Q&A: The vintage tractor market – demand, costs and options

Historic kit is in hot demand. Auctioneer and Cheffins director Oliver Godfrey explains why, and discusses the costs and options for potential buyers.

Who buys vintage tractors?

Collectors and enthusiasts, in the main.

However, we have definitely seen an increase in younger buyers for classic tractors and also the occasional lifestyle buyer looking for a small vintage machine to use for topping meadows and suchlike if they have a few acres of ground.

See also: Classic Ford County tractor sells for record £94,500

What’s the demand currently like compared with the past decade or so?

Demand is certainly increasing, as are prices, and there are plenty of new faces at our sales.

The spring months are always when sales are best, as enthusiasts look to add to their collections ahead of the rally and ploughing match season.

Sounds like tractors from the 1980s and 1990s are particularly sought after – why?

You cannot put a price on the nostalgic value attached to some of these tractors.

And the examples from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s are really now starting to take off, as the younger generations of farmers look to buy the examples which they used perhaps when they first started working on farms, or those which remind them of their childhood.

This has always been the case and, as we start to see more buyers in their 30s and 40s, the demand for something like a good condition Massey 135 from the 1970s or a Ford 7810 from the 1990s has gone through the roof.

Are vintage tractors a good investment compared with, say, works of art or stocks and shares?

Absolutely. The values for vintage and classic tractors have risen year-on-year, with some makes and models now selling for six-figure sums.

Also, unlike works of art or other collectables, tractors fall under the “wasting asset” rule, which means they are not subject to capital gains tax on selling.

The return is not always financial – a good working classic has a very low depreciation curve and can still perform a solid day’s work and potentially be worth near its purchase price some five years later, assuming it has been well looked after.

1903 Ivel tractor with single front wheel and a large water tank

The 1903 Ivel, one of the first UK-made tractors, sold for a record £328,600 in 2019 © Cheffins

What’s the appeal of a restoration project?

For many people, the joy of buying a vintage tractor is to be able to restore it to its former glory, sourcing original parts right down to the last nuts and bolts to make it as historically accurate as possible.

Many of our buyers are incredibly talented at restoring these types of machines and will actively seek out project opportunities for the workshop.

These can sometimes be sourced at lower prices, depending on the make and model, and provide an opportunity for someone to make a profit if they then sell it following the restoration.

Could someone with a really low budget find a vintage tractor?

Yes. Vintage tractors are not only for those with deep pockets. For example, for around £500 you could buy an Allis Chalmers Model B or possibly a petrol Ferguson TE20.

If you had a budget of about £2,000-£3,000, you could buy a presentable and good working tractor, but if you were after something which has been beautifully restored for road runs you would need to have a budget of up to about £5,000.

Tell us about one item you’ll always remember selling

A really memorable one for me would be selling an International 12-25 Twin Mogul dating back to 1917 in the Keeley Collection in 2016.

This was an incredibly rare tractor, and one of only five known surviving examples in the UK.

It was one of those lots where no one knows how well it is going to do. The crowd were completely silent and there was a huge amount of anticipation when the bidding opened at £40,000.

It was finally knocked down at £80,500. That has to have been one of my most exciting times on the rostrum.

Sold examples

The 1903 Ivel Agricultural Motor sold at Cheffins’ October Vintage sale in 2019 for £328,600 – still the auction record for a vintage tractor in the UK.

See our feature and video Machinery Milestones: The £328,000 Ivel.

A 1972 Leyland 154, sold at a vintage sale on 24 April this year. This was beautifully restored and finished in yellow and sold for £7,200.

This is a good compact all-rounder; it will mow the grass, drive to the village or go to a ploughing match.

Two auctions coming up

The Wombwell Collection is a timed online sale from a single family farm collection, based in Ickleton in Cambridgeshire.

It will include vintage tractors, a combine harvester, Land Rover Series 1 and other wonders from the barn.

The sale will be online from 17-22 June, with viewing day on Friday 18 June.

The Shrubs Farm Collection, including more than 90 classic and vintage tractors, implements and spares, will be sold on Saturday 3 July in Essex.

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