10 May 2002

MB-Trac versatility for the 21st century

Doppstadts Trac has kept

a low profile since it landed

on British shores three

years ago. Now the four-

model Trac range is back

and will be imported into

the UK by two companies.

Andy Moore got mud on

the boots of the flagship

200 model

KNOWING the Trac is based on the one-time universally popular MB-Trac, it is perhaps strange that it has taken so long for an importer to take on the Trac with any serious intentions since its 1999 UK launch.

Three years later, the Trac is back, a much heralded Systems Tractor range which boasts models rated at 80hp, 150hp, 180hp and 200hp.

And, if four models are not enough choice, importer Reed UK based at Melksham, Wilts, will eventually bring in 130hp and 250hp machines.

Reed UK says it will distribute the German-built Doppstadt machines throughout most of England, while George Sellar, part of the SBF Agrico Group, will handle Scotland and northern England.

"We have yet to set a dividing line for distribution, but we initially intend to sell the Tracs through seven unfranchised sub-agents," says sales manager Tom Reed. "The latest Trac inherits all the virtues of the MB-Trac, which was renown for its reliability, versatility and performance."

Die-hard MB-Trac buffs will also recall that former distributor, Bassagri, started importing a semi-revamped 160 machine in 1999. But the latest Trac has a hatful of improvements.

To assess these upgrades, farmers weekly travelled to Wilts to test a 200 model on the road and assess its performance pulling a five-furrow plough.

First reaction when seeing the 12t, 200hp beast is to observe its bright in orange livery and note that its bonnet is steeper than before to provide improved views from the cab. A one-piece construction, it requires the driver to balance precariously on the mudguard to close it.

Up in the cab, there are modern electrically operated consoles, dash and joysticks. Serious levels of ventilation are afforded through opening front/rear windows, sunroof and air conditioning which is supplied as standard.

Although the cab is more modern than before, it still has an 80s feel and could benefit from more glazing and fewer cab pillars.

That said, gaining access to the transmission is easy – the cab can be tilted up to 35í by removing two bolts and pumping a hydraulic jack.

With the six-pot Merc rumbling away and air brakes disengaged, it is time to take to the tarmac.

Controlling the full powershift ZF box is now a simple operation compared with the previous semi-powershift version.

There is now a full powershift for the selection of the six main speeds in addition to the existing powershift for choosing the four ranges. So, no more depressing the clutch, grappling gear levers and losing forward speed. A joystick allows the powershift to shift up and down the speeds and ranges without using the clutch.

Trac enthusiasts will also be pleased to learn the machine now has a Power Shuttle sited below the steering wheel so clutchless direction changes can also be made.

Pushing throttle pedal to the metal propels the tractor forward swiftly, although speed shift changes could be slicker.

Only a minor quibble, the tractor briefly loses momentum before the transmission re-engages drive between changes.

Speed and range changes are made by moving the armrest-mounted joystick backwards or forwards and from side to side.

In speed six, range four, the 200 rapidly reaches its 50kph top speed, and the spring/damper suspended front axle and air seat make for a smooth ride.

Stamping on the anchors at 50kph brings the tractor to a hasty halt thanks to the wet multiple disc brakes – unbelted passengers beware!

As expected, hitching up five-furrow plough requires patience because the load platform obscures the view of the three-point linkage.

The load platform, which can be fitted with 250mm, 500mm and 800mm bolt-on extensions, is equipped with a swan neck coupling. Maximum front and rear axle loadings are rated at 6.7t each.

In work, pulling the plough proves to be no match for the impressive torque transmitted from the 906 series Merc power house and ZF gearbox, albeit in very light soil.

Speed four, range two, sees the transmission shift up effortlessly to 14kph which, with the 200hp, would not balk at dragging a couple of extra mould boards.

Plough lift/lower and turnover can be operated from a joystick next to the transmission joystick on the armrest with little fuss.

But turning the outfit at headlands is, by modern standards, a long-winded affair which may encourage prospective buyers to opt for a four-wheel steering version.

The verdict? Clearly capable of delivering the goods both on and off road, Doppstadt has a machine that retains the versatility of the original MB-Trac in a 21st century package. &#42

Prime mover… The Trac 200 combines the versatility of the original MB-Trac with a 21st century spec.

&#8226 Engine: 200hp Merc.

&#8226 Transmision:40X40 Pshift.

&#8226 Hydraulics:100lt/min.

&#8226 Front axle load:6.7t.

&#8226 Rear axle load:6.7t.

&#8226 Price: £75,000.

Front axle suspension is provided by a pair of springs and dampers on the Trac machines.

Open wide… Better engine access on the Tracs is afforded by a one-piece bonnet and front grille that swing skyward.