The Last Prototype tractor built at Banner Lane

The Last Prototype tractor built at Banner Lane

This was the last tractor to be placed with the Coldridge Collection, arriving some time after the others.
I remember Jeremy Burgess, who had been arranging the placement of tractors, telling me that there had been some debate about this one’s future, but I understand that it was David Parnell who felt strongly that it should come to Coldridge.

As an aside, the lorry driver who delivered it drove it off his lorry and parked it up. He had a quick look around the Collection before heading back to Coventry. Looking at this ‘tractor’ I thought what a monster it was not having driven such a large modern tractor before, but once in the seat I found it surprisingly easy to drive.

This prototype is numbered FTT (Field Test Tractor) 1175, the last one built at Banner Lane. Although it is badged MF 4270 it is in fact the development model for what became the MF 4370. David Parnell pointed out that this particular tractor was also used for official testing for market ‘homologation’ requirements for O.E.C.D (Organisation for Economic Community Development) as well as for EMC (Electro Magnetic Compatibility), to that end it was usual for tractors submitted for ‘homologation’ to be loaded with every possible feature that might make their way into production, perhaps at a later date. For example this tractor is Field Star Precision Farming ready. The inclusion of radar allows true ground speed to be measured and compared with wheel revolution thus calculating the percentage of wheel slip. HID (High Intensity Discharge) work lights are fitted to the front and rear, high up on the cab, these give pure white light. Another feature was the fitment of a hand fabricated auxiliary hydraulic oil tank, (production tractors had plastic) this was incorporated for the fitment of a power shuttle thus giving 24 speeds in both forward and reverse. Both front and rear differential locks operate simultaneously, four wheel drive is permanently engaged by spring pressure and released by hydraulic pressure controlled by an electrical switch adjacent to the gear lever. This tractor also has a very sensible facility whereby the differential locks are released whenever the implement is raised, i.e. at a headland and then re engages when lowered back into work. Finally, the cab incorporated a high vis roof to improve viability when operating a loader.

It was Jeremy Burgess who pointed out to me that when the FE35 was introduced to replace the TE20 the Banner Lane plant had a significant overhaul and a very heavy investment was made in machine tools and several state of the art transfer lines for the main gearbox castings, axle centres and trumpet housings. Whilst transfer lines were very good at repeat machining of the same casting, they were not flexible when it came to design changes. The transfer lines remained in use until the end of tractor production at Banner Lane. So it is a major achievement that the production engineers were able to devise expedient modifications to the plant to enable it to machine much heavier castings. For example, to shoe horn a 24 speed gear box into a space originally designed for 6 speeds, build in a power shuttle and a hydraulic linkage capable of lifting up to 5 tons!

When the last tractor, a MF4345 came off the production line on the afternoon of Christmas Eve 2002, it was the 3,306,997th tractor or tractor kit to be made at Banner Lane and apart from just over 500,000 TE20s made before 1956 all these tractors had their castings machined on the same machine tools installed in that year.

A brief specification:-
Engine. Perkins 6 cylinder turbo charged producing 106 hp (DIN) at 2200 rpm.
Clutch. 330mm dia Cerametallic.
Gearbox. Main, 4 speeds with high, medium and Iowan the same gear lever plus high and low selection by a switch on the gear knob. Power Shuttle lever to left of dash with neutral start position, with a variable comfort control knob to adjust rate of engagement between forward and reverse, so no need to use the clutch, 24 speeds forward and reverse in total.
PTO. 540 or 1000rpm with interchangeable shafts.
Rear Hydraulics. Max lift at end of link arms 5000kgs.
Steering. Hydrostatic with tilt and telescopic steering column.
Front Axle. Centre drive giving max turning angle of 5Y.
Automatic 4 WD engagement with application of the brakes.
Brakes. Oil cooled, hydraulically operated.
Parking Brake lever which when applied automatically engages 4 WD.
Standard Wheels. Front 13.6R x 28, rear 16.9R x 38.
Overall weight approximately 4105 kgs. What a change from a TE20′
(First produced 2001?)

© Mike Thorne, Ferguson Club Journal 98, Summer 2021