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Old Tractors & Us

Article by: Hannah in Engines , General - 30 April

The first commercially successful petrol-powered general-purpose tractor was built by British inventor Dan Albone in 1901. He went on to form Ivel Agricultural Motors Limited and, very much to the point, called his machine the Ivel Agricultural Motor. The word tractor as we are familiar with today did not come into common use until later. It had one front wheel, with a solid rubber tyre, and two large rear wheels like a modern tractor. The engine used water cooling by evaporation with just one forward and one reverse gear and won a medal at the Royal Agricultural Show in 1903 and 1904. They had a price of £300 and around 500 were built with many exported across the world. Reflecting the importance of the region in automotive engineering the original engine was made by Payne & Co. of Coventry.

Also in Coventry at the heart of the automotive engineering sector were Coventry Boring & Metalling (CBM) so no surprise that many tractor engines have since passed through their doors and the hands of Technical Director Frank Martin who had begun his career with CBM parent company JH Richards 50 years ago.

Since the Ivel machine was first made all those years ago many more famous tractor makes have been produced and a particularly unusual example was Fordson. This was a brand name used on a range of mass produced general-purpose tractors originally manufactured by Henry Ford & Son Inc. from 1917 to 1920 and, in later years, by the Ford Motor Company until 1964 when the Fordson name was dropped and all Ford tractors were simply badged as Fords.  What made this particular tractor engine unusual is that the main bearings are cast directly to the cylinder block with no shell bearings. We have recently carried out work on one example of a pre-war Fordson engine where we recast these main bearings which were then line bored to suit the crankshaft. 

Coventry Boring & Metalling is now Fiennes Engineering and continues to support veteran, vintage and classic agricultural machinery from full tractor engine rebuilds to reconditioning and restoration. Even better news is that Frank is still bringing his vast knowledge and experience to bear for the benefit of these old engines supported by the rest of the Fiennes Engineering team.   

Tractor Engine
Above: one of the other tractors engines Fiennes Engineering have worked on