County classics at work

Published: 12:58PM Jan 28th, 2010
By: Tony Hoyland

John Dennis explains how County tractors helped change the work ethic on his family farm and became his choice of classic tractor.

County classics at work

The impressive equal-wheel tractor makes light work of the steep Devonshire terrain but John never allows himself to be over-confident, ensuring that ground conditions are good before putting the tractor to work.

The 20th century was a period of great innovation in technology in many areas, especially agriculture and during these years innovative designers of both agricultural machines and tractors enabled practically unworkable land to be brought into production.

John and his father Roger farm approximately 250 acres of grassland in mid-Devon. “Our landscape is very typical of much of the Devonshire countryside as we have hardly any level fields at all, just rolling hills many of which have up to a one-in-three gradient. Also the soil is very heavy being clay-based making our land more suited to keeping livestock than cultivating for cropping,” said John.

“Up to and during the 1950s and 60s land such as this would have been used primarily for grazing as the more conventional tractors working at the time would have struggled to cope with the terrain. Farmers would have been unable to plough and re-seed fields easily, so the land would not have been as productive because there was very little pasture management, rolling or harrowing, as we see today.”

Tracked tractors played their part on the farm when Roger became the owner of an International Harvester TD-6, which he believes was one of the first to be put to work in the area. His second tracked machine was a Caterpillar D2 fitted with 14 inch wide tracks and powered by a four-cylinder diesel engine. “Although Dad used these tracked machines coupled to a trailed mower he had to take great care when turning on headlands as the tracks could churn up the grass very easily. Consequently he felt that tracked tractors were more suited for use on arable farms than the rolling landscape of Devon,” John explained. The arrival of a new four-wheel drive Zetor in the mid-1960s heralded the change from tracked to wheeled tractors on the farm.

New breed of tractor

County Commercial Cars Limited of Fleet, Hampshire had begun to build tracked tractors using mainly Ford skid units after the end of WWII to fill the excess production capacity created when demand for military vehicles came to an end. In 1965 the company ceased building tracked machines but had already established itself as a leader in the production of four-wheel drive tractors, again based mainly on Ford skid units. It was this type of machine that altered the ability of farmers to farm more efficiently on very varied terrain.

In 1967 the first County tractor arrived on John’s farm in the form of a Super-6 1004 powered by a 100hp six-cylinder Ford 2703E diesel engine and transmission as used on the Ford Pre-Force 5000 tractor.

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