Farmall Badge

Harold's Super A

Harold Sohner acquired his 1950 Farmall Super A in 1993 from a small car sales lot near Kerrville, Texas. It came with a shredder which was not usable with the Super A because it required a three-point hitch, which the tractor lacks. Although the Super A did not require a complete overhaul, Harold removed, cleaned and coated the gas tank; repaired the hydraulic system; restored the front axle and steering mechanism; replaced the starter motor and voltage regulator; replaced the seat; and finally sand-blasted and painted the tractor.  The result is a tractor any fastidious collector would be proud to own.

Harold sold his Super A tractor to another collector in 2013.

Harold welcomes questions or comments at
Harold's Super A


The Farmall A was created to compete with the Allis Chalmers B as an affordable tractor for small farms (40-70 acres) or as an additional tractor on large farms. The first Model A was built on June 21, 1939. It was produced until 1948, when it was replaced by the Super A, which had been introduced in 1947. There were 22,023 Farmall A's, AV's and International A's built in 1940, and a total of 117,552 Model A's, AV's, International A's, and some Super A's built during the nine year period from 1939 to 1948. The Super A was an improved version of the Model A; 94,001 Model A's, AV's, International A's, and Super A's were produced between 1947 and 1954. Harold's Super A is Serial Number 285446, indicating that it was built in midyear 1950. From 1940 to 1948, 75,241 Model B's and BN's were manufactured. Of this number, 14,967 were BN's. Farmall A's, AV's, B's, BN's, and International A's shared the same listing of serial numbers and they were issued with matching engine and chassis numbers. In 1954, 1,672 Super A-1 models were produced; the Serial Numbers ranged from 356001 to 357958. These numbers also included Super AV-1 and International Super A-1 models. Chassis Serial Numbers on the tractors described above are found on a plate on the right side of the tool box and seat support; Engine Serial Numbers are found on a pad on the upper right side of the crankcase.

Farmall Models A, AV and Super A were advertised as one-row tractors capable of pulling a single 14-inch plow. They were designed to straddle one row while cultivating a crop such as corn, cotton or vegetables. Farmall Model B's were designed to straddle two rows of crops. By adjusting the width of the wheels, they could cultivate either two 34 inch rows or two 46 inch rows. The width of the Model BN was 8 inches narrower than the Model B; this was achieved by shortening each axle housing by 4 inches.

The Farmall A was the first Farmall with a streamlined design by Raymond Loewy. Loewy was renowed for his designs for the Coca-Cola bottle, JFK's Air Force 1, the Lucky Strike logo, the S-1 locomotive, the Studebaker Commander Starliner automobile, and the Sears Cold-Spot refrigerator.

Early Farmall tractors had paint IH # 50; this replaced IH # 1102 which was an identical color but based on older color charts. IH # 50 was a quick-drying synthetic enamel. After World War II, labor strikes resulted in a scarcity of synthetic enamel paint, so IH extended its red enamel by using a yellow iron-oxide pigment in a 50/50 ratio. This was done between December 11, 1945 and April 11, 1947. Some Farmalls might have both colors on the same tractor, depending on when various parts were manufactured and painted.

The Farmall Model A adopted the design of the Allis Chalmers B, with a load-bearing engine coupled to a torque tube housing the clutch, transmission and differential. Farmall A's featured "Culti-Vision," a unique design in which the engine and drivetrain were offset 9 inches to the left. There was no left axle housing; the drop-housing connected directly to the differential case. The controls were also on the left; however, the seat was mounted on the right axle housing, so the operator had a clear vision down and ahead. The steering wheel, clutch pedal and separate left and right brake pedals were directly ahead of the seat.

The Farmall A was also available as the Model AV (V for Vegetable), a high-crop tractor with 27 1/2 inches ground clearance achieved with bigger wheels and longer front-wheel spindles/kingpins. The Model AV had 5 1/2 inches more ground clearance than the Model A. The AV was intended to be used to cultivate taller crops such as asparagus and sugar cane. Farmall A's and AV's were only available with wide front ends; the axle on the Model AV was more substantial than that on the Model A.

The Farmall A was also sold as the International A. This model was introduced in January, 1940, for industrial uses such as roadside mowing and moving materials around in factories. The International A featured a heavy-duty square adjustable front axle, shorter spindles/kingpins than those on the Farmall A or AV, and a foot-operated governor control (throttle).

The Farmall Model B was basically the same as the Model A, with one notable difference. The engine and torque tube were centered on the tractor, with equal-length left and right axle housings. Production of the Farmall Model B began on September 5, 1939. The Model B was not available as a high-crop tractor; however, it was available as a Model BN (N for Narrow) model which was 8 inches narrower (each axle housing was 4 inches shorter). Whereas the Model A was replaced by the Super A, the Model B was superseded by the Model C. Farmall Model A's, AV's, B's and BN's were all built at the Tractor Works in Chicago. Production was suspended in 1943 because of the war but resumed in 1944. Farmall A's and B's were lighter and more powerful replacements for earlier F-12's and F-14's.

Farmall A's and B's had an International C-113 four-cylinder engine, with replaceable wet-sleeves and overhead valves. The engine had many similarities to that of the F-14; however, it produced less power because it was governed to run at 1,400 rpm instead of 1,650 rpm. The engine had a total displacement of 113.1 cubic inches, a bore and stroke of 3 and 4 inches respectively, 6.0:1 compression for the gasoline engine, and 5.33:1 compression for the engine fueled by kerosene or distillate. The horsepower ratings at the drawbar were 17.35 with gasoline and 15.33 with kerosene or distillate; horsepower ratings at the PTO/belt attachment were 19.06 with gasoline and 17.12 with kerosene or distillate. Fuel consumption was rated at 11.97 horsepower hours per gallon. The Nebraska test numbers were 329 and 330. Crankshaft and connecting-rod bearings were supplied by Cleveland Graphite Bronze, Federal Mogul, or Bohn Aluminum, in that order of preference. Early tractors had cylinder heads with small openings for spark plugs; this made them difficult to cast and provided limited clearance for spark-plug wrenches. Larger openings for spark plugs were provided on tractors beginning with serial number FAA-13825. The tractor could be ordered with high-altitude pistons, which increased the compression. Some farmers ordered the tractor with these pistons to obtain additional horsepower. Also, in late 1940, a high-compression package was available which included a cylinder head, valve guides, valves, valve seats, intake and exhaust pipes, gaskets, studs and brackets.

Early Model A's and B's had no water pump. Water was circulated throughout the engine by thermosyphon cooling, a gravity system based on the principle that hot water rises and cold water falls. Later models were provided with water pumps and thermostats.

Farmall A's, B's, and Super A's were produced with updraft Marvel Schebler TSX-157 carburators for gasoline only or Zenith Model 161-7 or Marvel Schebler TSX-156 carburators for kerosene or distillate. The cast-iron manifolds for gasoline engines and kerosene/distillate engines differed in that manifolds for kerosene/distillate engines had heat-control valves and heat-shields necessary to achieve the higher temperature required to vaporize kerosene or distillate. These accessories were troublesome and tended to crack and corrode. Radiator shutters were standard on kereosene/distillate tractors and optional on gasoline tractors. An optional temperature gauge was mounted on the engine. Harold's tractor has a Marvel Schebler TSX-157 carburator. All Model A's and B's had oil-wash air filters made by Donaldson or United Specialties. A variable-speed centrifugal governor was located on the right side of the engine and controlled from the operator's seat using a lever and a long, thin metal rod.

Early Model A's and B's were started with a crank and their ignition systems were based on the IH H-4 magneto. To accomodate an electric starter, flywheel ring-gear attachments and a clutch housing modified and reinforced to accept a starter motor were first added to serial number FAA-18282 built on March 18, 1940. At first, starter motors had to be ordered and installed by the purchaser or a dealer. Factory-installed electric starters were available beginning with serial number FAA-54386. The starter motor, generator, regulator, and light switch were made by Delco-Remy. The lights were made by Guide. Harold's Super A has the standard 6-volt electrical system with a generator, battery, starter motor, one headlight, one taillight, and a light switch. Optional systems included a lighting package in which headlights and a rear work light were run directly off of a generator, and a Bosch no-starter system consisting of a generator, battery, two headlights, a rear work light and a fused light switch (rare).

Model A's, B's, and Super A's with gasoline carburators had 10-gallon fuel tanks. Tractors with kerosene/distillate carburators likewise had 10-gallon tanks; however, an additional small tank under the hood held 7/8 gallon of gasoline which was used to start the engine and run it until it was warm.

The engine was coupled to the transmission by means of a 9-inch dry clutch. Clutches on early Model A's and B's were manufactured by the Rockford Drilling Machine Company. Serial numbers FAA-87001 to FAA-87996 had clutches produced by the Atwood Vacuum Machine Company, apparantly as a trial. After serial number FAA-108222, Farmall A's and B's had clutches produced by either company.

Farmall A's and, B's had four-speed transmissions, plus reverse, which provided speeds of 2 1/4 mph, 3 1/2 mph, 4 5/8 mph, and 9 5/8 mph forward and 2/3/4 mph in reverse. Super A's were slightly faster with forward speeds of 2 3/8 mph, 3 5/8 mph, 4 7/8 mph,and 10 mph, and a reverse speed of 2 7/8 mph. Tractors with serial numbers from FAA-28577 to FAA-29450 had gears manufactured with MD-1022 steel instead of MD-4130 steel. Harold's tractor falls within this range of serial numbers and has the special alloy gears.

Farmall A's were 106 1/4 inches long, 76 3/4 inches wide, and 63 1/4 inches tall; they had a 71 1/8 inch wheelbase. They weighed 1,870 pounds, without fluids or driver. Super A's were 106 7/8 inches long, 78 inches wide with the rear wheels set out and 55 inches to the ends of the rear axles, and 64 1/4 inches in height to the top of the steering wheels, with a 71 1/8 inch wheelbase. The dry weight of a Super A was 2,385 pounds. Because the rear wheels were mounted on drop axles, the tractor had relatively small rear wheels. However, the use of drop axles eliminated the possibility of adjusting the width of the rear wheels by sliding the wheels in or out on the axles. After serial number FAA-5564, the width of the rear wheels could be changed from 40 to 68 inches or some point in between by flipping the wheels, which were domed, and/or flipping the demountable wheel rims. The width of the front wheels was 43 inches with the fixed axle and 44 to 64 inches with the adjustable front axle. The fixed front axle was welded steel; the adjustable front axle was malleable iron. The iron axle was adjustable in 4 inch increments. Harold's Super A has a square, heavy-duty industrial front axle. Model B's and BN's were first issued with a single front wheel mounted in a fork; double front wheels mounted on a narrow spindle were optional. Later, the double front wheel became standard and the single wheel was optional. Model A's, B's, and Super A's were only available with rubber tires. French & Hecht supplied most of the steering wheels and wheel rims for the Famall A's. Early steering wheels made by Sheller were covered with hard rubber but changed to soft rubber in late 1940 or early 1941. All French & Hecht's steering wheels were covered with soft rubber.

Early Model A's and B's had two pressed-steel rear wheels, which weighed 20 pounds each. After serial number FAA-5564 built on October 3, 1939, the Model A had a 20 pound stamped-steel disk on the left wheel and a 170 pound cast-iron disk on the right wheel. The extra weight on the right wheel stabilized the tractor and rendered it less likely to roll over. Model AV's and later Model A's had cast-iron weights on both rear wheels; Model B's and BN's had the light pressed steel wheels. Wheel weights were options available for both front and rear wheels. Model A's had front wheels with 3 x 15 rims; Model AV's had 3 x 19 rims. Standard tire sizes for Model A's were 4.00 x 15 front tires and 8.00 x 24 rear tires. Early Model A's and B's had either skid ring or ribbed front tires; after January 8, 1941, the tires were standardized to a triple rib tire. Model B's and BN's had 6:00 x 12 front tires, with 7.5 x 10 tires available. Model B's and BN's had 8:00 x 24 rear tires. Harold's tractor has 4.00 x 15 front tires and 9.5 x 24 rear tires. The rear tires may be original, as they have lugs set at a 45-degree angle rather than the more modern 35-degrees. The tires are authentic to the tractor, but they tires are in poor condition and probably will have to be replaced.

The steering-gear housing varies on the A series. The lighter fixed axle on the Model A had a different steering-gear housing than that required for the heavy-duty adjustable front axles of the Model A, AV and International A. On B and BN models, the steering wheel shaft and the steering worm shaft were connected through a universal joint. This is sometimes the fastest and easiest way to identify the model of a rusty old tractor.

Model A's,B's, and Super A's had brake drums mounted on the differential shafts. Forged drums were used on early models but later changed to cast iron. Separate right and left brake pedals had a ratchet so that they could be used as parking brakes.

Mountings for attachments at the rear of the transmission housings of Model A's and B's were changed beginning with serial number FAA-39021 and this necessitated modifications to the attachments, as well. Optional belt pulleys were 6 inches in length, with a range of diameters that varied from 6 1/2 inches (1,968 rpm) to 7 1/2 inches (2,271 rpm), 8 1/2 inches (2,573 rpm), 9 1/2 inches (2,876 rpm), and 10 1/2 inches (3,179 rpm). PTO splined-shafts had a diameter of 1 1/8 inches. Adapters were required to utilize later attachments which called for 1 3/8 inch shafts, after that size became standard.

The base price of a Farmall A in 1940 was $575, with a starter and lights available for an extra $31. The base price of the Model B in 1940 was $605. The base price of the Super A in 1954 was $1150. Standard equipment consisted of a vertically adjustable drawbar, fenders, a fixed front axle, a battery box, a tool tray under the seat, and an upholstered sponge-rubber seat (replaced by felt after serial number FAA-12356) mounted on adjustable leaf springs and hinged so that the seat could be tilted back to allow the driver to stand while operating the tractor.

Optional accessories for the Model A and Super A included a belt pulley and PTO attachment; a PTO-only attachment; 5,000 and 8,000 foot high altitude pistons; adjustable radiator-shutters and heat indicators for gasoline and kerosene/distillate engines; an exhaust-pipe extension; a muffler; a spark arrester installed between the exhaust manifold and the muffler; a Bosch no-starter system comprised of a generator, battery, two headlights, a rear work light and a fused light switch (rare); a swing drawbar; a pintle hook; adjustable front axle; wheel weights for both the front and rear wheels; various sizes of wheels and tires; dual rear wheels; a unique pneumatic Lift-All system in which engine exhaust was used to activate a cylinder under the tractor and raise and lower attachments; and later a hydraulic lift system. In the late 1940s, a high-compression package was offered which included a cylinder head, valve guides, valves, valve seats, intake and exhaust pipes, gaskets, studs and brackets. A separate line of implements was created specifically for the Farmall Model A and Super A.

Harold Sohner's Super A has a belt pulley and PTO attachments; adjustable front axles; a muffler, wheel weights; and a standard electrical system consisting of a generator, battery, starter and lights. The tractor lacks a battery box and a tool box and the seat and steering wheel were made by International Harvester but are not authentic to the tractor. 

The Farmall Super A was an improved version of the Model A. The most obvious distinction was the addition of a hydraulic system. The Model A had a pneumatic Lift-All system; the Super A offered a new Touch-Control hydraulic system. This system was constantly powered. The Pesco pump was powered off of the governor/ignition drive and the timing gears were strengthed to handle the additional load. The chassis on the Super A was modified somewhat to accomodate the hydraulic system. The Touch-Control system enabled the operator to independently adjust left, right and rear cultivators,

Other improvements to the Super A included induction-hardened transmission gears and improvements to the engine. The Super A was also available as a Model AV. The Farmall Model C replaced the B and BN models. Although a different tractor, the Model C shared many parts with the Model A. The Farmall C was not a "Cultivision" tractor, so the operator's platform was not offset to the right, as on Models A, Super A and B.   

The Super C was introduced in 1951, with a larger 123 cubin-inch engine. The Super A-1 was introduced in 1954; it also had the larger engine.

There are many resources available dealing with International Harvester tractors and implements: a few titles of particular interest to collectors are cited below:

  • Fay, Guy, & Andy Kraushaar. Farmall Letter Series Tractors. Originality Guide Series. MBI, 1998.
  • Fay, Guy, & Andy Kraushaar. Original Farmall Hundred Series, 1954-1958. Motorbooks International, 2003.
  • Will, Oscar H.,III, & Todd Markle. Collector's Originality Guide for Farmall Regular and F-Series. Voyageur Press, 2007.
  • The McCormick-International Harvester Collection at the University of Wisconsin--Madison (Search under Library & Archives/McCormick Collection of Manuscripts)
  • National International Harvester Collectors Club.
  • Red Power Magazine.