Historic Tractor Record Broken
In December, a 1952 Ford 8N tractor dubbed the 8NCREDIBLE, took the title of the world’s fastest farm tractor, reaching a speed of 96.3185 miles per hour and breaking the famous 1935 Ab Jenkins Allis Chalmers U tractor land speed record that stood unchallenged for 81 years.
The speed and performance of the Ford Mercury 276 cu in sidevalve V8 powered tractor, built and driven by Jack Donohue of Fletcher, North Carolina, stunned those on hand at a sanctioned land speed event held recently on a concrete landing strip in Wilmington, Ohio - known as the ‘Ohio Mile’.
Donohue is only the second man in history to attempt a land speed record on a farm tractor. In 1935, Donohue’s hero, David Abbott 'Ab’ Jenkins, a renowned land speed driver, made the first and only farm tractor land speed record attempt known to exist. In August of that year, Jenkins crossed Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, at a blistering 67.677 miles per hour on a factory backed 1933 Allis Chalmers model U.
Jack Donohue has a background in farming and is a former NASCAR driver and car builder. During my recent interview with Donohue at his Fletcher, North Carolina shop he talked a little about his upbringing and his 8NCREDIBLE, but especially about his admiration of Jenkins.
He told me: “I was raised on a dairy farm and grew up on an 8N. In fact, it was the first thing I ever drove. During the years I was in professional racing, I restored a few 8N tractors, even converted some to V8s as a hobby. I enjoyed it so much that I decided when I retired from NASCAR, I might try to go after the Jenkins tractor record with a racing version of an 8N. Few people, including today’s professional racers, have a foggy clue who Ab Jenkins was, or a single thing about feats he accomplished behind the wheel during his lifetime. Forget Clark Kent, Ab Jenkins will always be superman to me. I admit, I’m very proud of the tractor record, but it’s only one of many that Jenkins still holds and this is almost 60 years after his passing.“
When asked if he had any other challenges ahead, Jack stated that he planned to return to the Ohio Mile in the spring of 2016 and try to eclipse the 100 mile per hour barrier with his 8N, which he feels, with a few mechanical refinements, can be done.
Donohue also plans to enter his tractor at the August 2016 Speedweek at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah, a dry lake run at El Mirage, California and in October at the Texas Mile in Beeville. All are sanctioned World Land Speed Record events.
In addition to his 2016 racing stops, Jack is scheduled to appear with his famed 8NCREDIBLE at various agricultural events and farm equipment shows across the USA.
The engine is ported and polished and runs up to 5,000rpm. The transmission is the stock factory four-speed 8N unit with the use of a combination Sherman auxiliary. The stock differential on a 8N is 6.66 to 1. This had to go and as Jack Donahue says: "Thank God for calculators and computers. The arithmetic involved in getting through the Sherman, the main box and finding a suitable diff number, was mind numbing, but as you can see by the results, we came up with the right numbers and horsepower and cracked it!” Giving them a very low ratio in other words.