The County 1164 definitely isn’t your average mid-70s farm tractor. It’s a neat little thing, though, and one that we don’t see all that often at farm equipment auctions. I did a little digging around, and I don’t think we’ve seen one since sometime in 2018!
So what is this thing, and why do I keep calling it a Ford? Because at the end of the day, the County 1164 was built in England by County Commerical Cars, Ltd. using Ford parts!
County was an interesting company. The brainchild of two brothers from England, Ernest & Percy Tapp, the company went into business in 1929. The business? Converting Ford AA straight trucks from single drive axle to two axle trucks to deliver supplies around London! The business was massively successful. Before long, the Tapp brothers were building all manner of heavy-duty trucks for the British military, too. They even experimented with building a small, two-man tank called the Praying Mantis that could fire over city walls. Here’s some video footage of it.
By the late 40s, the Topp brothers found themselves messing around with converting Fordson Majors to crawlers for a government contract. Little did they realize that these little Fordson Majors would lead to HUGE things down the road…
1954 was the first year that County built a four wheel drive tractor. It was called the County Four Drive, and it was also based on the Fordson Major. The finished product wasn’t super-elegant (they steered using a lever setup they’d built for the crawlers), but it worked. Most of these were sent to the West Indies to work in the sugar cane fields.
The tractor business really took off for County in the sixties. Beginning with the County Super 4 (a converted Fordson Super Major), the company released at least six four wheel drive models from 1960-1970. They were a massive success in Great Britain, and it wasn’t long before they were selling their tractors globally. During the 70s, when production was at its peak, 70% of their sales was outside of Great Britain!
The 1164 was one of the best selling tractors County ever produced. It was built from 1971 until some time in 1977, replacing the massively successful 1124. It was a fresh design – a new generation of tractors for County, and also the first available with an integral cab. I was never able to find a final production number, but I’m fairly sure that they built more of these tractors than anything else.
The County 1164 was the biggest farm tractor the company had built, and it was pretty stout! It mated a beefed-up version of the Ford 5000’s driveline with a mildly detuned 401 inline six from the Ford 8000. It was the first tractor they’d ever built that cracked the 100-horsepower barrier in testing, too, so that definitely added to the appeal.
Towards the end of the run, County did change up a few things in the driveline and motor for increased durability. The last few tractors used the transmission from the Ford 7600 and the motor from the 8600. I’m not sure how many were built this way, but I’m told that that’s the combo to have.
I’ve never found accurate numbers as far as tractors imported to the US. I’ve heard rumors that there were only 320 County 1164s brought over, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Suffice it to say, though…there definitely weren’t many of ’em that made their way to American soil. They weren’t marketed very well over here. Furthermore, by the mid-70s, most of the American manufacturers had their own options available.
County continued making successful tractors for various markets into the early 80s. They even built some really beefy tractors based on the 9000 and the TW models from Ford. (Think Ford 9000 meets monster truck…they look pretty neat!)
Sadly, the farm crisis of the 80s had global effects, and they took their toll on the company. County went under in 1983. The brand name has changed hands a few different times since then, but none of the original employees are involved, so it’s not really the same. One bright spot, though; I’ve heard that there’s a decent stash of parts available from various suppliers in Great Britain.
The one in the photo lives in Unionville, MO (about two hours straight south of me). It’s been owned for years by a noted tractor mechanic who always puts it in the summer parades in the area. Suffice it to say that it’s lived a pretty cushy life for a while now!
I talked with Rusty Sands, the auctioneer handling the sale on March 13, and he told me that it runs and drives great. The pumpkins for the front drive setup have both been recently rebuilt, and it’s in great mechanical shape! It’s got nearly brand new rubber as well!
Now, that having been said, the tractor does need some cosmetic attention. If you were going to put it into a collection, the hood needs a better coat of paint. The badging has been painted in lieu of the factory correct decals, and the grill isn’t right either. Lastly, it needs a County emblem for the front.
Overall, this tractor has a LOT of great things going for it! There definitely aren’t many of these tractors in the States that aren’t rotting away in a boneyard somewhere. Furthermore, this one runs and drives great, and the tin is straight! Cosmetic issues aside, this is a great tractor!
One other thing, and I hate to say it, but Rusty’s auction on March 13 is an onsite-only sale. If you’re going to bid on this tractor, you’re going to need to take a road trip to do it. I typically try to write about stuff with online bidding, but every now and again this happens. If it’s any consolation, Unionville is a nice town and the people will be glad to see you!
I think County tractors are cool. I don’t care if they have the turning radius of the Titanic. They’re a neat tractor, and the company is a great example of engineering and problem solving in action. These funky workhorses are about as rare as it gets here in the States, too! I’d love to own this one myself! (Don’t tell my wife…) ?
So, do me a favor. Get in the truck and go buy this tractor when it sells next Saturday so I don’t keep trying to justify heading down there to buy it myself! (If it helps, there’s a bunch of fairly clean older tractors on this sale, including a freshly-rebuilt Series III D21!)