It’s All About Muir Hill

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


| March 2014



Muir-Hill-121

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

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.