Expedition South will see two vintage Ferguson TEA-20 tractors and a modern Massey Ferguson MF5600 make the 2012km journey from the Hillary Trail at Piha to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

The Little Grey Fergie

The TE-20 tractor from Harry Ferguson, now famously known as the ‘Little Grey Fergie’ has a history like no other tractor.

The name, stemming from its power (20 horsepower) and origin (England) evolved from a TE-20 to the more commonly and colloquially known ‘Little Grey Fergie’ for its pioneering automatic control technology. For the time, automatic control was a technology that led the way forward for the agriculture industry. Now, automatic control is employed by almost all tractor manufacturers world-wide.

Its celebrated history was also thanks to Sir Ed's 'dash to the Pole', becoming the first vehicle to reach the South Pole. The fleet of seven tractors were reliable and effective, capable of climbing a 1-in-7 slope of hard polished ice, somewhere man cannot walk without crampons – a traction device. They were also successful of full operation in conditions less than -23 degrees Celsius.

Photo: Canterbury Museum

Photo: Canterbury Museum

I took a last glance at our tractor train - the three farm tractors, tilted over like hip-shot horses, looked lonely and neglected like broken toys cast aside after playtime; the caboose which had been a haven of warmth and rest to us now seemed more like a horse-box than ever; and the two sledges had only the meagre load of a half-full drum of fuel.

Yes! There was no doubt about it - our tractor train was a bit of a laugh! But despite appearances, our Fergusons had brought us over twelve hundred and fifty miles of snow and ice, crevasse and sastrugi, soft snow and blizzard to be the first vehicles to drive to the South Pole.
— Sir Ed Hillary describes the tractors on their arrival at South Pole Station.

 How the tractors were specified for the ice:

  • Some of the fleet was supplied as half-tracks with steerable front skis

  • Others on the trek were fitted with an extra wheel on either side and encased in Caterpillar tracks. The tracks were easily removed in light conditions for the tractors to be driven normally

  • Canvas cabins were added as protection from the wind

  • 2 were even fitted with loaders to help load and unload supplies

Other than this, they were totally standard.


How the Expedition South tractors are specified for New Zealand roads:

  • The tracks on the wheels have been removed

  • Roll bars, lights, indicators and seat belts have been added for safety

  • A more modern and ergonomic seat has replaced the metal seat

  • A canvas cab has been specifically constructed to protect the drivers from the weather

  • A frame has been constructed on the back to carry tools and spare fuel


MF5600 Series

All her life, Tractor Girl Manon Ossevoort had a dream to take a tractor somewhere there had not been a war, and in 2014 a return to the South Pole by tractor was made possible by this dream and with the help of a Massey Ferguson 5600 Series.

The MF5600 Series sets industry standards in engine power and torque, combining great performance with low fuel consumption. An exact replica of Tractor Girl's machine will travel with the two vintage TE-20s throughout Expedition South.


The following modifications were made to the Antarctica2 tractors:

  • Trelleborg and Massey Ferguson worked together to develop bespoke tyre technology to provide better fuel economy and a more comfortable ride on the ice

  • An additional heating system and added thermal protection was fitted to the cab to protect the driver

  • The grille was modified for larger are intakes and shaped slightly differently to avoid ice build up

  • To maintain oil temperature and avoid it from becoming too viscous, the engineers added Webasto technology and glycol tubes around the engine

  • The cab floor was fitted with extra thermal protection to guard and keep the electronics of the tractor safe

Other than this, the tractor is totally standard.