The big one from Basildon – Ford 8210
The model number 8210 first appeared on the sides of blue Ford tractors back in 1982, and from then until 1991 it was the largest tractor to be built at the Ford Motor Company’s factory in Basildon, Essex.
At the top of the British-built tree, the 8210 stood out and was in fact the top flagship model of the 10 Series machines that first saw the light of day in 1981 – but the 8210 was somewhat eclipsed by the fact that the bigger Belgian and American-built TW Series were bigger, stronger and more powerful. However, the 8210 still attracted a large following among users and it would be this model that was often used to try out new equipment and features before they became standard fitments on the rest of the Ford tractor range.
The story of the 8210 actually begins long before 1982 though, as its unusual predecessor was actually unveiled at the National Grassland Demonstration in July 1978. The 8100 model was introduced as a six-cylinder alternative to the four-cylinder 98hp 7700 and 78hp 6700 and shared many components with these models including the flat deck Q cab, 16 forward and four reverse Dual Power transmission and general back-end arrangement. The similarities stopped there however as the four-cylinder engine was replaced by a six-pot Ford truck engine producing 115hp and this meant that special lengths of steel had to be attached to support this lump of an engine.
The 8100 was always something of an oddball machine as it was part of the 700 Series line-up but at the same time somewhat apart from it; and the fact that the long six-cylinder motor stuck out much further in front of the cab than the four-cylinder machines made it look somewhat weird, especially as the standard front axle taken from the 6700 and 7700 was turned around to face the opposite way. This made the wheelbase the same as the smaller tractors but made the 8100 look even more ungainly! It was also not even built on the production line at Basildon as County Commercial Cars from Fleet in Hampshire assembled the 8100 for Ford alongside its more familiar product of 4WD Ford tractor conversions.
One of the main reasons for the appearance of the 8100 was that there was a large gap in the Ford tractor line-up between the 7700 and the 126hp 8700 and many farmers needed the higher power take-off horsepower of the 8700 but wanted something more lightweight – the 8100 was Ford’s answer to this. Ford did not expect to sell a great many 8100 tractors but in fact it did become quite a popular machine and, perhaps inevitably given County’s involvement, a four-wheel drive version soon appeared that addressed one of the 8100’s main drawbacks – that of too much weight forwards over the front axle.
1980 saw the 8200 make its debut, still with 115hp available but this time from the same engine as used in the bigger 8700 model. This addressed several of the problems associated with the truck engine used in the 8100 which had proved to be somewhat thirsty! County assembled the 8200 under the same type of arrangement as the 8100 which still remained in production alongside the 8200 for a time and some were even built with four-wheel drive fitted! The front axle arrangement chosen for the 8200 was sourced from Schindler and fitted on the County production line at Fleet.
Ford revamped most of their tractor range in 1981 when the Series 10 models first appeared but the largest of these was the 7710 as the 8200 remained on the books until 1982 when the 8210 made its entrance.
Unlike the 8100 and 8200 models, the 8210 was built on the line at Basildon along with the rest of the 10 Series tractors. Power was now up to 116hp and the four-wheel drive front axle was now supplied by ZF. As part of the 10 Series, the 8210 benefited from several improvements relating to the cab and transmission and was now the largest Ford tractor ever built in the Essex factory, which was first opened in 1964. As the top of the range 10 Series machine, the 8210 attracted a kudos to itself that had been sadly lacking for its County-built predecessors, which were always seen as poor relations to the rest of the Ford product line in many ways.
In 1984 another new model appeared. The Ford 7910 was basically a de-rated version of the 8210 itself with a power output of 103hp from its six-cylinder engine. The 7910 was built for those farmers who preferred a six-pot tractor of around 100hp instead of the four-cylinder turbocharged 7610 and as such found immediate favour in France where a large market existed for such machines. Here in the UK it was not as popular, as it was seen as a rather heavy tractor for its power rating. This was because it was built to exactly the same dimensions as the bigger 8210.
But 1985 saw a big change made to the Series 10 range with the introduction of the Force II models. Although the three TW models also received the Force II treatment, the 8210 remained as the largest Series 10 Force II tractor. The most obvious new feature of the Force II range was the striking-looking Super Q cab which replaced the earlier Q cab and saw for the first time the introduction of a flat floor cab available eventually on tractors from the 72hp 5610 up to the 186hp TW35. Extra sound-deadening material meant that the new Super Q cab was a much quieter place in which to spend the day and it certainly looked the part too with four work lights built into the front of the cab roof, two on the back of the roof, side-mounted cab air filters and a lower overall height. For many people this is the era when the Ford tractor really looked its best and it is certainly a period when the company enjoyed very good sales, both here and overseas.
This brings us almost up to date with the exception of the very last incarnation of the 8210 tractor which occurred in 1989. But before we look at this last machine, we need to look at the particular 8210 that is the centrepiece of this article.
We needed a backup machine to our existing Massey Ferguson 3635 tractor which we were planning to use on contract work for a potato-growing co-operative on clod and stone separation work and also trailer work during the harvesting season. The 3635 was a lovely tractor but we did have concerns over the state of the clutch and so we thought it prudent to have a backup in case anything should happen to the frontline machine. Being rather fond of the Ford Series 10 models and the 8210 in particular, we simply had to purchase the 8210 Generation III model we found in a Norfolk tractor dealer’s yard. This 8210 had been built in Basildon and then shipped over to France where it had spent its working life until being repatriated back into the British Isles.
This was a very tidy machine with good tinwork, sound mechanical units and a very tidy cab which looked as though it had hardly been used. However, the nearside bonnet had suffered some wear, the wing mirrors had literally been ripped off when it had been packed in its shipping container and the electronically controlled rear linkage and other electrics were playing up a bit. The usual continental-style high drawbar hitch was also fitted, which worked well with the four-wheel trailers that they use over there but would have been disastrous to try and use with standard trailer equipment in the UK. The dealer had all the necessary bits to get the 8210 shipshape and back to UK specification so we took the plunge and bought her for a very reasonable four-figure sum!
We changed the hitch for a conventional pick-up type hitch, refitted wing mirrors, tidied up the tinwork, got the linkage working and fully serviced the tractor. The only thing that remained difficult was fixing the electrical system in general and indeed this is always the worst part of a modern-ish machine. But we got there in the end.
Once the problems had been sorted out, the tractor proved to be a good worker, it easily hauled grain trailers during the harvest and proved to be ideal for working a Reekie 300SA de-stoner preparing beds for potato planting. However, the electric problems came back to haunt us and it was soon obvious that these would need a full strip-down by a professional. It was also obvious that our tractor’s top road speed of around 30kph was just not up to working in a modern farming environment on carting duties. So it was with great reluctance that we traded the 8210 – along with the Massey Ferguson 3635 – for a much newer Renault Ares 640RZ, a fantastic modern tractor with modern benefits but with much less character than the Ford 8210!
In today’s farming world, the 8210 would be seen as a very heavy, slow and cumbersome machine with only a modest power output, but in its day this was a very impressive and powerful machine that quite rightly deserved its top spot as the biggest Basildon-built Ford tractor to date. Time moves on though, and the 8210 would be replaced in 1991 by the 8240, a 110hp, six-cylinder machine that formed part of the all-new Ford 40 Series range that was launched after the takeover of Ford Tractor Operations by Fiat. This was also no longer the biggest tractor to be built by Ford as the 120hp 8340 was now the top model in the new range and this was soon boosted to 125hp. Today, as part of New Holland, the Basildon factory produces a vast range of different-size machines still, most of which are painted in the familiar blue livery. In 2010 the biggest tractor built in Basildon is just a bit larger than the old 8210 and certainly a very different machine. The T7070 is the biggest in the current T7000 Series line-up and features a six-cylinder engine producing a maximum of 251hp and is also fitted with the Auto Command constantly variable transmission all of which is controlled by electronics instead of just the rear hydraulic system.
With its rugged good looks, stunning Super Q cab, tall exhaust and large air intake bowl mounted on the top of the bonnet, the 8210 is of course a generation apart from the T7070 but in its day this classic tractor was at the top of the tree and of course was a huge step in the development of the New Holland machines at work on farms all over the world today.
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