No frills, but enough hp
By Peter Hill
EXPECT the unexpected having climbed aboard the Smallholder ST20 or ST35.
It looks so much like a Ferguson TE20 or MF35 that the senses expect it to sound and feel like one, too. But there are surprises.
Turn the key and a loud click announces that the solenoid-operated fuel pump on-off control has opened. Turn it further, and the engine bursts into life without hesitation. Look for the familiar horizontal "throttle" lever to tickle up the revs a bit and it is not there; instead, a gentle tug on the tall wand to the left and forward of the steering wheel does the trick.
But it is not a familiar sound; nor, indeed a familiar engine. Because the Smallholder forsakes Standard or Perkins power for the modern direct-injection diesel combustion economy and efficiency of a three- or four-cylinder Lister-Petter.
The purists will be groaning already. But not those in the market for a light, compact and relatively inexpensive tractor. At prices from £5800 for the 30hp model based on TE20 mechanicals rising to £6750 for the 41hp MF35-based machine, the Smallholder represents affordable access to decent motive power.
Not that it is an original idea. The Mini-Trak project, which succumbed to financial difficulties last year, launched the concept of a "new" tractor that combines a modern engine with the hardy castings and machined parts of pensionable Ferguson models. The Smallholder is a fresh attempt to make the idea work, the new company having bought the design and manufacturing rights.
With the Smallholder, things are kept simpler but no less effective. No fancy GRP bodywork and garish colour schemes; just an honest collection of new fitments and fittings that retains familiar looks and recreates a neat, practical package.
It may be done on a small scale with more enthusiasm than facilities, but the process involved in turning an old-timer past its best into the gleaming imp that is the Smallholder is no less thorough than making the original.
For this particular recipe, take one TE20 or MF35, strip off and dispose of the engine and all mild steel components, then separate transmission, hydraulic and final drive assemblies.
Sandblast to remove old paint and the accumulated detritus of a long working life before inspecting for condition. Discard any parts showing defects or more than a modicum of wear and clean thoroughly before replacing bearings as necessary.
Reassemble skid using new seals, nuts and bolts, paint, then add a new engine, a specially fabricated front trunnion to carry the original axle and accommodate a crankshaft-driven oil pump, fit new grid-like foot plates, seat, steering wheel, exhaust pipe, steel mudguards, three-point linkage, draw bar, lower link pins, brake shoes, wheels and tyres.
Finish off with an original-style bonnet in glassfibre, trimmed with patriotic Union Jack-adorned decals.
Air conditioning? You cant get better ventilation than an open platform with just a roll-bar for protection. Radio-cassette player? Best buy a Sony Walkman. Power steering? Well, yes, there is a cleverly engineered hydrostatic system that slots into the existing steering column; a welcome option, along with heavy-duty front axle, when a fore-loader is to be added. *
Drivers eye view reveals tall wand-like hand "throttle" to regulate engine speed, minimalist instruments, and familiar gear and high-low levers.
It looks familiar and many of the key assemblies are second-hand. But much of the Smallholder is new – and it certainly looks the part.
New lift linkage components, including arms and bottom pins, a new drawbar, pto cover and footplates are among some of the freshly-minted items used for the Smallholder.
SMALLHOLDER TRACTOR RANGE
ST20 (TE20 based) ST35 (MF35 based)
Engine Three-cyl Lister-Petter 30hp Three-cyl Lister-Petter 30hp
Four-cyl Lister-Petter 41hp
Gears Four forward, one reverse Six forward, two reverse
Hydraulics Crankshaft-driven pump, two-spool block for independent three-point linkage operation and single auxiliary service.
Linkage lift 760kg.
Pto Both models single speed – 540rpm @ 2100 engine rpm
Basic price 30hp £5800 30hp £6300
Options Safety roll bar £475; drawbar £210; trailer hydraulics £100; work lights £100; road lights £300; weights £280; downswept exhaust £80; foreloader including power steering, heavy-duty front axle, and larger front tyres £3250; all-weather cab £850.
Maker Smallholder Tractor Company, Badsey, Worcs (01386-834442).