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

  • Terry Jones, Brian Lewis and Dewi Jones
    Restorers Terry Jones (left), Brian Lewis (center) and Dewi Jones.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • A compact tractor
    Many of today's new compact tractors are either ludicrously expensive or are of the more "affordable" Chinese and Indian type, which many people feel are lacking in quality. If I was looking for a compact tractor today, I would choose a classic like the Leyland 154 instead. It has stood the test of time, is still capable of a good day's work, and it will almost definitely hold its value as a collector's item.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Simple engineering
    No flashing screens and complex electronic systems here, thank you very much. This is engineering at its best: simple, effective and built to last. Did we really need to go ahead and complicate things, I wonder?
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Front view of the Leyland 154
    Simple and solid in build, the Leyland 154 marks the tail end of the wonderful era of car, tractor and truck building that Britain once enjoyed. This tiny island used to build wonderful machines that were exported the world over.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Two-tone blue paint job
    In 1968, British Leyland merged with British Motor Corp. (BMC) which earlier built Nuffield tractors. The result of the company's rebirth was these two-toned blue Leyland tractors.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The Leyland 154
    The 1970s was a time when bigger was better as far as farm tractors were concerned. Many buyers of the time felt that the little Leyland 154 was a step backwards in size, so it became a tractor that never quite gained the popularity that it deserved.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The restored Leyland 154
    When father and son Terry and Dewi bought the 154, they decided to go the "whole hog" by restoring and re-wiring the tractor. It was worth it in the end, as they now have a super reliable tractor. What's more, this machine is lightweight enough to be easily transported to all sorts of shows and events.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The Leyland 154
    Simple, effective hydraulic arms and a 2-speed PTO, everything one required in the 1970s, and still today.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Burgess dealer sticker
    The 154 was sold new through the Llanrwst branch of a dealership called Burgess. This sticker is a little piece of local history, as the dealership no longer exists.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts

  • Terry Jones, Brian Lewis and Dewi Jones
  • A compact tractor
  • Simple engineering
  • Front view of the Leyland 154
  • Two-tone blue paint job
  • The Leyland 154
  • The restored Leyland 154
  • The Leyland 154
  • Burgess dealer sticker

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.



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