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10 December 1999

On right trac for

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Almost a decade has

passed since production of

the MB-Trac ceased but now

a lookalike version called

the Trac is about to return

to the UK through East

Yorks company BassAgri.

Geoff Ashcroft drove the

first Trac model to reach

UK shores – the

160hp Trac 160

MB-TRAC enthusiasts should not be disappointed with the German-built Trac – it embodies everything that was the 1980s systems tractor icon, but in a 21st century package.

Among the specification of the Trac are a sprung front axle, 50kph road speed capability, front and rear linkage with dual speed ptos and a rear load platform – the latter mirrors the dimensions of that previously used by the MB-Trac.

But UK importer East Yorks-based BassAgri maintains the new Trac is not a direct replacement for the MB-Trac even though it retains its familiar looks. The Trac, claims the company, is a systems tractor for the next millennium.

BassAgri is initially majoring on the 160hp Trac 160, but a four-model range is destined for the UK. Models offering 90hp, 130hp and 190hp will be available by the middle of next year. All will use Mercedes engines.

Systems tractor enthusiasts will recall that LandTechnik Shonebeck (LTS) bought the design rights from Mercedes when production ceased. And production of Trac models now takes place in the LTS factory in Germany, though the company was taken over earlier this year by machinery maker Doppstadt. And along with the takeover, Dopp-stadt gained export rights for the tractor which were previously denied to LTS.

farmers weekly caught up with the UKs first official Trac 160 at Bishop Burton College, East Yorks, where trailer work with a 10-tonne dump trailer, gave an opportunity to put the 160hp machine to use.

Scaling the dizzy heights to the cab is straightforward and uncluttered. The Tracs cab uses a wide door, conveniently positioned grab handles and a series of wide steps which would not look out of place in a country mansion. Indeed, such access should suit operators with a leaning towards the rotund.

Once seated, operators are greeted with a bright, roomy cab which offers a flat and uncluttered floor. Extensive glazing affords a good view all round, helped by a high seating position. But looking for the rear pick-up hitch requires an extra pair of eyes.

Behind the seat, theres a recessed section of cab floor, where tools, sandwiches and flask could be stored.

After a quick familiarisation of controls, its time to put the Trac 160 to use. While the majority of controls can be conveniently found on the right-hand side console, the four-wheel drive and diff-lock switches are on top of the central dashboard and are partially obscured by the steering wheel.

Turning the key brings the 160hp Mercedes engine into life, and with full air pressure on the gauge – Trac uses wet disc brakes with air actuation on all four wheels – a gear is selected and the hand brake removed.

As drive is taken up, the Trac lurches forward as weight is momentarily lifted off its front axle, with springs and dampers working overtime to cushion this drivers poor clutch control.

When using the transmissions six main speeds for road work, the unusual positioning of pedals calls for a degree of dexterity to juggle foot throttle, clutch pedal and gear lever if smooth and comfortable progress is to be achieved.

While the clutch pedal requires an excessive stretch of the left leg, the foot throttle sees the right leg almost bent in two, making conventional driving a touch uncomfortable.

But the ride is smooth, with gentle bouncing up front as bumps are easily absorbed. Powerful brakes give a reassuring knowledge that the seven-tonnes-plus tractor can be brought to a firm, but progressive halt from any speed.

Manoeuvrability, however, is not one of the Trac 160s strongest points when only the front axle steers – wide berths and plenty of shunting room are essential. Though recognising that equal wheel tractors really need four-wheel steering, BassAgri says four-wheel steering is available as an option.

Setting the hand throttle, then using the four-speed powershift provides very smooth gear changes – buttons on the front face of the gear lever with illuminated numbers on the dashboard, confirm powershift gear selection.

Shuttle buttons for forward/ reverse are also on the front of the gear lever and these allow the operator to preselect a direction change. As yet, there is no powershuttle function – the tractor must be brought to a halt and the clutch depressed to activate the direction change.

For safety, the shuttle selection needs confirming by simultaneously pressing a button on the backside of the gear lever when direction choice is made. And direction of travel is shown on the dashboard as illuminated arrows.

Tracs hydraulic system is managed by Bosch electro-hydraulic control, and four double-acting spool valves are fitted – two are mechanical with variable flow control, the third and fourth spools are electronically controlled via buttons in the end of the seat armrest. Raising and lowering the rear linkage can be carried out from the right-hand control console, or by buttons on the gear lever.

It seems that in the Trac 160 growers are presented with yet another choice of capable tractor. &#42


Model: Trac 160.

Engine: 160hp Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder turbo.

Transmission: ZF six-speed synchromesh box with four-speed powershift (24 forward/24 reverse).

Hydraulics: Load sensing with Bosch electro-hydraulic management.

Pto: 540/1000rpm.

List price: About £75,000.

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