Vintage tractors can keep doing the job for years, and finding parts is not as hard as you might think
On a recent trip to the southwest I met a lot of old timers working both on the road and out in the fields. By old-timers, I mean tractors, not people. These weren't the shiny examples seen in St Patrick's Day parades or vintage runs, but work-weary tractors bearing the scars of decades of hard work.
The reason for this mass emergence was some excellent weather at the end of March. Sowing was in full swing and it was a case of all hands on deck, or rather wheels on ground. As we crossed the country, Massey Ferguson seemed to make up the larger proportion of golden oldies still dressed in work clothes but other examples included Ford, International, Zetor, David Brown and Leyland/Marshall. These tractors all dated from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, with the vast majority being older rather than younger. This is in stark contrast to the motor industry, which in recent times encouraged anything over 10 years old to be traded in on various scrappage schemes and ultimately crushed to be 'recycled'. We are far more practical in the agri industry, as the journey west illustrated, preferring instead to use older equipment instead of melting it down.
Keeping older equipment going still requires a supply of parts, wearing or otherwise, to keep these machines functional.
Happily, the supply of parts for these older tractors is still excellent for most brands. There is a broad range of parts available for early Massey Ferguson and Ford models. This is testament to Harry Ferguson's and Henry Ford's designs, many of which have found their way to developing parts of the world over the decades where they have been recycled and rebuilt, ready to begin a new life there.
This exportation of older technologies has helped maintain parts supply lines but, as mentioned earlier, there are also many examples still working here in Ireland. Many of these items are quite affordable and are available from multiple after-market or spurious suppliers. This hasn't gone unnoticed by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) either, with many offering an alternative to after-market sourced parts.
New Holland and CaseIH both offer cheaper 'gold value' alternatives alongside main-line items, while Massey Ferguson calls its offering for older tractors '10+ parts' on the basis that it is for tractors 10 years and older. These firms also have marketing agreements with major after-market supplier Sparex (which is owned by AGCO) which further broadens their offerings. John Deere owns Vapormatic and markets the Vapormatic line of products as 'parts country' in John Deere dealerships.
The bottom line is that there is a tremendous choice of parts and suppliers available, even for tractors that are more than 50 years old. These often include body panels and other cosmetic items popular among those restoring tractors to as-new condition. Some of the other better known after-market suppliers are Bepco and homegrown Quality Tractor Parts (Matt Buckley), but there are an enormous amount of others out there on the internet. So shop around because you may be surprised at the difference in prices between suppliers.
Mullingar-based Quality Tractor Parts has carved out quite a market for itself in Ireland and Britain and has developed a name for stocking and supplying rarer tractor parts.
It has even developed older items such as an original looking seat for MF35, 135 and 165 tractors with a compact suspension system. QTP also stocks the modified engine oil pick-up pipe for the Massey Ferguson 35. The original pipe was notorious for cracking when the three cylinder MF35 was launched and could cause the tractor to seize up.
Most after-market suppliers have online reference sites and the facility to cross-reference the original part number to find the equivalent spurious item. However, some online facilities are better than others.
On the Sparex site, for example, you can look up brand catalogues, such as MF and Ford, to see where the actual part is fitted and if there are any variants from year to year or serial number to serial number.
In the case of oil seals, for example, there may be sizes given as well to help identify which is the correct part.
Don't forget that some manufacturers also make their part information available online. John Deere is perhaps the best facility in that it is free and easy to access.
In addition, the firm has some very old tractors up on its online facility. New Holland and CaseIH have a similar service but unfortunately do not have all older models up on their websites.
Instead, the dealers have a 'heritage' CD to cover missing brands and models.
The Massey Ferguson online catalogue system requires password access to be set up by your local dealer, which is not as straightforward.
Even so, it is a fantastic system to use and all the older models seem to be up on its facility.
www.vapormatic.com www.qtponline.com www.sparex.com www.tracpieces-online.com (Bepco) www.caseih.com www.newholland.com www.masseyferguson.com