It’s Showtime! Vintage Tractor Events in Britain

The period between May and September offers plenty of vintage tractor shows in the U.K.

| September 2015

  • Llandudnos Transport Festival
    A glimpse of the tractor line-up at Llandudno’s Transport Festival, with Ferguson and Massey-Harris dominating the scene.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Fordson Major Tractor
    The Llandudno Transport Festival features a couple of evening road runs that allow enthusiasts to take in some great sea views. Pictured here is a Fordson Major tractor that has undergone a 4-wheel drive conversion.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Ferguson FE 35
    A Ferguson FE 35 Grey and Gold dating to 1957 at the Anglesey Vintage Rally. These tractors were built just as Ferguson was merging with Massey-Harris. They were soon superseded by the red and grey Massey Ferguson 35.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Sitting on Tractors
    Shows are where friends can get together for a good “chin wag.” I asked these chaps if they owned either of these tractors. “No,” one said. “We were just stopping for a rest.”
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Lanz Bulldog hot bulb tractor
    There are always a few rarities to be seen in the tractor line-up at Llandudno Transport Festival, like this 1950 German-made Lanz Bulldog hot bulb tractor.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Field Marshall Tractor
    An unrestored Field Marshall tractor dating to about 1950. It is just like the one I fell in love with during my first visit to a vintage vehicle rally in the 1970s. How I wish my father had bought one of these tractors back then, as today they frequently sell for more than £10,000 (about $15,500). These British-built, single-cylinder Field Marshall tractors have an unmistakable sound and were frequently used for belt work, often by contractors to provide power to threshing machines.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Ford 3000 Super Dexta
    This Ford 3000 Super Dexta belongs to Jac Vaughan, Pembrokeshire, Wales, and a very tidy example it is, too.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Turner Yeoman
    An evolutionary dead end! This Turner Yeoman of England tractor belongs to Edwin Hughes of North Wales. Yeoman of England diesel tractors made their debut in 1949, and whilst these Wolverhampton-built tractors did have some features that were ahead of their time, they were found to be poor starters. Turner simply couldn’t compete with the big guns, and production ceased in 1957, making this a rare and very sought-after tractor, despite its reputation as a rather unreliable machine.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Avellana Tractor
    There’s nothing like a bit of steam to get the nostalgia flowing. This British-made beauty is called Avellana and was built by Aveling & Porter of Kent, England. Thomas Aveling and Richard Thomas Porter formed the company in 1862, and went on to become the largest manufacturer of steamrollers in the world.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts

  • Llandudnos Transport Festival
  • Fordson Major Tractor
  • Ferguson FE 35
  • Sitting on Tractors
  • Lanz Bulldog hot bulb tractor
  • Field Marshall Tractor
  • Ford 3000 Super Dexta
  • Turner Yeoman
  • Avellana Tractor

During the summer, you are never far from a vintage tractor event in the U.K. Numerous small shows are arranged by local clubs and enthusiasts, plus there are large national events that usually provide sufficient entertainment for a long weekend. Either way, between May and September there will always be someplace where you can enjoy looking at old tractors.

Biggest of them all

One of the largest of Britain’s vintage rallies is the Great Dorset Steam Fair, now in its 47th year. The name is somewhat misleading, as this show is about so much more than steam-powered engines and vehicles. The Great Dorset is Britain’s leading heritage event, and is of interest to anyone who has a fascination in our rural and industrial past. Providing a vast blend of entertainment and nostalgia over a 600-acre plot, this fair draws in about 200,000 visitors each year, which just goes to show that far from being a quirky hobby that appeals to just a few enthusiasts, the vintage scene is in fact a huge, growing industry, popular with a far wider audience than one might imagine.

But these large shows aren’t for everyone. They are crowded for a start, and there will always be a certain amount of travelling time and queuing time, and then of course there’s the cost. It might be a small island we live on here, but you’d be surprised how expensive it is to get around here. As I write this, petrol costs approximately £1.15 per litre (roughly $4.25 per gallon), and diesel is slightly more expensive again at about  £1.20 per litre. Shocked? You should be. And in far-flung rural places, the costs can be even greater. Not only have these costs made it expensive for people who wish to take their vintage vehicles to shows and events, they have, more importantly, crippled many of our hauliers too.

With those costs in mind, I usually try to attend the local shows rather than the national events. It’s not just about money, though. I happen to like the fact that at a local event, I stand more of a chance of bumping into old friends, and generally the smaller events are more laid-back in nature and less bureaucratic than the larger events.



The queen of resorts

The first show of the season in this area is the Llandudno Transport Festival, which is held over three days at the start of May. Most shows are held in rural areas, with acreage being the key factor when it comes to venue choice, but this show is held within the Victorian seaside town of Llandudno and a stone’s throw from the beach and promenade. I think you guys would like this show, as I’m sure it is so very different from anything you probably see over there.

If you were wealthy and fashionable in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, Llandudno was the place to be seen. There was a real belief back then that the sea air, and indeed bathing in the chilly sea, could cure all sorts of ailments, and the crème de la crème of society came in droves to enjoy the elegance of Llandudno with its beautiful architecture, its sweeping promenade and its grand pier, all set against the backdrop of the Snowdonian mountains.