twigger.
"It is something that I have wanted to do for years, and when I retired I decided I would give it a go. I always thought it would be a great hobby tractor for doing road-runs and the occasional show."
The tractor chosen was a 1953 TVO-powered Ferguson TE20, purchased as a non-runner from Fergieland at Melbourne near Derby.
From the outset, Roger knew replacing the tractor’s original 20hp four-cylinder standard engine would require some engineering trickery, so he turned to his friend Mick Furniss for some help.
"Mick has his own fabrication and engineering business, and he has done engine conversions in Fergies before," explains Mr Twigger.
"He knew exactly what was required to keep the tractor somewhere near its original length, and his calculations were spot-on."
The V8 engine selected to provide the power, was a 132hp twin-carburettor unit extracted from a defunct 1979 Range Rover equipped with a manual gearbox.
Prior to purchasing the engine, Roger had never even seen it run and quite expected the motor to require an overhaul.
Amazingly, the V8 proved to be in exceptional condition and needed little more than a carburettor rebuild, new spark plugs, a distributor overhaul and fresh oil.
"The first thing we did was scrap the Ferguson TVO gearbox, and source a rebuilt transmission from a diesel model, which is about 25mm shorter."
He adds: "The longer input shaft from the TVO gearbox was retained, so it would compensate for the 22mm adaptor plate required to bolt the Rover engine to the Ferguson transmission."
To mate the Ferguson 254mm clutch unit to the V8 engine’s flywheel, Mr Furniss had a 12.5mm mild-steel faceplate made at a local machine shop.
This was bolted directly onto the front of the flywheel, and the clutch assembly was then attached to the faceplate.
Mr Furniss then modified the clutch release-slide, extending it 25mm to allow the thrust bearing to travel far enough forward to make contact with the clutch forks.
This was done by machining a new collar and welding it to the original slide.
Once the adaptor plate had been measured, it too was professionally machined and drilled.
Having bolted the adaptor plate onto the gearbox, the engine was attached so that Roger could fabricate a pair of chassis rails to fit underneath it.
The Range Rover’s engine-mounts were then attached to the chassis rails, to help support the V8 engine’s weight.
With the chassis rails in-situ, Mr Twigger fabricated a bespoke front cross-member to provide a support for the front axle.
The centreline of the axle pivot-point was positioned directly in-line with the engine crankshaft, and once positioned it was completed using the original Ferguson brackets to support the radiator and the bonnet.
"The idea of doing this was to enable us to use the original Ferguson front axle," says Mr Twigger.
"Once we had got everything exactly right, the front axle was completely overhauled and then fitted with larger wheels and wider tyres.
"The back wheels are actually 28-inch Fordson rims. These are fitted with oversize 14-inch tyres, which were part-worn take-offs I purchased from a local farmer."
Engine: Rover 3.5L V8, twin-carb
Transmission: Ferguson four-speed
Top speed: 40mph
Having managed to shoe-horn the V8 engine into the Ferguson, Mr Twigger was now faced with a few challenges - the V8 engine required an alternator, forcing Mr Twigger to raise the bonnet height by 25mm.
He also had to extend the front axle retaining arms, as the tractor was now 50mm longer.
Another issue were the exhausts.
Mr Twigger was adamant he wanted twin stacks, but he had to find matching exhaust manifolds.
Eventually after some research, he procured a set of manifolds from a Rover P6 3500 which fitted perfectly, allowing him to precisely position the exhaust stacks on either side of the bonnet.
Unfortunately the positioning of the exhaust stacks also posed another problem, as they interfered with the drag-link steering arms coming from the steering box.
Mr Furniss’ solution was to remove the drag links, heat them gently and apply enough pressure to splay them slightly so they just missed the exhaust. It worked perfectly.
As planned, by slightly extending the steering nacelle, Mr Twigger was able to use an OEM Ferguson TE20 bonnet. He also managed to keep the battery and the fuel tank in their original positions.
However, thanks to the overhead positioning of the V8 engine’s Stromberg/SU carburettors, he was forced to halve the size of the fuel tank to 14-litres.
"The fuel tank is a bit small," confesses Mr Twigger.
"To avoid running out of fuel, I found a little five-litre Jerry can and mounted it in between the seat and the number plate bracket. It is what I call my reserve tank."
Novelty tractors like this Ferguson TE20 V8 are few and far between, yet this example arguably demonstrates just how durable the design of the TE20 really was.
In the meantime, if you happen to be in West-Leicestershire and come across an old Ferguson that accelerates like a Golf GTI, you will now know why.
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