Good Things Come in Small Packages: Meet the Leyland 154

Take a closer look at the Leyland 154, an un-complicated, user-friendly classic.

| March 2015

The diminutive Leyland 154 tractor is something of a British icon. It’s a “classic” rather than a “vintage,” but our classic tractors are steadily growing in value as they age. Older British tractor enthusiasts recall the days when Standard Fordson and Ferguson tractors were used on the land, but we middle-age enthusiasts have nostalgic memories of the 1970s, and we remember the days when tractors like the Massey Ferguson 135, David Brown 995, Ford 4000 and, of course, the little old Leyland 154, were commonplace.

For a generation of enthusiasts, “classic” tractors are the tractors of our youth. We inevitably have a place in our hearts for them; they remind us of the “good old days.”

Bucking the trend

The Leyland 154 was made in Bathgate, Scotland, beginning in about 1969-’70 and ending in about 1980 (sources differ on those dates). Although it is now a favorite with collectors of small classic tractors, when the 154 arrived on the market it didn’t exactly send people wild with excitement. The problem was not with the tractor, but with its size. It was a lot smaller than other tractors then on the market. Other manufacturers had been gradually increasing the size of their tractors for the previous two decades. Bigger was better, and the Leyland 154 seemed to be a step backward, size-wise at least. Funnily enough, as agricultural tractors have continued to grow in size, a separate market for compact tractors has opened. Back in the 1970s, size was all that seemed to matter.

Technologically the 154 was a sound tractor, but it was much too small to be taken seriously by forward-looking farmers of the 1970s. However, it was an ideal tractor for horticulturalists and small-holders. If you ask anyone who drove one back in the day, they will tell you what a great little tractor the 154 was, and what fun these small, nimble, reliable little machines were to drive.

Standing the test of time

Terry Jones and his son, Dewi, are frequently seen at shows and rallies in North Wales, displaying their tidy little Leyland 154. Being light enough to be easily transported behind a medium-sized vehicle, the 154 is an ideal show tractor. What’s more, it is an absolute dream to drive, which makes it a great machine for road runs (or “tractor cruises,” as I hear they are sometimes referred to in the U.S.).

The 154 is a perfect tractor for collectors seeking an uncomplicated, user-friendly classic, but rest assured this is no “has been” – the 154 remains a great machine for the smallholder or hobby farmer. Of course, today’s budget-conscious smallholder can buy a new, “affordable” Indian- or Chinese-built compact tractor, but many people here feel that these machines lack the quality and durability once found in the classic, British-built tractors.