The David Brown Tractor

Tales from Wales: In which Josephine Roberts tells the story of how she came to acquire her rusty, temperamental, yet devilishly handsome, David Brown tractor.


| June 2008



JosephineRoberts.jpg

Josephine Roberts

When my partner, Alistair, and I first got together, we used to wander around shows and rallies discussing which of the display tractors we liked best. At some stage I would find myself standing in front of a David Brown tractor saying, "Ahhh, look at that, isn't it lovely," and he would say something like, "You really like those, don't you?" I would invariably recite the story of how I was offered one, some seven years ago, for the humble sum of £50 ($100 U.S.), and how I turned it down, because at the time I felt a diesel tractor would be handier for me.

I ended up buying a Massey Ferguson 35 instead, and I was undoubtedly right: It was a more useful tractor than the earlier David Brown. But in hindsight I wish I'd bought both tractors! After all, the David Brown was only £50 and even if I hadn't used it, I could just have put it away for a rainy day. Still, we can all kick ourselves for the opportunities we've missed over the years. At the time, I was largely ignorant of the fact that old tractors were about to jump from being rusty outdated relics to being highly collectible antiques. So, prices rose, Alistair and I ended up starting a family and I never did get my 1950s David Brown.

A year and a half ago on the morning of my birthday, I joyfully tore open my present and was rather surprised, or dare I say it, slightly disappointed, to find that my present consisted of a pair of bonnet (hood) latches for a tractor, and not, I might add, for any tractor that we happened to own. By way of explanation Alistair told me that if I ever did get a David Brown tractor, then these would be the sort of latches that would fit. "Gee thanks," I remember thinking, "… only another 500 pieces to collect and I'll have the full tractor."

Then, after breakfast, as I was taking the ash pan out to the yard to empty it, I heard what can only be described as a loud, spluttering vehicle coming up the lane. I stopped to listen closer, as whatever it was sounded as though it was totally devoid of an exhaust and deeply unhealthy.

Alistair is one of those chaps who loves to work out what every vehicle is by the noise it makes before it comes into sight as it passes our house, and I couldn't understand why he was so uninterested in what was coming up the road that morning. Next thing there was a grinding gearbox noise, an almost stalling noise, then a very loud revving noise, and in a plume of black smoke the beast in question lurched around the corner into our driveway. It was a David Brown tractor, one that looked as though it had been through a war and then rested under the sea for several decades.

The tractor was driven by my brother Bob, and since I knew Bob would never buy a David Brown, I turned to Alistair to ask if this was anything to do with him. He just smiled and said, "Happy birthday, darling!" I think my words were "Oh no - you haven't?!?" I'm not sure whether those words were due to disbelief or to the fact that I was thinking, "Oh no, now we have to restore this thing, and we can't!"