Rooted in the 1891 merger of agricultural-equipment makers Massey Manufacturing Co. and A. Harris, Son & Co. Ltd., the Canadian-based Massey-Harris firm was one of the largest and most successful companies of its kind. Even after the end of Canadian operations in 1988 with the closure of the Brantford, Ontario Massey Ferguson factory, the company enjoyed steady success which continues today from its Duluth, Minnesota base. Massey-Harris has the distinction of being one of Canada’s first multinational companies when a new U.S. factory was opened in 1910. Sensing strong demand for new internal-combustion tractors, Massey-Harris introduced American-built Bull tractors to the Canadian market, and after that company failed in 1919, Chicago-built Parret tractors were sold.
Massey-Harris truly hit its stride by introducing the first self-propelled combine grain harvester and one of the world’s first four-wheel-drive farm tractors in the 1930s. The immediate pre-and post-war years saw the company set up factories abroad in Australia, England, France, and Germany, as the various Massey family took less direct interest in the company’s operations and branched out into government, Hollywood acting, and religious and educational philanthropy. In particular, Vincent Massey went on to serve as Canada’s Governor-General, the country’s representative to Queen Elizabeth II, from 1952 to 1959. Acquisition of the British Ferguson company in 1963 eventually begat a corporate name change to Massey Ferguson by 1959.
The signature Massey-Harris product of the immediate post-WW II era was the Model 44, a highly versatile and successful tractor ideally suited to a wide range of uses and international markets. Produced in Canada at the Brantford, Ontario Massey-Harris plant and at the company’s Racine, Wisconsin factory, the ‘44’ was first offered in 1946 with a standard-width front tread, followed the next year by a special row-crop version with closely spaced front wheels. Initially available with gasoline engines supplied by Continental Motors and rated 45 horsepower at the flywheel and a factory-claimed 44 horsepower from the power takeoff (PTO) implement drive, the ‘44’ was also offered with a diesel engine by 1948. Export sales of the Model 44 to the U.K. took place from 1948 to 1950 as Britain’s postwar recovery gained momentum. The relatively compact dimensions of the ‘44’ also made it ideal for orchard and vineyard use with the addition of streamlined wheel spats, a low-exit exhaust system, and lower-body panels that also provided the unintended benefit of making the tractor delightfully attractive as well as functional. Model 44 production continued until 1955 when the Model 50 succeeded it.
Approximately 150 Model 44 orchard tractors were produced, with surviving examples highly sought-after by collectors today for their incomparable streamline design, simplicity, and remarkable usability. Handsomely and professionally restored from the ground up, this example sports its exceedingly rare streamlined bodywork, which, along with the special narrow track width, was designed to protect delicate fruit trees and grape vines while negotiating the confines of orchards and vineyards. Superbly detailed and correctly finished in Massey-Harris’ signature Red paint with Straw Yellow wheels and authentically reproduced factory decals and medallions, this Model 44 orchard tractor also features an interesting cowled operator’s compartment. Ample power is delivered by a reconditioned 260ci Continental 4-cylinder engine mated to a 5-speed transmission with reverse. Other restoration highlights include correct new gauges, a new wiring harness, a low outlet exhaust system, and a correct set of new tires. Excellent detail and finishing lends a factory-fresh appearance to this high-level restoration. The marvelous streamlined bodywork transcends its intended function, making this Massey just as well-suited to a world-class collection as it would be working the fields. Certain to gather admirers wherever you may ever choose to show it, the true beauty of this unusual and highly attractive 1951 Massey-Harris Model 44 orchard tractor lies in its renowned functionality.
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