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



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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.

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!