21 March 1997

Agenuine two-in-one

Jack of all trades, master of none – Moffett Engineering reckons its MFT tractor turns such a well-worn phrase into fiction. As part of our One-Year-On series,

Andrew Faulkner visits an owner-driver in Devon

LIKE Dr Doolittles twin-headed Push me/Pull you, the Moffett MFT is a bizarre, bi-directional beast that just cries out for closer inspection.

Part-tractor, part-materials handler, the New Holland-based skid unit is, in simple terms, a reverse-drive tractor which comes complete with full conventional tractor spec as well as an industrial-type, rear-mounted loader.

In theory at least, an MFT buyer gets two machines for the price of one.

But that principle, though neat, rarely proves accurate in practice. Farming history is littered with universal concepts, scrapped because they did two tasks half decently, but never quite as efficiently as the more specialist, purpose-built machine.

However, Moffetts Irish-built MFT may prove history wrong, according to Devon beef/sheep producer Richard Bickell, who farms the 320ha (800-acre) Little Westcott all-grass unit, at Brentor, near Tavistock.

"You genuinely get two machines," he says. "With the loader on and the unit in reverse-drive mode, youre sitting almost on top of the loader attachment with a commanding view all-round. And, after dropping off the loader and switching back the driving controls (a 5-min job), you have a standard Ford tractor."

Mr Bickell bought his 95hp MFT 7740SL – a 100hp 6cyl 7840 is also available – last May to replace a conventional four-wheel-drive Ford 7610, which, at the time, was Little Westcotts main workhorse. A second 7610, still on the farm, carried out all materials handling with a standard 1.5t Steelfab fore-end loader.

Initially, Mr Bickell was looking for a straight swap, one 95hp tractor for another. But after a MFT demonstration, set up by New Holland dealer R F Hayden, he decided the farm could justify a second loader, with the old 7610/Steelfab combination retained as back-up.

How about what many would see as the obvious solution? A dedicated telescopic handler.

Never an option, Mr Bickell replies. "Clearly, the telescopic has a big lift height advantage, but even with the MFT I can load D1000 straw bales up to six high – enough in our buildings.

"And I havent come across a telescopic yet that can spread muck, plough a field and sensibly tow an 8t trailer up hills."

"Because the loader attachment is right next to MFTs steering pivot, the rear axle, the tractor is very manoeuvrable in and around our tight buildings. Also, being a solid axle next to the loader, the machine is very stable both on rough ground and on silage clamps."

Indeed, silage is the season when the MFT, coupled to a 2.7m (9ft) wide Grays buckrake comes in for most concentrated use. As well as clamping his own 100ha (250 acres), Mr Bickell works with his cousin, contractor Andrew Heyward, to get in a further 320ha (800 acres). Here, the 7740s clutchless shuttle comes in for particular praise.

Other annual tasks include loading and pulling the farms 3t Kidd forage wagon, 6.5cu.m (8.5cu.yd) Tullow muck spreader and 7t bale trailers. General handling and pallet work also fall within the machines remit.

As for downsides, niggles and possible improvements, most of Mr Bickells comments centre on the cab. Though ease of switching from conventional to reverse-drive and control layout score well, he reckons there is still scope for refinement.

"The pick-up hitch should either be telescopic or Moffett should fit a sighting mirror in the back window. Until we fitted our own, hooking onto a trailer often ended up with it off its block and the ring in the muck.

"With only the rear window for ventilation, air conditioning should also be standard," he adds.

The only other criticism is with the handbrake position which, with the seat facing forward, dictates a calving-type squeeze between cushion and transmission/hydraulic control cover.

Otherwise, in-cab layout is "fall-to-hand" good, he says. "Somebody has obviously thought about where to put things." Perhaps, then, here is a machine that can justifiably claim to be "master of all….".

Moffett munch…Richard Bickells Moffett MFTtractor loader tucks into swedes at Little Westcott, near Tavistock. Right: Reverse-drive view of loader attachment would be difficult to better, Mr Bickell reckons.


&#8226 Model: MFT 7740SL

&#8226 Engine: 95hp 4cyl turbo

&#8226 Transmission: 24F/24R, clutchless shuttle

&#8226 Loader capacity: 2t

&#8226 Lift height: 3.66m (12ft)

&#8226 Price: £40,900.