24 November 1995

JCB aiming

to woo waverers

The Fastrac fast tractor was a dramatic departure from the conventional when launched in 1991 – too dramatic for some. In the summer, JCB introduced a slower, lighter, more manoeuvrable version for the waverers, the 1115. Andrew Faulkner climbs aboard

A FASTRAC with "mass appeal" was JCBs claim for its new baby when the 115hp 1115 was launched at this years Royal Show.

Shorter, lighter and more manoeuvrable than its big brothers, the 1115 brings JCBs fast tractor concept down into the popular 100-120hp sector for the first time. Farmer response to the 1115 has been dramatic, according to Fastrac product specialist Richard Fox-Marrs.

"By the time the model has been in production for a full year we expect it, along with the recently announced 1135, to account for up to 40-50% of all Fastrac sales."

But why the farmer interest in this particular model? Although Fastracs have always sold well in certain regions – East Anglia and Shropshire – other areas have been slow to accept the tractor. Could it be the bigger Fastracs have been perceived as too dramatic a change from the conventional by many farmers?

The 1115 is JCBs answer to the waverers. Power and top speed are down compared with the bigger models as are overall size, weight, and price. Forward visibility and manoeuvrability have been dramatically improved. Despite these changes, JCB has retained much of the technology developed for its bigger tractors: Perkins power units, 36F/12R-speed splitter box, Bosch hydraulics, four equal-sized wheels, suspension front and rear, central (albeit smaller) cab and three implement-mounting points including a 2.5t capacity platform behind the cab.

So is the 1115 an improvement on what has gone before, or merely a "mix n match" compromise? farmers weekly went to JCBs estate near Rocester, Staffs, to gain some initial driving impressions. Most time was spent ploughing with a five-furrow Dowdeswell 100-series reversible with hydraulically adjustable furrow width.

Engine

A 115hp naturally-aspirated version of Perkins 1000-series six-cylinder power unit sits under the 1115s bonnet. Maximum torque of 450Nm is generated at 1400rpm, with 23% torque back-up.

Although 20hp down on the next biggest Fastrac, the 135hp 135, the 1115s motor has 1t less weight to shift and, as a result, feels similarly responsive. The engine comfortably pulled Dowdeswells five furrows, set at 350mm (14in), through medium/heavy loam over gravel at about 200mm (8in) depth. For-ward speed was about 3.5mph at a leisurely 1900rpm but the outfit could have handled more.

Transmission

Familiar stuff for existing Fastrac operators, the 1115 is fitted with JCBs 36F/12R-speed transmission. The input shaft takes drive from the engine into a two-speed splitter, then into the main Eaton six-speed box and finally through a triple range change/reverser. In the cab, the splitter is operated by two buttons on top of the main six-speed lever, while pre-select rev-erse and direction changes are made using a twist grip stalk on the side of the steering wheel. The two-speed splitter is the only clutchless shift.

The Eaton six-speeds diagonal neutral gate took some getting used to but it became easier with practice. Ploughing was done in Low 5th in the Up Split with no need to change the main lever. Engine grunt in response to tough tramlines meant a simple on-the-move downshift from Up to Low Split.

Direction changing also needed practice but the benefits of the pre-select reverser soon became clear.

On approaching the headland the range lever is flicked into reverse. The direction change is only engaged when the clutch is depressed, which leaves hands free for operating hydraulics and spools during headland turns.

Hydraulics

The 1115s maximum lift capacity of 5.25t meant no back-end creaks or groans when raising/lowering the Dowdeswell five-furrow. All swit-ches and dials on JCBs electronic hydraulic control panel were easy to find and use. No complaints with lower link sensing either, which responded as and when it should.

Pto

There was no chance to try out the 1115s pto combinations. Standard spec includes 540 and 1000rpm sel-ectable from the cab, along with a reversible 6/21-spline shaft. Econ-omy 540rpm operation comes from fitting six-spline shaft, selecting 1000rpm position on in-cab lever and running engine at 1300rpm.

Front pto (£2171) and front linkage (£2764) are options.

In the cab

To accommodate both a shorter wheelbase, tighter turns and the Fastracs 2.5t rear platform something had to shrink. And that something was the cabin.

Although there is less stowage space, and accommodation for driver and passenger is tighter than before, the centrally-mounted cab is still roomy. Main differences are slimmer dash, less space between the two seats and no stowage areas in footwells. Control layout is much as before. Visibility to the rear is no different to bigger machines – unhindered view of all five furrows – but forward visibility has been dramatically improved. The full-length screen and sloping bonnet gives a view only bettered by the "drop nose" tractors.

The verdict

The 1115 is an altogether less intimidating Fastrac package for the uninitiated. Ride benefits of a suspended chassis are retained but reduced top speed – still a better than average 32mph – a tighter turning circle and better forward visibility make buying this Fastrac a less dramatic leap from the conventional than before.

But, whatever JCB says, a big factor in the decision over whether to buy this "fieldwork-orientated" 1115 will centre around its splitter gearbox. Do the Fastracs advantages of suspended comfort outweigh the benefits of the "clutchless" semi-powershift boxes on most of the 1115s rivals in the 100-120hp sector? Trying one is probably the only way to find out.

&#8226 Since carrying out this "First Drive" JCB has announced the launch of a bigger version of the 1115, badged 1135. The 135hp tractor has a turbocharged engine and beefed up driveline. Price is £49,500. &#42


Fastrac models 1115 and 135 compared

1115135

Engine115hp 6-cyl Perkins135hp 6-cyl Perkins, turbo

Gearbox36F/12R36F/12R

Top speed32mph40 or 47mph

Weight5.3t6.3t

Width2.31m (91in)2.49m (98in)

Height2.8m (110in)2.97m (117in)

Track width1.83m (72in)2.02m (79in)

Wheelbase2.78m (110in)3m (118in)

Turning circle13.13m (43ft)14.1m (46ft 3in)

Rear deck load capacity*2.5t2.5t

Rear lift capacity*5.25t6t

*Greater lift and load capacity options are available.


Fastrac range

ModelHpPrice (£)

111511545,065

13513553,428

15515055,315

18517061,628

This 115hp JCB 1115 is the smallest, lightest and most manoeuvrable model in the Fastrac "fast tractor" range. Price is from £45,065.

Excessive rear linkage wear has been a problem on past Fastracs. Recent JCB mods include bigger casting for cross-shaft lift arm, and main pin between lift arm and lift rod is now prevented from turning.

Hitching on to a trailer is an art. The secret is to use the pick-up hitchs lift rods as a guide to hook height – rod tops twitch when hitch hits the floor – and then line up the tractors auxiliary lighting socket with the trailers drawbar.

Side panel has to come off to get at engine oil dipstick for daily check. JCB plans to modify dipstick access so panel can stay in place.

There is no comparison between forward visibility on big and small Fastracs. The baby 1115s full-length windscreen and stubby mudguards give excellent view of tyre in furrow bottom – a view previously unknown to Fastrac drivers.

Narrower cab means Fastracs twin seats have to be mounted at different heights. This enables burly occupants to avoid rubbing shoulders.