The Massey 101 was one cool machine

Stylish and powerful, the redesigned tractor won the affections of farmers across the country

When it came to marrying style with functionality, James Duncan was the Steve Jobs of his day and his Massey Harris Model 101 Senior was — and is — as cool as anything to come out of Apple’s design lab.

With its streamlined hood, bright-red paint with yellow wheels, chrome trim, and louvred side curtains on the engine bay, the Massey 101 was revolutionary.

Duncan, Massey Harris’s general manager, conceived the machine in 1936. The company’s Wallis tractor designs were becoming dated and with the worst of the Great Depression seemingly over, Duncan rightly believed there would be an appetite for something fresh and eye-catching.

And like his California counterpart, Duncan understood the importance of marrying form and function — and saving money by outsourcing.

With money still tight, Duncan was able to fund a new tractor design by incorporating Chrysler Corporation’s new industrial flathead six-cylinder motor of 201 cubic inches. That would not only save the company the cost of designing its own engine, but Chrysler’s worldwide parts and service network would save Massey Harris money in both parts supply and training service technicians.

And since Chrysler wouldn’t do a short production run just for Massey Harris, the engines, which were used in trucks, came with electric starters — a first for a farm tractor. When used in tractors, the engine was governed to a lower r.p.m., and although that lowered horsepower, it increased engine life and reduced the possibility of engine and drive train damage.

The 101 was introduced in 1938 and offered a four-speed transmission, PTO, muffler and instruments as standard equipment. A lighting system was optional. Twin power was also standard. The twin power feature resulted in the engine being governed to 1,500 r.p.m. when the tractor was being used for drawbar work. When used for belt work the twin-power feature could be engaged to boost r.p.m. to 1,800.

The 101 could be purchased in either standard or row-crop configurations, the latter having adjustable rear wheels, individual rear-wheel brakes, and a combined PTO and implement lift. There was also a single front-wheel option for vegetable growers.

A 217-cubic-inch flathead six option was introduced in 1939 and became standard a year later, as did the Twin Power 101 Super that churned out almost 50 horsepower.

Towards the end of the 101’s production run, the styling was altered with the side curtains on the engine bay being changed to a half-panel design with the engine’s sides exposed. This wartime version also lost the chrome trim on the screened grill.

Equipment made by Massey Harris and sister companies will be featured at the 2013 Threshermen’s Reunion from July 25-28. For more info, visit ag-museum.mb.ca.

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