The firm of County founded in 1929 was based in Fleet, Hampshire, England. The companies full name being County Commercial Cars Ltd. They started by converting Fordtrucks from two to three axles, but moved in 1948 to converting Fordson Majors into Crawler Tractors. They progressed to building four equal sized wheel tractor from Ford Units, inventing several different variations and specialist machines along the way. They built over 30,000 machine during the time from 1948 to the early 1980s.
The firm was founded by brothers Ernest and Percy Tapp, a pair of Former Army officers in WWI. They set up a Meat transfer company to transport supplies from Smithfield market for Ernest's fathers-in-law's butchers business. They found the available trucks too small and converted one to twin rear-axle design to allow it to carry 2-tons.
In 1929 they set up to convert twin-axle Ford trucks to triple-axles for other people after building their own and running it successfully. Later they built the kits for Ford to convert Lorries at Dagenham. Ford went on to build versions of the Model B and 7V trucks in 6-wheel form from County Kits.
During WWII, they supplied kits to convert WOT1 trucks to Sussex specification, with 14,000 being built. A small number of E817T chassis were converted and fitted with winches as anti-aircraft barrage balloon launch trucks. 1957 saw the Thames Trader introduced, and a kit was made for these.
Crawler design was started after the war for the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), with the prototype built by 1948 for field trials. The prototype being on International BTD6 tracks. They delivered 50 to the MoA by the year end.
The machine was then offered with a Bray Angle Dozer kit for £1,140. Some machine being fitted with Boughton winches for forest work and recovery work.
They could be under powered and in 1948 the Perkins 6 cylinder was offered as an option ( at a price) but boosting power from 29 to 45 HP. The design being modified several times, before the new Ford E1A Major was released.
The Four-Drive was basically a crawler with rubber wheels that steered by skidding.
Mainly based on Ford units, but some were based on other manufacturers tractors. They also converted some to 6-cylinder engines, or to Perkinsdiesel engines.
When Ford started manufacturing there own 4-wheel drive tractors in the 1970, their business was reduced greatly but for a few specialist machine like the Forward control version.
In 1987, County was sold to the Benson Group and relocated to Knighton in Powys , Wales. Bensons built very few large machines but did build two for BSC at Ravenscraig, Scotland, being County 1884 models. They shut County down in 1990. By this time all the big brand offered there own high powered models or imported other makes into the UK and badged them under licensing deals. Ford offering the Steigerarticulated tractor models as the Ford FW series.
The Parts operation was taken over by Thama Group who bought the former County parts business from Benson Group, and the remains of the Bamford operation, also owned by Benson Group. Thema and then sold the parts operation in 2005 to Hampshire dealer A.T. Osbourne.
Tractor dealer & Contractor A.T. Osborne bought the parts operation in December 2005. The parts operations stock & all the records and drawings were then moved from Wolverhampton to Ower, in Hampshire. They had been a County dealer back in 1981, the first non-Ford dealer appointed as a County specialist. Following closure of County by Benson, they continued in the repair & rebuilding business, focusing on forestry and construction applications.
There is a good demand for parts as County built over 35,000 tractors and 75% were exported, with a lot still in use. Some are being repatriated as demand from collectors grows.
Tractruk - a Tractor Drive axle mated to a Ford D series truck with a 4-wd front axle and tractor tyres for on/off road use with slurry tanker/sprayer. - One only prototype built before County went into receivership, and believed to still exist.
These are very popular as preservation machines due to the rugged looks, and reasonable availability, as a lot have been parked up, as farms got new models. Some models are very rare and prices of A1 restored versions can be very high £20,000 plus. Many serious collectors of Fords are likely to have at least one in their fleet.
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