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TAS Country : November 18th 2010
10 Tasmanian Country Friday, November 19, 2010 Tractor Comfortably on the TRAGIC Tractor Glenn Shaw It's a delicate balancing act trying to provide both power as fuel efficiency, as the J.I. Case Company found out MINIMUM OUTLAY: The J.I. Case Company worked on a shoestring budget. THE grand old firm of J.I. Case Company was probably regarded as the most conservative of the North American tractor manufacturers. Its designs were rugged and reliable, but its design team always seemed to be working on a shoestring budget. It had been said that the J.I. Case engineers had been doing so much with so little for so long that they could probably do anything with nothing! It had taken until 1953 for Case to build a diesel- powered tractor. Until then the venerable model LA petrol/kerosene had been shouldering the sales for broadacre and heavy-duty belt work. Not that there was anything wrong with the model LA -- the basis of its design harked back to the superbly engineered model L first released in 1929, and introduced the famous Case chain final drive rear end. With the model LA, Case added a fourth forward speed to the transmission and introduced styled panel work bathed in the new eye-catching Flambeau Red colour scheme. Many custom thresher men regarded the Case model LA as the last word in horsepower for belt work. Indeed, many regarded it as the Rolls Royce of kerosene- powered tractors. About the only criticism that could be levelled at the big model LA was a lack of decent brakes on the early examples (which had only a foot-operated parking brake) and its prodigious thirst for fuel when working hard -- kerosene may have been cheap, but under load a model LA would drink about four gallons of fuel per hour. The answer had to be going for diesel power, but that restricted the prospective diesel-powered broadacre buyer in the US to going for either a McCormick International Harvester WD-9 or, from 1949, a John Deere model R. Both had forged good reputations for power and reliability and could halve the Case LA tractor's thirst for fuel. For 1953 Case had a new top-of-the-range model to offer the high-horsepower buyer -- the model 500 diesel. The model 500 was essentially a model LA with a diesel engine. But what a diesel engine it was -- under the bonnet was a superb six-cylinder unit of four-inch cylinder bore diameter with five-inch piston stroke giving 377 cubic inches displacement with a seven-main-bearing crankshaft. Three separate paired cylinder heads were used and this powerhouse developed 64 belt horsepower at 1350 revs per minute. While smaller in displacement than the two- cylinder John Deere model R diesel, it developed more horsepower and was immediately accepted by farmers who had long wanted a Case model LA with the economy of diesel power. While it was powerful, the 500 diesel was a gentle giant. Two six-volt batteries proved enough to fire up the six-cylinder engine, a rotary distributor type fuel injection pump was used along with the Lanova principle of energy power cell injection. In this system, the fuel injectors are fitted in the side of the cylinder head and inject the atomised fuel across the cylinders into the energy cell, where it was ignited by a moderate diesel compression ratio of 15:1 and directed back across the face of the piston. The Lanova injection system provided very smooth running without the noticeable diesel ''knock'' prevalent in many other diesel-powered competitors. While the model 500 was literally a diesel- powered model LA, there were changes made to the transmission. There were still four forward speeds, but the gear ratios were higher to account for the higher operating rev range of the new six- cylinder diesel engine. The good old chain final drive was retained for the model 500 diesel and still proved more than capable of taking the horsepower delivered through it. In fact, it still had a good few years of service left to serve in subsequent models. For more comfort and convenience you could opt for dealer-installed power steering and the added benefits of a fully independent 540 revs per minute power take-off unit. Unfortunately, the Case model 500 diesel was not a cheap tractor -- quality never is and the last example was made in April 1956 after a short three-year production run. It was also the last all Flambeau Red Case tractor out of the factory in Racine, Wisconsin. The replacement was the Case model 600, which was essentially a minor makeover with a restyled grille, a new colour scheme of Desert Sand on the bonnet with Flambeau Red chassis and rear mudguards. Where the model 600 really differed was in the transmission, which now offered six forward speeds. The same 377 cubic inch six-cylinder diesel engine from the model 500 was retained, but with operating revs raised up to 1500 to give a useful increase in horsepower. While it was every bit as good as the previous model, the Case model 600 diesel only enjoyed a 12-month production run for 1957, at which time the replacement model 900 was ready for release and marked a turning point for J.I. Case. The model 600 was the last tractor with styling that harked back to the model LA. The new model 900B was a far different beast -- in looks anyway. Gone at last was the old cast radiator with its horizontal bar grille, the new Case model 900B used a new nose panel with two vertical fluted mesh screens either side of a central divider strip. Headlamps were now flush-mounted at the top of the nose panel with the famous ''Old Abe'' eagle mascot fitted between them. The Case name was affixed to either side of the upper nose panel. Chrome moulding strips were fitted to either side of the bonnet and added a touch of class to this top of the line Case offering. While smaller Case tractors offered regular or torque converter drive ''Case-O-Matic'' transmissions with eight speeds, the model 900B stayed with the tried and tested standard six-speed transmission with chain final drive. In essence, the model 900B was only a cosmetic makeover, but it looked thoroughly modern and would add years to the life of a tractor whose ancestry harked back to the old Case model L. However, it would be the last time the 377 cubic inch diesel engine would be used in the biggest of the standard-tread Case tractors. First introduced in 1953, this engine had been subsequently re-rated from an operating speed of 1350 to 1500 revs per minute and fitted with a new inline fuel injection pump during the model 900B production run, which replaced the original rotary distributor type pump unit. Spark ignition was still available. With the new 900B series tractors you had the option of LP gas fuel (previously available on the model LA), which was cheaper and far more economical than burning straight gasoline. To identify between the variants within the 900B series a new model numbering system that had been used on the smaller tractors since the mid 1950s would now come into play. This now meant the second digit in the model number would designate either diesel or LP gas power and the last digit identifying standard tread. Under this system a diesel powered variation was simply the model 900B (''9'' meaning the tractor series, ''0'' meaning diesel-powered and the third digit ''0'' identifying a standard tread tractor). If you had an LP gas-powered model it would be a model 910B (the ''1'' signifying LP gas engine), but advertising material of the day still referred to both as model 900 series tractors, though they were very different in their correct model codes and that could be guaranteed to keep a parts salesman on his toes when supplying spares! However, the need for higher horsepower meant the market was demanding something bigger, and in 1960 Case delivered it. For 1960 Case introduced the ''30'' series tractors that capitalised on the new styling set by the previous models, but with a bold black stripe along the bonnet sides and further horsepower increases. The biggest Case you could buy was now the model 930 diesel, along with its LP gas-fuelled equivalent in the model 940. The change in model number also meant the model codes to identify specific variants also changed. Hence, the model code 930 now signified
November 11th 2010
November 25th 2010