The Standard Motor Company Prototype Tractor

The Story of The Standard Motor Company Prototype Tractor

Having been asked by John Cousins to write an article about the Standard Motor Co. Prototype Tractor, (No 70 in the Coldridge Collection), I should mention that this idea was triggered off by Lawrence Jameson passing to John, two or three photographs I had casually sent to Lawrence about 15 months ago.

I bought the tractor in February 1994 from David Lockhart who had shown me photographs of it at The Ferguson Club A.G.M. of 1993.  In fact he sold me one and a half tractors, the other being the remaining half of a pair of prototypes that were produced in 1958 by Standard.  Also in with the deal were some photographs David had obtained from the archives of The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.  These show this tractor undergoing trials both ploughing and forage harvesting.  There are others in the set showing various mock-ups that were produced by the Styling Department at Standards.

The background information that I have been able to glean from various sources, indicate that the concept to produce a pair of prototype tractors in 1958, stems from the fact that earlier, Harry Ferguson had decided to sell out to Massey Harris. The deal also included the Banner Lane production facility owned by Standard Motor Co.  However, it seems that Standard retained the production plant for their 23C diesel engine at Cranley Lane.  Massey Harris Ferguson were showing interest in purchasing F. Perkin of Peterborough, so it must have been obvious to the production planners at Standard that their 23C engine would be phased out in Massey Ferguson tractors, i.e. 35 range and replaced by a Perkins unit and we all know that this is what happened.  So they embarked on the obvious expedient of on the one hand, trying to sell their 23C engine to other motor vehicle manufacturers, especially Allis Chalmers for their ED40 tractor.  Also, I believe they were installed in an ungoverned form in very many London Taxis and also they were installed in their own Triumph Atlas Van.  I understand also they were fitted in the Jen Tug – a small arctic tractor similar in concept to the Scammell Iron Horse which for a while were equipped with this engine.

To outline some of the features of this tractor; The bonnet is obviously derived from Ferguson stock, but it is interesting to note that the slats of the grill number 21 and are welded in place, the 22 clip in slats that make up the normal T20 grill.  The 23C engine has heater plugs in each cylinder unlike most 35’s fitted with this engine, although Massey Harris Ferguson did offer this option on tractors sold in cold climate.  The clutch is two stage, similar to normal MHF35 design but the parts are not exactly interchangeable.  The gear box is four speed and reverses with a Hi and Low selection all on the same lever.  There is a start position with switch to ensure that the starter solenoid cannot operate with a gear selected.

Hydraulics offer both draft and position control, again operated with one level; selection of mode being determined by which quadrant the lever moves in – a nifty idea.  There are various tappings for external service selected by their own valves.  The rear axle is like the gear box, very over engineered and is similar in layout to the MF35 but is 11” wide between the axle trumpets whereas the MF65 is 9”.

The brakes are dry discs again, similar to MF65 but not exactly the same.  The PTO is of two speed design but only live in slow speed, an interesting combination.  The steering system is an interesting one and, I speculate, designed to get around HF patents in that it does not have a double drop arms but it does have twin steering rods as per TE20 & 35.  The solution to this situation was achieved by Standard’s Engineers by using a Ford steering box, with single drop arm to articulate a lever that passes through a gap in the transmission housing, being centrally pivoted and joined first to the drag link by a very short rod.  The horizontal lever also connects to the steering rods and henceforth, it is essentially Ferguson as is the front axle beam, but with repositioned radius arm fixing points.  In the rear axle casing marked Stanpart 00003 and carrying the Bean Logo, (Bean cars having been taken over by Standard Motor Co. long ago but they continued producing castings for Standard).  There is provision for a linkage system to operate a dif lock but in the crown wheel assembly, no facility for this exists, obviously they were planning ahead!  The mudguards and foot rests are directly from a Ford Dexta.  The seat is MHF35. Tyre size; 11-28 Rear, 600x 16 Front.

After this pair of prototypes were produced, Standard went on to produce two, possibly 3, which were totally different apart from utilising the 23C engine and having the same tyre sizes.  These featured a forward and reverse shuttle, a conventional steering layout and more stylish bodywork, one is owned by Robert Crawford.

The story goes that the first two prototypes were sold by Standard Motor Co. to a scrap dealer in the Midlands, but on the way back to his yard, he sold them to a factory in Wolverhampton.  At a later date, these two tractors were sold to a Farmer Dickson in Shropshire who had the tractors in use for twelve years and laid up for three years.  They obviously worked very hard, for the engine of the remaining tractor was not only very worn, but had a broken crank case before it was restored in the Winter / Spring of 1995.  It should be noted that the gear box showed very little sign of wear, a credit to the design of the Standard Engineers.

The information I have set out is to the best of my understanding and I stand to be corrected and enlightened further.  Anyone interested in viewing this tractor and having a drive, has only to make an appointment.  Please feel free to contact me on 07966 328600.  I have about 5 Ferguson, 40 early MFs plus a few odd ball tractors, 6 owed by AGCO from their Banner Lane collection as well 2 MF Tractors owned by the Fuller family fitted with 4 WD conversions.

© Michael Thorne, Club Journal No.24 Winter 1996/97 – revised 2021

Original photographs from Club Journal No.24 1996.