Old Tractors vs. Vintage Tractors

Tales from Wales: Josephine Roberts offers a personal insight into what's in vogue for tractor collectors over in Blighty!

| December 2007

  • Fergusontractor.jpg
    A grey Ferguson tractor complete with finger-bar mower. So popular and successful was the “little grey Fergie” that at one time almost every farm had one. Today the Fergie is the tractor you’re most likely to see in large numbers at vintage events. A petrol/TVO model can be purchased for less than £1,000 ($2,035 U.S.), making it one of the more affordable vintage tractors available in the U.K.
  • Fergusontractor_1.jpg
    U.K. plowing matches feature special classes for Ferguson tractors with Ferguson plows. Some say that the Ferguson was not the best of plows and that is why it is given a separate class.
  • MasseyFerguson35.jpg
    A 3-cylinder Massey-Ferguson 35, with its headlights in what I refer to as the Mickey Mouse position. The 3-cylinder models are far more collectible here than the 4-cylinder variety, solely because the 4-cylinder model is considered to be a poor starter. Many U.K. collectors favor original, unrestored tractors like this.
  • FordsonMajor.jpg
    A Fordson Major. Until recently, these tractors were commonly seen on small farms and smallholdings throughout the United Kingdom. Now however, like other tractors from the early 1960s, they are more often seen at shows and plowing matches than at work on the farm.
  • 1947Series2.jpg
    The Field Marshall (this model a 1947 Series 2) is one of the most eye-catching of tractors regularly spotted at vintage shows. The unmistakable “thump-thump” of the single-cylinder engine never fails to get the attention of passersby. Even in its day, the Field Marshall wasn’t a tractor the average farmer owned. They tended to be owned by contractors and were more often used to power threshing machines than perform everyday farm work. I’d still like to own one just the same, even if it was just to go shopping on!
  • DavidBrown25D.jpg
    A restored David Brown 25D, probably dating to the mid-1950s. David Brown was another popular tractor of its era, with the Cropmaster model (similar to this but with cowling around the dash and usually sporting a double seat) being the most favored.
  • FordsonModelN.jpg
    The Fordson Model N. Not since the days of trailed implements has the Model N been in regular farm work. Like the grey Fergie, it was another very popular tractor here. Today the Fordson is frequently seen in plowing matches, painted green (as shown here) or a rather lurid shade of orange used until World War II, when it was decided the tractors would be safer from bombs if they were painted a more discreet shade. This 1941 model belongs to and is driven by my brother Pete, a great fan of these particular tractors.
  • FordsonE27N.jpg
    A Fordson E27N: In my view, a seriously good looking tractor. My late father, however, who regularly drove a tractor like this, said they were rather underpowered and temperamental – unless you happened to be lucky enough to own a model with a Perkins conversion.
  • CzechRepublic.jpg
    My brother Bob, topping a neighbor’s field with his 1972 Zetor 5545 made in the Czech Republic. Tractors of the 1970s haven’t quite reached collectible status yet and those from eastern Europe are among the most inexpensive around. For that reason, they are frequently seen at work on small farms in the U.K. Bob reckons 1970s tractors have an appeal of their own, but give me a 1950s tractor any day!
  • JosephineRoberts.jpg


  • Fergusontractor.jpg
  • Fergusontractor_1.jpg
  • MasseyFerguson35.jpg
  • FordsonMajor.jpg
  • 1947Series2.jpg
  • DavidBrown25D.jpg
  • FordsonModelN.jpg
  • FordsonE27N.jpg
  • CzechRepublic.jpg
  • JosephineRoberts.jpg

Little pockets of wet and windy Wales are still firmly stuck in the 1960s. You can't blame people: The 1960s was a good era after all, and things were cheaper then, so why not stay there? If you're a hill farmer, a thin covering of little mountain sheep are about all you can hope to make a living from, so what on earth would be the point of shelling out on a gigantic modern tractor that you would probably have to mortgage the family home in order to buy?

This is what makes little old-fashioned North Wales such a great place for tractor spotting. Many times I'll be driving along a road and come up behind an old guy with his flat cap pulled down low, chugging along on an old muck-covered 1960s tractor, with his arm resting on what's left of the mudguard, casting a shrewd eye over his neighbor's fields as he bounces by.

What makes people like that chap so special is that they haven't decided that old tractors are the latest big thing, and they haven't rushed out armed with a checkbook to buy the rarities before they're all snapped up. They are actually still using these machines, still living in the era, and they probably think that showing a restored vintage tractor is a criminal waste of a perfectly serviceable machine!

Don't get me wrong, we have our collectors here too, and a sterling job they do of making sure our antiques don't all rot away in the hedgerows, but there's nothing like catching a glimpse of a real live, active vintage owner, defiantly sticking to his or her era, despite the modernity that's racing along all around.



It all rather reminds me of a townie friend of mine who visited from Manchester a couple of years ago. She told me that the latest thing amongst the cool lads of the city was to wear 1980s style zig-zag jumpers, with old farmer-style flat caps. "But around here we're still wearing those from the first time around!" I told her. "Does that make us suddenly the height of fashion, or just terribly behind the times?"

In that very same way, many people are still farming with their faithful old tractors, whilst in the meantime those living a more modern lifestyle are viewing the old tractors as antiques potentially worth a fortune. Which all just goes to show how fickle fashion is. One person's has-been is another person's antique, and that goes for furniture, clothes and tractors!