By now, gentle reader, you will have noted my excursion into the fields of Ferguson. This is partly because of my being a Farmer's son and partly because I can.
When I say I can, it really refers to my freedom of action rather than my engineering skills, and there might be a risk of hubris because I am really learning the art of tractor from scratch. I do feel slightly guilty buying one of these for fun (mostly) when Dad effectively made it possible by building up the farm after the war. Still, I think he would be amused, even if the spanner wielding would have been of more use to him almost half a century back.
I learned to drive one of these back in the late 1960's on our Hampshire farm. Our Fergie wasn't new then, although probably less than a decade old, and I don't remember Dad having to repair it. I think my brother, Bill, drove it more than I did, he was rather more gung ho than I was, and had a motorbike when I was riding a moped. I don't remember him having a license though.... I must ask him about that.
There was an older, derelict Fordson which had died in front of the silage pit, but the TE20 we had was the oldest working tractor I remember on the farm, possibly younger than this 1956 model, if my memory of it being a diesel is correct. It never had a cab and was soon over-shadowed by various bigger Massey Ferguson models with cabs, the last being a 135 I think. Quite sophisticated by then, we even had a Ford Dexta which had headlights and a cigarette lighter, but the wee grey Fergie was there until sold at the auction, still working, and it may be working yet.
Having developed a taste for simple, heavy, machinery in a series of Land Rovers I was looking for something to fill the new garage. I'd had two Alvis TA14s with a spare, in pieces, in an upstairs bedroom, fortunately only the price went through the ceiling, though sadly that happened after I sold them. I found a photo of the Duncan bodied Alvis and a younger bodied Jim, here they are in West Meon somewhere around 1986. I'm currently using that tee shirt as a oily rag on the tractor. Nothing wasted.
However, I digress.... Having done big and heavy, I thought something smaller, lighter and cheaper would do. A Morris 1000 perhaps, or a third Midge.
A recent visit to Cornwall, via Hampshire, presented Fiona with a Tractor experience that she found agreeable, so when the Fergie turned up I decided that it would be the sensible thing to do. Small and light having been thrown out of the window. I mean a chap can't spend all his time and money on Midges, can he? That's a rhetorical question, so just nod or shake to taste.
I don't doubt there were better models available, but the price seemed reasonable, and frankly I get as much of my fun from repairing and building as I do from driving, so there's no real point in my buying something that's already finished to concourse condition.
The tyres were well... tired, and the exhaust was, yes, exhausted, and obviously wrong, but it started, the engine ran and it drove without falling over, so a deal was made and I started spending. £1000 bought it and I think another £1000 should see it working properly.
The registration number proved to be a complete fiction, and there has been a certain amount of swapping of parts where, for instance it gained a completely rubbish rear tyre which was a pity as they are £150 plus vat etc, attached with the wrong sized (loose) bolts. Also an alien exhaust and manifold from who knows where. (£30) The brakes, rear only and entirely mechanical, were oily on one side, loose on the other and about as effective as a chocolate hammer so the seal needs replacing. The PTO shaft has the same incontinence problem, but fortunately I can drain the oil from both at the same time.
With a new steering wheel, some bearings and the right kind of exhaust it is starting to look presentable, I have changed one of the rear tyres, seen all shiny in the top photo. Not an easy process since the local garage machine can't handle such a size, you'll get an idea of the task from the second lowest picture. I guess I'll have to tidy that shed up sometime too.
You'll be impressed with the new exhaust seen here (up a bit), with a new red u-bend manifold (wrong word but it will suffice) and the steering wheel. The jacking system lacks subtlety, being a load of 6" x 3" joist cut-offs, but it is stable, and does the job.
The brakes are about to get a bit of attention, unworn probably because of the oil, and likely to be asbestos, but if kept wet, that's not a problem. I'd have been further ahead but there was so much muck, rust, and caked on kak that I almost despaired of removing the hub in one piece. Then, just before I went from gentle to brutal, I discovered the inch and a quarter diameter locking screws that prevent it falling off when there isn't a wheel on it, absolutely massive even by Land Rover standards. I was looking for something 1/4 of the size. Fortunately, by habit, if I can't progress I usually do some general cleaning while letting my mind works on the problem. That usually finds a solution, and I end up with a cleaner machine as well. A swift clout with an impact driver did the rest.
You will be pleased, I'm sure, to learn that when the screws became apparent, right under my nose, I said thank-you, rather than anything less genteel. Nearly dropping the draw-bar on my foot was a close shave too.
A can of paint should remove most of the scruffy look, though I have no intention of making Ted look concourse, he's for work not show.
The grey conveniently matches the colour of our cat, Errol, though to no particular advantage. I only noticed that after the purchase, and while both started out a plain grey, now being older both have patches of other colours. I don't think either was ever really shiny.
I'll be looking for a 'link box', a sort of big general purpose bucket, rear mounted on the hydraulic linkage that made the Ferguson so effective, but I think I'll give ploughing a miss.
No doubt other 'extras' will be needed, so as spring approaches, I'll have to get around the local farms in a Midge and see what archaic bits are lying around unwanted, unloved and underpriced. You always get a better deal in a Midge, it might be sympathy or curiosity, I don't know, but turn up in an expensive new sports car and you'll pay through the nose.
The Midge club has been thinking of making a 2016 calendar, so in that vein, here's a rendition of the Fergie, and before you all get over excited, I must confess it has more to do with software than art. I don't know if Tom heard of the 'App' (Waterlogue) which runs on ipads and iphones. It's certainly useful for those of us who have limited artistic skills, and who knows, maybe it would work as a teaching aid. You can get it free, I discovered after paying £1.30 for it, and there's a PC version somwhere. It has long been a family tradition to name vehicles. Dad called most of his tractors Start-ya-bastard, but that's a bit politically incorrect now. We name cats too, and they take even less notice. However, I have a bit of a dilemma, the tractor is a TED model, so 'Ted' seemed logical, but my Uncle Tom made a donation toward the tractor fund shortly before he died, and he was an excellent water-colourist. Should I call it Tom? I could call it George after Dad, or even Errol, (though that would need white-wall tyres to match his paws). Your advice will be appreciated, especially since the Midges are still called the red one and the green one.
Midges are known for their relative simplicity, basic wiring and open air nature. They don't go very fast, but attract attention and admiration from passers-by. Most have a maximum of two seats and require a driver who knows a spanner from a screwdriver. So what could be more natural than to expand my fleet with a 1957 TE Ferguson Tractor Type D TVO? Only one seat, top speed of 12 mph and a wiring system that makes most lawn-mowers look complicated. No lighting, no indicators, rod brakes on the rear wheels only and GPM rather than MPG. Most regulations are inapplicable, MOT, Tax and emission controls absent, most of the safety devices hadn't been invented. Insurance for road use is required. As robotic cars become a reality, inventors might want to consider the Fergie as a prototype. Once running in a field at a few miles per hour you can hop off and chuck bales off the trailer for cattle feed, before hopping back on before you hit the opposite hedge. You will need a piece of string if you want it to keep doing circles. I remember my father doing that and have no intention of repeating it. Elfland Safety would have kittens. Like Midges they are not very expensive, a few thousand will get you a nice model though I was happier buying cheaper and doing it up myself since you never really know it has been done right, and then, if it does go wrong, you know who to blame. There are quite a few types to chose from, Petrol, Petrol-paraffin and Diesel but most are grey with varying amounts of dirt, dust, oil-stain and rust. The one I bought cost me a grand, I've spent another £1225 getting it right, the four tyres being a significant part.
Like Austin 7s you can get all the bits new or second hand and a club to help you get it registered or re-registered with DVLA if you want.
Like LandRovers, they have been adapted to pretty well any mechanised function, except possibly Ambulance for obvious reasons, including caterpillar tracks, or front skis and half-tracks to get to the South Pole (Hillary 1956) and one was driven 3176 miles around the British coastline (Williams 2003). After splitting the Fergie in half and replacing the clutch, and various other heroic surgeries it is now running, a little more tuning should see it fully functional. There's a you-tube clip of me grinning like an idiot.