Back on track - Fastrac enthusiast on sealing a deal to secure the prototype model of a revolutionary tractor
A significant piece of tractor engineering history was snapped up when Fastrac enthusiast Johnny Hamill made a flying visit from Northern Ireland to attend one of JCB's regular plant auctions across the water.
Among the ex-demonstration JCB Fastrac and other machines listed in the sale catalogue, it was the P5 prototype that caught Mr Hamill's eye - just a day after returning home from buying a Fastrac 145-80, which he plans to restore.
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Mr Hamill explained: "Although we're now electrical and civil engineering contractors, we used to do a lot of agricultural contracting with a Fastrac 145-80. After we sold it, I always promised I'd buy another sometime and do it up.
"I'd just bought a nice example in Essex when my nephew Paidi told me about the Fastrac prototype for sale at the JCB auction, so I flew back to bid for it."
His successful bid secured the JCB Fastrac P5, the fifth prototype of 13 of the revolutionary tractor to be built in the late 1980s before the final design went into production in 1991 with a unique combination of features. Front and rear axle suspension, truck-standard air braking with external discs all round, space behind the cab for carrying demountable sprayers, and a faster road speed than other tractors made it a uniquely productive machine at the time for farm transportation.
The tractor had approximately 3,890 hours on the clock and was bought for £15,000 (€17,488).
Extensive tests and early user experience also showed the Fastrac to be a very capable performer in the field, with a cultivator, seed drill or set of rolls, giving it a broad range of capabilities as a farm tractor.
That successful concept has been maintained and enhanced over the years with the addition of four-wheel steering, an anti-lock braking system and a highly efficient continuously variable transmission - as well as a lot more power. Today's Fastrac, comprising the 175-235hp 4000 Series and 306-348hp 8000 Series, is widely recognised as being an all-rounder.
"I've sat in a new Fastrac, but daren't drive one because I think I'd be wanting to buy it!" says Mr Hamill.
"I remember our 145-80 as a fantastic machine, a great tractor to drive for dump-trailer and low-loader trailer work, when drawing silage for other contractors and for cultivations."
He plans a bare chassis rebuild for the Fastrac 145-80 he's just bought, but just a sympathetic refurbishment for the P5.
"We'll probably overhaul the engine and transmission, and tidy the cab and body work, but I think it otherwise needs to stay original as a machine that paved the way for the great production tractors that followed," he said.
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