Steel-tracked crawlers have their fair share of limitations when it comes to agricultural activities.
Their appetite for eating farm tracks means an account at the local gravel pit is a must, and if you travel any distance on the hard stuff you’ll be setting the chiropractor up on speed-dial, too.
Added to that, you’ll need a low loader for ferrying it down the road as well as a decent-sized tractor to pull it.
Sounds tedious. But once in the field they promise to pull harder, grip better and tread lighter than their rubber-tracked and wheeled cousins. For anyone with particularly heavy ground or concerns about compaction, that has to be attractive.
So much so that Lincolnshire dealer Robert H Crawford has seen a surge in sales of restored Track Marshall crawlers from the ’80s and ’90s. These have apparently been able to work where rubber-tracked machines twice their size have been forced to retreat to the yard.
Crawfords and Scaip
Lincolnshire dealer Robert H Crawford has been plugging the metal-tracked crawler concept for decades.
It all started in 1924 when Robert Crawford sold his first International 1020, before moving to Field Marshall crawlers, Fowler machines and then Track Marshall.
After the last Track Marshall clattered off the production line in 1995, Crawfords imported the Japanese-built Marooka rubber tracked crawler for a short time. But when it stopped sending machines to the UK, Crawfords concentrated on selling and restoring old Track Marshalls.
These still have a steady following and about 15 machines a year pass through Crawford’s yard each year. Unsurprisingly, trade always picks up in a wet year.
Such is the demand that Crawfords decided to seek out a more civilised and powerful version of the Gainsborough-built tug. The answer came from Italy in the form of the 350hp Scaip Warrior.
To see if it was any good we hooked it to a seven-furrow Dowdeswell and dropped it into some particularly heavy and decidedly damp north Lincolnshire clay.
For the time being, there’s a Cat powerplant residing in the Warrior’s long, red nose. Having such an iconic name in the world of steel-tracked crawlers under the bonnet will be a big attraction for potential buyers, but with the emissions police closing in, the 8.8-litre powerplant’s days are numbered.
The replacements for the two biggest models look set to be provided by another specialist in high-horsepower oil burners – Cummins. The smaller-chassis versions, meanwhile, are likely to take their power from a Deutz engine.
Controlling the engine from the cab is a little different from a conventional tractor because there’s no standard throttle. Instead, a series of four factory-set engine speeds – 800, 1,200, 1,800 and 2,100rpm – are selected by buttons on the armrest.
You can tweak these until you get the engine rpm you’re after and record the settings.
The existing six-pot arrangement sends 350 Italian stallions galloping through a two-speed hydrostatic transmission.
It uses two piston pumps to drive motors on either track, but the obvious risk with pumping large quantities of oil to keep the tracks moving is heat.
To stop the transmission cooking itself there is a big cooler mounted below the rear window, but given the Scaip’s Italian heritage, it should be capable of working in far sweatier conditions than the UK can muster.
Nudging the F1-style steering wheel left or right reduces the drive to one track, or full lock stops the power completely on one side and swivels the 14t machine on a sixpence.
For us the steering was a little too sensitive, but Crawfords says it can tweak the settings.
Metal tracks definitely have their advantages where soggy soils are concerned. Despite tipping the scales at almost 14t, the 22in-wide tracks do a sterling job of spreading the load.
Ground pressure is as little as 7psi, so it should be as gentle as polystyrene compared with a heavy-wheeled machine on boggy beet or maize stubbles.
Long metal cleats also dig in to allow the Warrior to bridge the ridges on already cultivated ground to provide a more comfortable ride. We didn’t get a chance to test it in the dry, but Crawfords says the cleats will bite into hard-packed ground and give better grip than rubber tracks and tyres.
On the flat, the journey is a little less comfortable, but the combination of hydraulic dampers under the cab and a Grammer seat does just about enough to stop your fillings falling out.
The tracks will last beyond the 5,000-hour mark provided you don’t go tearing across hardstanding with them, so they will outlive their rubber equivalents. The cleats don’t tend to wear either, so it’ll keep gripping right up to the point a refurb is needed. It’s just a shame that top speed is limited to a paltry 12kph.
The Warrior has a back-end beefy enough to match its horsepower. Rear lift is a hulk-like 12t and the linkage swings to make things smoother for mounted implements.
Our test tractor had no depth control or quick-drop functions so we had to manually push the joystick until the plough hit the desired depth. We’re told these will be fitted on the next models coming to the UK, though. There’s no draft control either as it’s designed to rip through the tougher patches, rather than lift up over them.
There’s one pto speed – 1,000rpm – that runs directly from the engine block to the back of the tractor.
The slender-framed cab isn’t built by Scaip, but is ordered to the company’s specifications. It’s positively palatial compared with the Track Marshall, and does a pretty good job of blocking out the roar of the Cat engine.
Old-school dials with chrome surrounds climb up the B-pillar, while electronic versions pop up on the colour screen once you turn the ignition key.
Controls are few and far between, which keeps things gloriously simple. Other than the joystick, engine presets, spools and electric handbrake, there’s very little to concern yourself with in the cab.
Scaip has been in the engineering business for the past 40 years and has spent 20 of those building tracked crawlers.
A lot of machines are destined for construction and pipeline industries, but a healthy chunk make it to the agricultural market.
Apparently, Italian farmers rate them for their grip in bone dry conditions as well as their low ground pressure.
What did we think?
There’s no doubt that the Warrior is a niche player. And unless your ground is more suited to brick-making than growing wheat, it’s possibly a bit of overkill.
But if ultimate traction, pulling power and low ground pressure is what you’re after it could be worth a punt. It’s not infallible, though – show it a particularly boggy hole and it will spin the tracks.
For us, fitting a hydrostatic transmission on a tractor destined for heavy draft work was another concern. But pulling seven furrows through some sticky ground didn’t seem to test it.
The massive cooling pack for the pumps and final drives should stop it overheating. However, only time will tell if it can take the strain long-term.
Elsewhere, you’ll have to put up with basic controls and a somewhat spartan array of in-cab equipment, and there’s always going to be the problem of moving it around.
But wait until a wet year and you might be glad you made the plunge.
Engine: 8.8-litre Caterpillar
Transmission: Two-speed hydrostatic
Ground pressure: 7psi
Price: £195,000 before discount