It’s All About Muir Hill

Muir Hill made heavy-duty tractors that are still proud British workhorses today.

| March 2014

  • Jim removing the 121's cab for restoration. Muir Hill tractors are built to last, but the cabs often need repair along the way.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • The 121 with a thoroughly serviced set of "innuds." She is just waiting for the cab and tinwork to go back on. Hopefully she'll now have many more years of work in her.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • This 1978 Series 3 121 Muir Hill belongs to a customer of Jim's. This well-maintained tractor is used for launching boats; it has come to Jim's yard for a full service.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Jim Ormerod of Smallholder Services, Anglesey, gives a winter service to a customer's Muir Hill tractor. Jim repairs, services and restores all sorts of older tractors, but Muir Hills are his specialty.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Jim's 1975 121 Series 2 when he first bought it two years ago.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Cabs are the first thing to rot away on a Muir Hill, and this one, which Jim has restored, is almost ready to be reunited with the 121.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Inside the 121's transfer box. The hydraulic pump drive gear has been removed from the lower shaft as it was worn and needed to be replaced.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • The 121's rear axle, showing the location of the hydraulic pump. The old drive gear can be seen on top. The PTO clutch pack has been removed from the top shaft to strip and renew the plates and hub.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • The Muir Hill tractor (also known as Muriel). These big equal-wheeled tractors are rather too large for most collectors, but all the same they are great British tractors, and as such it is important that they are preserved.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Jim with his latest project: a 1971 Muir Hill 101. The rear differential needs attention but otherwise it is in good order.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • The first Muir Hill that Jim bought is still awaiting restoration. "The trouble is my stuff always comes last," Jim says with a laugh.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Yes it is big and yellow, but it's not a Muir Hill. Jim also has a passion for old combines. Jim bought this 1959 New Holland 103 a few years back. He liked the fact that it has both a bagging rack and a tank, as more often than not they have one or the other, but not both. The table doesn't come off this machine, so it means that he just has to squeeze his way along the narrow Welsh lanes on his way to the grainfield.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • This loader has seen better days, but Jim is going to use it as a donor vehicle in order to restore the better machine (see last photo in slideshow).
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Whilst Muir Hills are Jim’s specialty, he does restore other tractors, like this Fordson Major brought in by a customer.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts
  • Jim's ex-army A5000 Muir Hill loader dating to about 1975. This versatile machine is capable of being fitted at the rear with either a Boughton winch or a Massey 50 back actor.
    Photo courtesy Josephine Roberts

For those of you who are only fond of sweet little vintage tractors I apologize for bringing you Muriel (aka the Muir Hill). But I shall endeavour to convert you. By the end of this article you might begin to admire these slightly ugly but wonderfully unique British workhorses.

Muir Hill began making tractors in 1966 in Manchester, England. Before that, in the 1920s, the company produced rail locomotives. These were mainly narrow gauge locomotives that were simple in design and based on a Fordson skid unit mounted on a rail chassis. The slate quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog in Wales and the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, England, both used Muir Hill locomotives (it is thought that the latter still owns a pair). After the 1930s the company ceased locomotive production and began building construction equipment. In the years following World War II, Muir Hill built forklift trucks and the dumpers; these too were based on Fordson tractor skid units.

Then, in 1966, the company started to make the heavy-duty tractors it would become famous for. Muir Hill had previously made a few shunting tractors based on Fordson units. The first truly agricultural tractor made by the company was the 101. It came out in 1969 and was fitted with a Ford engine.

The 110 came out in 1969 with a 6-cylinder Perkins engine. Perkins already had an excellent international reputation and distribution network and that helped make these tractors popular all over the world. The 161 was also produced in 1969. With its Perkins V8.510 engine, the 161 was Britain’s most powerful tractor in its day. In 1972 the 101 was replaced by the 121 Series II, featuring a walk-through flat floor and fully glazed cab (oddly, it seems there never was a Series I).



By 1978 the demand for increased operator comfort led to the introduction of the 121 Series III with larger cab, improved soundproofing, air conditioning and a radio. Muir Hill tractors soon gained the reputation of being solid, powerful workhorses. This has been proved true; many examples have stood the test of time and are still at work today. During its lifetime the Muir Hill company changed hands several times. Today the name and rights belong to Lloyd Loaders (MH) of Hipperholme, West Yorkshire.

The first “Muriel” I ever really took any notice of was a rusty old thing parked in a lay-by near the sea, close to where I used to live in West Wales. She was used for the sole purpose of launching boats from the beach. She was huge compared to the usual Fordson Major boat-launching tractors commonly seen in the area. On the top of the cab, where it once had said “Muir Hill,” someone had painted Muriel in big letters. The name stuck and these heavy-duty old tractors will always be Muriels to me.