Four wheels may be good, but three can be even better. That’s the philosophy of James Atkinson, who has just built his second three-wheeler for the family farm at Stillingfleet, near York.

The first one was finished 15 years ago and was based on an MF 590 tractor. It did 6000 hours in three-wheel form over that period, exerting an unbeatably light touch on the ground for drilling and topwork. Now it has been replaced by a 90hp 2WD MF5445, bought with just 500 hours on the clock and converted in a similar way.

The yoke and kingpin simply bolt to the front of the tractor’s frame, with a pair of horizontal rams doing the steering. In fact it could be converted back to four-wheel format pretty simply, says Mr Atkinson.

3 wheel tractor

With 66 x 43 Terra Tires on the back and a 48 x 36 tyre on the front, virtually the whole width of the tractor is covered. There is a small gap between the path of the tyres, but the small ridge left doesn’t affect crop establishment, he says.

The new version, finished last week, will be used for power harrowing in front of the drill, rolling and grassland rolling and harrowing. It leaves no wheel marks on the farm’s tough soils and provides good firming during jobs like rolling.

“Steering is comparable to a 4WD tractor of the same size,” he says. “The tractor is very stable, very nimble and very controllable. It’s a very smooth ride”

The conversion took about a week, even though it had to be fitted in with other jobs and cost no more than £300 in parts. Mr Atkinson, who trained as an aeronautical engineer in the Fleet Air Arm before returning to the family farm, has set up as an agricultural engineering specialist offering consultancy, one-off designs and problem-solving services.