18 December 1998

Tractor old stagers very

Finding that elusive spare part for an old tractor can mean

the difference between a final trip to the scrapyard or

keeping the tractor going for a few more years of useful

work. Mike Williams explores the options

MOST tractor manufacturers aim to maintain a full parts supply for at least 20 years after the end of a production run, but there is no compulsory retirement age for farm tractors, and many of them are still earning their keep long after their 20th birthday

Keeping elderly tractors working after the manufacturers use-by date is a job for specialist parts suppliers. They stock some of the parts which are no longer available from local dealers or manufacturers, and their customers include those enthusiasts who restore vintage equipment – as well as farmers who work with older tractors.

Both types of customer are important to the Derbyshire based Old 20 Parts Co, but this year there has been a significant increase in the volume of orders from farmers with working tractors to repair.

"We have noticed this before," says Nick Battelle, who runs the family owned business. "Whenever there is a downturn in the demand for new tractors, we find more farmers are buying parts to keep their old tractors working. It is a big part of our business, and we have three specialists dealing with parts for working tractors and thousands of farmers on our books."

The Old 20 Parts Co based at Shardlow, Derby was started in 1984 as a specialist supplier of parts for the Ferguson TE20 or Little Grey Fergie, and the name has remained unchanged even though the company has spread its net to cover other makes and models including Massey Ferguson.

Nick Battelles father, Arthur, was already running a Ford and Fordson parts service, which was transferred to the Old 20 Parts business. At least some items for other makes including Allis-Chalmers, David Brown, International and Nuffield are also available.

The stock of about 2500 parts lines also includes some for the American built tractors imported briefly during the Second World War. These cover Case, Oliver and Minneapolis Moline tractors, but Mr Battelle admits that one of the gaps in the range is parts for older European built tractors.

"There are quite a lot of Lanz Bulldog tractors in Britain, some of them dating from the 1930s," he explains. "But they seem to be so simple and reliable that they rarely need spare parts."

Another gap in the Old 20 Parts coverage is John Deere, and this is because of the excellent parts back-up available through the normal John Deere spares service.

Company policy at John Deere is to maintain parts supplies as long as there is a demand, points out UK parts marketing manager, Philip Hodgkinson, and the result is a good level of availability for the more popular models from the late 1930s and 1940s.

"We certainly dont offer full availability," he says. "But it does mean, for example, that we were able to supply 80% of the parts ordered recently by a customer who is doing a major overhaul of a John Deere Model A tractor built in the early 1940s. I believe there are even a few parts available in America for the Waterloo Boy which was in production in the early 1920s."

Another source of John Deere parts is the Two-Cylinder Club, which has about 25,000 members – the biggest one make enthusiasts club in the world. The club magazine includes a lively small ads section which has a good reputation for ferreting out those hard-to-find parts.

Caterpillar also offers good parts availability, particularly on the biggest agricultural tractors such as the D6, D7 and D8 dating from the 1940s and 1950s. Many of these are still at work doing jobs such as subsoiling and mole ploughing, and the company has a good pick level for parts. Caterpillar also has a large and active enthusiasts club with both American and UK membership, and this can be a source of parts.

A supply source for spares to fit the more popular tractors from the last 40 or so years are the parts specialists such as Sparex and Vapormatic. They cover mainly fast moving items, but offer a wide selection which, in the case of Vapormatic amounts to 16,000 lines covering mainly engine, transmission and hydraulic components.

Parts for some of the great names from tractor history are still available from single make specialists:

&#8226 County (four-wheel drive) – Thama Holdings claims good availability for all models since 1965, and approximately 50% availability for pre-1965 Fordson Major based tractors. 01902 402030

&#8226 County (tracklayer) – Kedgworth Ltd took over the parts stock from County in 1979, and supplies are replenished from new production runs when necessary. 01963 363653

&#8226 Marshall – Robert Crawfords Lincolnshire based tractor and machinery dealership includes a section specialising in Marshall parts, including single cylinder models dating back to the late 1930s and the later models up to the MP6. 01205 750367.

&#8226 Roadless – Yorkshire farmer and Roadless enthusiast, David Pantry, claims a high pick level for all Roadless models from the 1950s. 01427 754216.

&#8226 Track Marshall – TMS is based at the old Marshall factory in Gainsborough and carries a high level of stocks for tractors up to about 30 years old, plus some availability for tractors from the 1950s. 01427 612301.

And when the faulty parts have been replaced, the next step could be a re-spray to restore the tractor to its original appearance. Some parts suppliers also offer paints prepared to original colour formulations, but Eagle Industrial Paints can go one step further. As well as supplying the standard colours for the more popular tractor and machinery makes, they also offer a computerised service to match traces of an original paint finish.