Uniting Hydraulics and Classic Tractors
By Tom Seest
At ClassicTractorNews, we help classic tractor lovers keep up with the latest news for classic and vintage tractors.
Since making his transition from tires to tractors, Jeremy Clarkson has faced many hurdles in his quest to open up a farm restaurant. These obstacles include drought, unpredictable weather patterns, and an unresponsive council.
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At the core of any machine is its engine; this holds true for classic tractors as well.
An excellent example is the Oliver 2255 tractor. Produced between 1972 and 1976, it featured an enormous V-8 engine. There were two distinct versions produced: meadow green with clover white wheels and trim and Cockshutt’s Vermillion red with white trimming.
One unique characteristic of the 2255 is that it used a Cat 3150 engine, while most Oliver’s used their own. This choice may have been driven by newer and higher horsepower engines in general, or simply to save on time-consuming tooling-up processes necessary for changing an Oliver engine to accommodate for using one from Cat.
Oliver 2255’s standout feature was its three-speed “over/under” hydraulic shift system, enabling its operator to shift between speeds without stopping the engine – an enormous improvement over the standard single-speed shift lever.
Aside from its distinctive appearance, another outstanding aspect of the 2255 was its exhaust system. It features dual exhausts from each engine side to a common point below the oil pan and then into one large tube going up through the front of the tractor and out the muffler – much better than many other tractors of its time that used single pipes directly off of their heads for engine exhausting purposes.
The 2255 was an iconic tractor used for airport ground support (GSE). Many early barnstorming pilots started out by using this method of aircraft towing, especially when the weather turned bad; pilots would stop by any nearby farm they saw to negotiate an agreement with its owner so the tractor could pull their plane. Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart first got started this way before becoming world-renowned air racers.
No matter if it has two engines or more, two-wheel drives, four-wheel drives, or six-wheel drives; their strength lies in their transmissions which feature gears that enable these classic tractors to operate at high speeds with reduced stress at full throttle – an especially helpful feature when towing aircraft.
Aircraft towing companies rely heavily on farm tractors as part of their arsenal for aircraft towing services. Barnstorming pilots in particular would often make deals with local farmers to tow their planes out into an open field for performances using these daredevil tractors as transport.
In 1923, Clark Tructractor Co. (later to become forklift manufacturer Clark Material Handling Company) designed and fabricated a dual tractor towing truck known as the Duat. Resembling today’s tugboats in appearance, this workhorse could haul trailer loads full of lumber, freight, or industrial materials and even tow planes that had lost their wings due to mechanical difficulties.
The Triple-D tractor design by Essex farmer George Pryor was an innovative one. By connecting two Fordson Major tractors together and joining their front wheels and axles with turntables that allowed steering using hydraulic rams on both, Pryor achieved more power than any competitor on the market at that time; now considered an extremely valuable collector piece it is often makes appearances at agricultural fares such as Epworth Festival of the Plough in Lincolnshire or LeSueur Pioneer Power Days shows in Minnesota.
The Double-D tractor was once popular, but competition from single-engined tractors caused its demand to decrease significantly. Many have created their own Triple-D versions; still seen at preservation events like Astwood Bank Vintage Show in Leeds or major GSE shows such as Tractor World at Malvern Worcestershire. Today there are multiple manufacturers of towbarless tractors including TracMa, Albret Industrie Erma Devtec in both North America and Asia.
James “Jamie” Clarkson grew up on a farm in Perthshire, Scotland where he learned how to operate tractors from an early age. This ignited his love of nature as well as cars and motorcycles; since 1984, his articles have been regularly reprinted by broadsheet publications like The Sunday Times as he wrote local newspaper columns as well as automotive magazine pieces about them republished elsewhere. Additionally, in 2014 he purchased Diddly Squat Farm on which to write.
Today’s most sought-after farm tractor accessories can often be found where they can be purchased – including steering wheels and decals for steering tractors, carburetors, rims, and gauges, etc. You will likely find everything from these suppliers.
Some of the earliest barnstorming pilots used farm tractors to pull their planes. 1923: Clark Tructractor Co., now part of Clark Material Handling Co. and manufacturer of forklifts, produces the Duat two-ton tractor to pull trailer loads containing lumber, freight, or industrial materials.
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