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Introducing new tractors in other countries took ingenuity


 How fortunate I was during my years with International Harvester Co. Travels for those years covered 49 states and 52 foreign countries. Some unusual experiences during those years come to mind.

Panama, 1967 - We invited our Central and South American distributors and dealers to Panama for a new product introduction. Ahead of time we shipped a newly released International 4100 4-wheel drive tractor to the meeting site. This was the first of Harvester’s large all-wheel drive tractors, and we demonstrated it at Panama with a moldboard plow and other implements. Smaller new model tractors from IH Great Britain and IH Germany were also introduced at the event. Our guests drove the equipment, then gathered to hear our presentations.

The challenge we had to face ahead of time, however, was the language barrier. Spanish, French, German and Portuguese-speaking distributors would attend, as well as English. To solve that, we hired translators for each language. Each foreign-speaking guest was given a transistor radio with ear plugs. If his home language was Spanish, he was given a radio with a Spanish frequency, tuned to the Spanish translator sitting behind the speaker’s platform. The same was true for each of the other languages. Those of us presenting the meeting spoke in English.

It turned out well. We spent a day in the field, with distributors and their salesmen operating the equipment. The following morning, we met indoors to provide product training, prices, etc. During the afternoon of the second day ,we hosted a tour of the nearby Panama Canal locks.


Massey Ferguson training center, UK

Following the merger of Massey Harris and the Ferguson Co. in 1953, the new company name became Massey Ferguson in 1958. In the early 1960s, Massey Ferguson opened a training center at Stoneleigh, UK. Its mission was to train employees in the operation of their tractors along with a maintenance training school as part of the curriculum.

I was farm equipment export manager for IH during the late 1960s, and our European representative was Michael Collins, who had been an instructor at the Massey School before joining IH. I asked Mike to arrange a visit to that school. IH had just opened similar schools at Tifton, Ga., and Ottawa, Ill. I wanted to exchange ideas with Massey about our individual schools.

We spent a day touring their field and class programs. They had operated the facility for a decade, and gave us helpful information to use at our new IH schools.

Following that visit we stayed overnight at a small lodge in Stratford-On-Avon, the famous home of Shakespeare. Expecting to hear background symphony music, I still remember my surprise when we entered the bar and heard the pianist playing jazz. He was from St. Louis.

More about Massey Ferguson. In 1993, AGCO purchased the North American distributor rights to the company. To this day, Massey Ferguson is produced and marketed by AGCO.


International Electrall attachment

In the years following World War II, every farm equipment company had re-tooled and introduced new models. During the 1950s, their efforts turned to new innovations.

One of International Harvester’s creations during that period was the Electrall Power Generator. It was tractor-mounted and designed to deliver AC electric power for small jobs on the farm.

My first job as a summer intern in 1955 was to demonstrate the features of the Electrall at county fairs. A Farmall tractor with a mounted Electrall would be running at a fast idle, and I would first plug in an electric razor and shave with it. Then I would plug in an electric drill and start boring holes in a plank. Next came an electric screwdriver. I did this hour after hour, and the idling tractor drew spectators to watch. It always drew a crowd.

I shaved enough that summer to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, the Electrall never became successful as an attachment. The farming public felt it was too expensive.


424 introduction, Mobile, Ala., 1965

Our team spent a month preparing for and presenting new equipment to our dealers, including the International 424 tractor. Dealers were brought in from all over the country.

As we rehearsed the presentation inside the Mobile Armory, someone suggested we open the show in the darkened room, with two motorcycle cops riding on stage with flashing lights and sirens. We tried it and it really looked flashy. What a way to open the show.

The day before the first dealers arrived our boss, head of IH Farm Equipment Sales came from Chicago to preview the presentation. After seeing our rehearsal, he complimented us, with one exception. “Get rid of the motorcycle cops,” he said. “They detract from the tractor show.”

Needless to say, the motorcycles were dropped. In the attached photo I am presenting the new 424 in a darkened showroom with spotlights. But without sirens!


Paul Wallem was raised on an Illinois dairy farm. He spent 13 years with corporate IH. He resigned to own and operate two IH dealerships. He is the author of THE BREAKUP of IH and SUCCESSES & INDUSTRY FIRSTS of IH. See more of his books on the website