Tractor restoration has more to do with the artistic lines and styling rather than sheer horsepower for Albury collector Allan Arthur.
Allan, with sons Harry and Jordan, have been collecting tractors for just four years but have amassed an impressive collection including a 1500hp John Deere pulling tractor, 700hp John Deere 6030-V16GM, a V12GM powered Chamberlain Super 90, a Fiat 80R, and one of seven Australian made 350hp Upton MT-855’s.
The Albury steel merchant describes himself as a “tractor artist’’ and specialises in restoring makes and models from the art deco period.
“The main theme I suppose has been to look at what worked as a tractor, what was amazing and what was Australian designed,’’ Allan said.
“They needed to look attractive with flowing retro lines, such as a Chamberlain Super 90 – some were not Aussie made such as our JD 6030 but what a classic tractor all the same, and were loved and cherished by many Australian farmers.’’
Allan has many tractor purists telling him it is sacrilege what he does.
“Our concept was to play with the lines of the tractor but still achieve or attempt to improve the look,’’ he said.
“Our GM engine guru Tony Shoesmith has been building GMs for a long time so we looked at repowering some tractors with bigger engines.
“The two stroke GM engines use the same piston rod from a 2 cylinder to a 16 cylinder, they are noisy and high revving, and many truck drivers or farmers are amazed to see these old engines restored and running, hence a V12 in a Super 90 and a V16 in a JD 6030.
“Bear in mind the Super 90 was a $500 wreck and the 6030 had a blown up motor and cost $3500, so to all the purists running around I am sorry for having a little fun.
“Both tractors had nearly one metre added to the chassis to fit the engines – it was not easy but the end result was satisfying.
“It is just a little hobby we do and it’s all about the art work.
“We take a tractor with lovely artistic lines and play with it.
“We only play around with what we consider to be good looking machines.’’
After a few rebuilds, the Arthurs became interested in tractor pulling.
“I thought let’s build one. It had to be green (John Deere) and it had to have attractive lines,’’ Allan said.
The John Deere 8530, a sleek beast pushing out up to 1800 hp and called “Bull’’, will be a centrepiece of the John Deere centenary display at this year’s field days.
Bull is classed as a “smoker’’, or highly modified, high horse power machine designed for the pro stock class at tractor pulls along the eastern seaboard.
“Our first pulling tractor was bought from Brian Ostergard who is now part of our small team, a 700hp John Deere 8400 called “Deere Express”.
“However, it blew up and is on the backburner at present – Deere Express will be reborn and live to fight another day.’’
Bull is not a production tractor but rather a handmade pulling tractor, made to specific rules and guide lines set out by the Australian Tractor Pullers Association.
In the Pro Stock or smoker class, the tractor must have a JD 8.2 litre or less engine block and a JD back end.
The rest is up to the builder.
“We are looking at 4000-5000 rpm and 5-6 bar of boost, a 4.5 inch turbo and 15mm fuel pump with billet components throughout,’’ Allan said.
“We then install a four plate Crower clutch made for drag racing coupled to a three speed Profab gear box and use 16 inch disc brakes on the rear to steer it because the front wheels are usually off the ground.
“The engine is water injected to stay cool and it has a huge intercooler amongst many not so standard add ons.
“It will not even start until warmed up with its own little pie warmer.
“Simply, it is bloody ridiculous and constantly gives trouble but boy what a fun build.
“We have done a reasonable job to resemble or still look like a John Deere but in the end look like a Ferrari.’’
There is no power until the boost kicks in from the turbo so there is an art to driving Bull.
For Allan, the thrill is working with his team on the build, getting the look and engineering right.
He works closely with the Danish John Deere pulling team and had them build the latest engine for Bull.
The next plan on the drawing board is Viking, a 3000hp 18-cylinder radial engine out of an aeroplane for the open class.
The frame was bought in Denmark and it will be re-engineered in Australia.
Allan originally farmed rice at Moulamein and always dreamed of owning an Upton tractor.
The 2WD, 350hp Upton MT-855 was designed and manufactured by Arthur and Carl Upton at Corowa in 1976, and was at one stage, the most powerful 2WD factory built agricultural tractor.
Tractor production ceased at Upton Engineering in 1980 with just seven MT-855’s built.
“When I was a young fellow with no money, my dream was to drive an Upton,’’ Allan said.
“Little did I know but I now consider Carl Upton a good friend.
“Carl was way ahead of his time, it is a shame that more Upton’s were not built, they are an Australian classic and well designed.
“Carl took a truck engine, truck clutch and 14-speed Spicer gearbox and made a tractor, it was practical so parts could be bought off the shelf.’’
Allan drew from the original plans and specifications to meticulously restore the Upton.
“As the mudguards had been removed with an oxy to make way for bigger wheels, Carl found the drawings of the original mudguards, cut them out with a laser, and the original fabricator George Tobias came out of retirement to weld them for us – how neat is that?
“This 18-tonne tractor was designed so 90 per cent of the power got to the wheels.
“This tractor is equipped with the original tyres used to pull a large ripper in the sand dunes of South Australia.’’
For Allan, the penultimate tractor would be the 23-tonne Upton HT-14/350 tractor used in the famous pull-off with Steiger at Agquip in 1979, hauling a 60 foot blade plough.