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Unleashing the Red Giant: The Massey 1150

Sep 19, 2023

For those of you thinking that this was going to be all about Travis Kuhns' Trailblazer Massey Pro Stock: sorry, it's not. (It is, however, related.)

Instead of tractor pulling, let's talk about the Massey 1150. First, because it's a cool tractor, and one of the most sought-after Massey has ever built. Second, because a farmer named Matt is selling one at a Michigan auction next week. Details below.

Auction Date: June 6, 2023

Auctioneer: Albrecht Auction

Format: Online (Bidding is open now)

Location: Greenwood Township, Michigan

TZ Auction Listing

However, before we talk 1150s, here's a photo of Travis doing pro stock things, just because I brought it up and all.

Though this week's Interesting Iron isn't about Travis Kuhns' Trailblazer Massey pulling tractor, it is related. Check out those header pipes, they really were that hot.

Massey Ferguson made quite a name for themselves in the 1960s. They'd purchased Perkins in the late 1950s, giving them an in-house engine option, and taken most all of their manufacturing in-house. In the mid-1960s, they launched a very successful line of tractors: the 100-series. These small three- and four-cylinder tractors — dubbed "Red Giants" because of their versatility and ability to punch way above their weight class — were global best-sellers.

Massey Ferguson's 100-series tractors were known as the "Red Giants" because they were tough little tractors that did big tractor jobs. This particular unit sold August 2022 at a Schneider Auctioneers consignment in Missouri for $6,950.

At the same time, Massey also debuted the big brother tractors: the 1100 and 1130 row crops. They were both six-cylinder tractors (the 1100 was naturally aspirated, the 1130 had a turbo), a 12-speed partial powershift (they called it Multi-Power), and featured the same great styling of the smaller models. Their sales numbers were good here, and very good across the pond. Farmers in the United Kingdom really loved them, and they still do today.

Massey's 1100 and 1130 were handsome workhorses that sold well. This particular tractor sold for $5,300 at an Ulmer auction in North Dakota back in July 2021. (Photo: Ulmer Auction)

But by the late 1960s, Massey had fallen behind in the horsepower race. They needed something new and exciting to pick up sales a little bit in the U.S. However, they weren't keen on putting a brand new tractor together, as that would take time, testing, and money. So they started looking at options, and in 1969, they settled on a plan.

Enter the Massey 1150: a U.S.-only tractor that turned out to be the giant-est Red Giant of them all.

The Massey 1150 with its big Perkins V8 would, for a time, sit on top of the horsepower hill. Hit the photo to see the listing.

With a wide variety of diesel engines on the shelf at Perkins, engineers had the freedom to choose the best fit for the Massey 1150. Ultimately, they opted for the V8.510, a naturally aspirated V8 originally designed for city buses. This 510-cube engine had an undersquare bore/stroke ratio of 4.25x4.5, which made it very smooth, and provided quite a bit of low-end grunt. Although the stock rating of the engine was 170 hp, engineers turned it down a little for the big Massey.

It was a gutsy move — nobody had ever shoehorned a V8 into a row crop 2WD before. However, Massey was hungry. They wanted a seat at the big boys table in the U.S., and they were willing to blaze a new trail to get it. They were confident in the 1100-series chassis and driveline, and the 510 Perkins was a solid engine that had been tested hard. It was a best of both worlds situation.

I'm not sure if the 1130 badge on the prototype's hood was deliberate to fake out corporate spies, or if it was what they had on hand. Those twin stacks look pretty sweet, though, don't they? It's a shame they didn't make into the production machine.

As it turned out, the gamble paid off. The Massey 1150 turned 135.6 hp on the PTO at the Nebraska lab in September of 1970, and that was enough to knock International Harvester's factory-built hot rod off the pedestal by 4.5 hp. As a result, the tractors sold fairly well.

Over time, history has shown us that, generally speaking, V8s in farm tractors are a horrible idea. By design, they make power and torque higher in the RPM range than farmers need in the field. Here's the thing, though; in the late 1960s, they didn't know that. At the time, V8s sounded like an awesome idea. When Massey Ferguson did it, it made some big waves in the industry. Within two or three years, Oliver had the 2255, and IH followed suit with the 68-series.

At the end of the day, while they looked and sounded great, none of them were regarded as all-stars as far as row-crop tractors go. The engines just aren't suited to field work. In the case of the 1150, they had issues snapping crankshafts, and I've heard that the final drives were a little light for the application (they were the same ones as were used in the 1100 and 1130).

Boy, they sure make good collector tractors, though. I've looked at our numbers: The Massey 1150, Oliver 2255, and IH 1468 are consistently some of the top-searched muscle tractors on Tractor Zoom every month!

Now, what about this one in Michigan that's selling on June 6?

This Massey 1150 is a two-owner machine that's led a pretty darn easy life, and never strayed more than about an hour from where it was built. Hit the photo to see the listing on Tractor Zoom.

Let's be honest: Massey 1150s don't show up on auction every day. I know this is the first one I've seen in 2023. While it's not perfect, it's definitely better than most of the ones I've seen at auction over the past few years.

For most of its life, this Massey 1150 farmed only 60 acres.

I wanted to know a little more about the tractor, so I called the owner yesterday and had a nice chat. I'm glad I did, too, because as it turns out, the tractor has sort of an interesting story. Matt is the second owner of this machine, and as far as he knows, it's never left Saint Clair County since it was sold new. For those of you playing along at home, that also means that it's never ventured more than about an hour from where it was built in Southfield, Michigan, either.

Apparently, the guy who bought it new only farmed about 60 acres with it. It spent most of its first life pulling an old six-row Deere planter, a five-bottom IH plow, and a 14-foot IH disk. It never spent a night outside in all the time he had it, either — he always parked in the same place in the barn. Originally a factory cab tractor, it served that him well — right up until one fateful day about 27 years ago.

This tractor doesn't play well with tree branches.

As Matt tells it, one day, the guy hit a tree limb and tore the cab up pretty good. That was the last day he farmed with it. He put it in the same spot in the barn and there it sat for about 15 years. Matt said he always remembered seeing it when drove by on the way to town. Then one day, about a dozen years ago, he noticed it parked outside.

That was the day Matt stopped and introduced himself. Eventually, he struck a deal for a handful of the farmer's equipment, and took it all home — including the 1150 in all its headless glory. See, Matt never saw it as a collector's item. To him, it was a farm tractor and he fully intended to put it back to work.

Which is exactly what he did.

He said that the hardest part of the whole deal was locating a pair of row crop fenders to make it into an open station. He said, "Man, I called all over the country looking for a pair of those fenders that didn't cost a fortune. Never found them. Turns out that they were right under my nose the whole time! I ended up stumbling on a pair — almost literally — at a local boneyard when I was looking for something else. They weren't perfect, but I made them work!"

The fenders aren't perfect, but I've seen a lot worse, and I'll bet you have too.

Once it was cleaned up, Matt farmed with it until a John Deere 4850 found its way into the barn. After that, it didn't get used all that much. For the last four years, the only thing the big Massey did was drag a fertilizer spreader around about 100 acres each year. Like I said earlier, this tractor has had a pretty easy life.

While Matt owned it, he was religious about making sure it was in the barn every night and always had regular fluid and filter changes. About three years ago, he repainted the tractor and replaced the original tach with a new one. The tach read 3,400-something hours and was working at the time, but the needle fell off. Today, the new one reads 179 hours, putting it somewhere between 3,500 and 3,600 total hours.

This Massey 1150 has a lot going for it, but is it a record setter? In a word, no. It's not a record setter. A handful of nicely restored examples have crossed the auction block in the past few years that set the bar pretty high.

This tractor has a lot going for it.

That said, there's an elephant in the room that could hold it back, too.

Perkins 510s aren't real easy to find parts for, and when you do find them, they can be spendy. More often than not, if a 510 wears out or fails, a 540 is a better option to bolt in its place. As far as I know, though, nobody makes a full rebuild kit for a Perkins 510 and dealers don't stock parts anymore.

Matt's engine hasn't been opened up as long as he's owned it, and he's never had any issues with it. It might go for another 10,000 hours. Then again, it might snap a crank in August. You never know. Either way, I think it's an excellent candidate for a full-blown restoration.

So after all that, what do I think it's worth? I think it'll sell somewhere in the $12,000 to $14,000 range.

Even though it's not a fantastic farm tractor, the Massey 1150 still has a loyal following, and I don't see this changing. The 1100 series is, in my opinion, one of the best-looking muscle tractors ever built. I put them right up there with the 806 and 1206, and Deere's 6030. They're all imposing tractors that command attention, while still retaining character and styling reminiscent of the past. Plus it's a V8. Who doesn't love the sound of a big booming V8?

Mike Jackson's Massey 1150 made a great big splash at the Massey Ferguson booth at the 2022 National Farm Machinery Show. He found it on a fencerow back in 2015 and literally had to cut trees out of the frame to get it home. It was a pretty intense restoration, but he finally finished it on Christmas Eve 2021. I'm here to tell you, that thing is utterly gorgeous.

At the end of the day, they're one of the most sought-after models that Massey Ferguson ever built. Interestingly enough, there's a very strong market for 1150s in western Europe. If you go to YouTube and look for Massey 1150 videos, you'll find a tremendous number of videos from Holland. In fact, the first one I ever promoted was on a sale in north central Iowa back in 2019. The day after the auction wrapped up, the auctioneer called to thank me for the extra exposure. Apparently the winning bid came from a guy in Holland who saw it on our Facebook page.

If you end up buying the one that sells on June 6, please get in touch. I'd like to hear the plans for it.

Auction Date: June 6, 2023

Auctioneer: Albrecht Auction

Format: Online (Bidding is open now)

Location: Greenwood Township, Michigan

TZ Auction Listing

Auction Date: June 6, 2023 Auctioneer: Albrecht Auction Format: Online (Bidding is open now) Location: Greenwood Township, Michigan TZ Auction Listing READ MORE: Masterson Magic: Remembering Don Masterson READ MORE: Mustang, Corvette, and Field Boss: What's the connection? Auction Date: June 6, 2023 Auctioneer: Albrecht Auction Format: Online (Bidding is open now) Location: Greenwood Township, Michigan TZ Auction Listing