The Wheels are Turning:
Henry Ford’s Tractor Returns to Ford
Written by Shannon GaNun
When the wheels started turning in Ford Member Ralph Eagles’ head, it would take a few years before the wheels were actually turning on Henry Ford’s old Fordson tractor… but turn they now do. After about three years, dozens of phone calls, hundreds of emails and countless hours, a collaboration among Eagle, Ford Member Ben MacMillan and The Ford Plantation Club brought the old tractor back to life. “When we bought this place as founders, the tractor was here,” says Ralph. “There weren’t many remnants of Ford that weren’t stolen, taken or whatever else. The tractor was too big for anybody to take, so I think that’s the only reason it was left here.”
A native of Detroit, Eagle now spends about 7–8 months a year at his home in The Ford Plantation. He says he has always had a special place in his heart for Ford Motors, and like many from the Motor City, he feels a kinship with Henry Ford and the Ford family. He has a fondness for the land here and its history, almost immediately, he fell in love with the property during his first visit in 1997. Because of these connections, he felt inspired to let others know of the tractor on property.
At a Member meeting about three years ago, “I stood up and I said, ‘My name is Henry Ford. This is my house. And I don’t like the way everybody’s treating my tractor.’” After that meeting, Ralph made a deal with the Club Board to have the tractor “lent” to him for five years so that he could get it running again. Ralph then enlisted the help of Ben MacMillan, owner of MacAljon, Inc., who provided the space and personnel to work on the tractor. Ben, in turn, enlisted the help of employee Bruce Anderson, MacAljon’s chief mechanic, who “worked on it for about a year and a half off-and-on when he had spare time,” says Ben.
Finding the parts and knowledge needed to refurbish this 1928 Fordson tractor—a brand that is not in production today—took some digging. “I got online and I found a place in Escanaba, Michigan, way up north, and of all things, they have every part to every Fordson tractor,” says Ralph. “Without having this place in Escanaba, we probably wouldn’t have ever gotten this done. There’s only one place in the world that carries those parts.”
Every effort was made to save the original parts of the tractor. “The seat should have been thrown away, but Bruce figured Henry Ford sat in that seat, so he got it fixed,” says Ralph. Original parts also include the steering wheel, the block, the wheels and the frame. The transmission was completely redone, but the transmission housing is original.
On a bright, sunny day in late October 2012, the newly refurbished tractor was revealed at The Clubhouse, in front of quite a few surprised and delighted Members and guests. As to the future use of the tractor—Members of the community may get a glimpse of it soon. “I’ve been asked by the Mayor if we could use it in the annual Richmond Hill parade,” says Ralph. Ford Plantation Members can expect to see the tractor at future events on property!