An Overview Of The Nuffield Tractor Called Poppy Orange
By Tom Seest
Was The Nuffield Tractor Called Poppy Orange Originally?
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The Nuffield tractor is an impressive piece of machinery. Easy and enjoyable to operate, its retro styling complements rural settings well.
Due to steel shortages in 1948, production began on Dr. Merritt’s original design of a tractor called Poppy Orange at the Smithfield Show that same year. Officially known by this name, its distinctive hue mirrored that of American Allis-Chalmers tractors.
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As part of post-World War 2 recovery plans, the British Government approached the Nuffield Organisation with an offer to design and manufacture an all-British tractor in 1945. This timely offer coincided with Morris centralizing production at the Wolseley car plant before eventually closing for good, leaving factory space available at the Cowley location in Oxfordshire. As part of these recovery plans, this tractor became known as Nuffield Universal; the first petrol-paraffin engine models, known as M4 and M3 models, debuted at the 1948 Smithfield Show, respectively. Their engines were derived from side-valve Morris Commercial four-cylinder lorry engines running on tractor vaporizing oil that generated 42 HP output respectively.
These tractors were widely popular during America’s Great Depression for their economical design and powerful row crop capabilities. Built mostly from off-the-shelf components and featuring steel channel iron frames to reduce weight cast by other tractors of the day, these models boasted an impressively high power-to-weight ratio, which allowed them to accomplish many tasks larger models could not. Their low price tags reflected this fact as well.
Nuffield tractors became ever more advanced over time, with new engines, transmissions, and features being added. One significant development was the arrival of diesel engines in 1954, which introduced them to new markets. By the 1970s, however, their name had been dropped, and they had been rebadged as Leyland, with their iconic Poppy Orange color being replaced with two-tone blue as part of the Leyland corporate color.
Nuffield eventually encountered financial trouble and was sold to Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. Later, this entity would merge with Standard Triumph & Rover Companies to form British Leyland, although Nuffield continued manufacturing tractors until 1969 when their range was rebadged as Leyland Tractors.
Today, there are still several classic Nuffield tractors in use throughout the UK, most owned by enthusiasts who restore and maintain them. Unfortunately, though, their numbers are diminishing and their future remains uncertain.
William Morris 1st Viscount Nuffield was responsible for creating the Nuffield tractor range after starting out his career building bicycles and motorcycles. Soon thereafter he moved on to car manufacturing, owning or controlling several companies, including Wolseley Motors, MG car company, and Riley car company – eventually being knighted and elevated to peerage status by 1938 and giving his name to this trax range known as Nuffield Tractors.
Initial plans envisioned constructing a tractor capable of competing with imported American models. A number of prototypes were manufactured in 1946, with production commencing shortly afterward in 1948 despite shortages in steel. At first, only a limited quantity was manufactured.
By 1953, tractors had entered full production. Available as both utility and rowcrop versions, these tractors were powered by a petrol engine derived from the side-valve Morris commercial four cylinder lorry engine and boasted impressive top speeds of 68 mph while carrying large payloads at highly economical fuel consumption levels of 20 mpg on average.
In 1954, the Universal was equipped with a diesel engine. Morris Motors retained their Perkins engine until 1954 when it was upgraded with a 45 h.p. BMC OEA2 diesel engine and named “4DM.
Danish firm Sekura designed a new cab featuring an “Escape Hatch” roof feature required by Finnish noise regulations and offering superb comfort while driving and visibility.
At this time, relations between management and production workers had hit their lowest point, leading to frequent strikes that often disrupted tractor production.
By 1969, Nuffield Tractor Company had been combined with Leyland Tractor Company, and their signature poppy orange livery was discontinued; their tractors now simply bore “Leyland,” though a small sticker commemorating Nuffield remained attached above each model number until 1981 when Marshall and Sons of Gainsborough bought out the business.
The British government asked The Nuffield Organisation to design and construct an all-new wheeled tractor suitable for British and global farming, so they accepted the challenge. Their first prototype, the Nuffield Universal tractor, was completed by May 1946; 12 additional prototypes were later made before production began in 1948 – known as Poppy Orange colors for their vibrant red-orange hue.
The Nuffield organisation took an innovative approach when selecting implements compatible with their Nuffield tractor for approval as “Nuffield approved.” Their departments conducted tests and evaluations on each implement sent to them for review; an approved list was then published along with support provided to manufacturers in developing similar implements that could work on future tractors from Nuffield.
Nuffield chose not to produce their own engines at this time and instead purchased a BMC diesel engine from BMC – this decision was due to their incapability of creating their own. BMC diesel was an ideal fit with their Nuffield tractor!
Production of the Nuffield tractor began to ramp up quickly throughout 1950, with most being exported. They quickly became extremely popular across international markets such as Australia, where they were known as Landmasters or imported by Long Manufacturing for American markets and sold as Nuffields.
Nuffield Tractors was among the world’s premier tractor brands at the time of British Motor Holdings’ merger with Leyland Tractors in 1968, boasting a solid customer base and being amongst the biggest in terms of global market share. After this event, however, Nuffield became part of Leyland Tractors, changing their classic poppy red hue into two-tone blue to conform with Leyland corporate colors.
Today, there are still plenty of classic Nuffield tractors around, and many collectors own several. While generally quite durable tractors, some parts can wear over time; the primary shaft input seal is particularly susceptible to wear out over time and should be regularly replaced; additionally axle pivot pin and bush wear out regularly along with steering system malfunctioning, electrical systems often need repair due to faulty wiring causing reliability issues; there may even be problems in their electrical systems that need repairing for optimal operation.
Tommy owns a classic Nuffield tractor in vibrant orange. He enjoys using it to move snow and bring feed for his horses as well as wood from nearby forests for his fireplace. According to one Swedish Tractor book, Nuffields don’t sell well, yet Tommy believes Nuffields are well-built machines which he finds easy to drive.
This 4/25 Nuffield is another beautiful example of classic design, sporting grassland tires, and an off-road loader, as well as a nonstandard bonnet and mudwings. Starting easily and driving smoothly without producing smoke at all, with an exceptional clutch performance and good top-end road speeds, this machine shows great promise as an example.
This tractor has been well-maintained by its owner and is in great condition. All it needs are new tires, and some paintwork touches; its tinwork is excellent, with some small areas of rust at the wings and cab frame. Overall, it makes an excellent value purchase and would make the perfect addition for Nuffield enthusiasts! Original synthetic paint can easily be matched using your local automotive supplier’s color matching machine if it fades over time.
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