Modern concepts of yesterday

To say that Rob Wardhaugh is something of a Leyland and Nuffield enthusiast would be akin to casually dismissing Picasso as just a decorator.

His tractor collection, housed at Darnick Farm near Melrose in the Scottish Borders includes a mixture of 43 models of which just two don’t fit the Nuffield/Leyland mix.

Those rogue two are a Farmall H and a Steyr.

The remaining 42 are scattered about the premises in various states of repair and restoration, and are mostly Nuffield models.

But the collection is topped off with a hint of blue, as the more contemporary element of his fleet includes several Leyland models.

The flagship of the fleet is a pristine 285 model.

“I’d always wanted the big six cylinder tractor,” he says.

“It was ahead of its time with a space-frame chassis, good weight distribution which gave tremendous traction for a two-wheel drive tractor and an almost flat-floor cab that was wider than most on the market at that time.”

The 285 weighs just 4t and packed 85hp in its original guise – though most were tweaked to 100hp.

It offered 540 and 1000rpm pto speeds, had gear levers mounted alongside the seat leaving an uncluttered floor and an exhaust system that swept down beneath the cab floor and followed the cab profile to throw smoke at an angle away from the rear of the roof.

Registered in 1974, the P-plate tractor was in less than average condition when it arrived at Darnick Farm six years ago.

Having done about 3000 hours, it had suffered a gearbox failure and had to be stripped down.

“It had an over-sized seat, which fouled the gearlevers and caused the selector forks to become bent through abuse, which in turn took its toll on the transmission,” he says.

So Mr Wardhaugh took the opportunity to go right through the tractor over a period of two years, paring it back to just an empty frame and rebuilding the rest from front to back, with a new coat of paint and fresh decals.

“The gearboxes were known to be trouble, because they were originally designed for a 60hp 10/60 Nuffield and never uprated for the stronger engines,” he says.

“They’re fine if you are careful, but they were never meant to handle 100hp.

“We got a replacement gearbox from an old JCB digger and set about getting the tractor up to a clean, tidy state,” he says.

He says the 285 is easy to work on as a result of its chassis-based construction.

“You can unbolt the engine and lift it out,” he says.

“It’s possible to replace a clutch without splitting the tractor, because shaft drives connect the major parts together.”

The big Leyland is not a show queen however.

The tractor is regularly used on a four-furrow Ransomes plough with 14in bodies and often provides the motive power for a twin-axle trailer that is used to carry pairs of tractors from Mr Wardhaugh’s collection to shows and rallies.

“And it’s on 15-38 tyres, not the standard 14-34s, so we can tramp on a bit on the open road,” he adds.

“But it needs a bit of weight on the nose when you really want to open it up.”