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TAS Country : March 3rd 2011
16 Tasmanian Country Friday, March 4, 2011 Tractor Tragic Diesel TRAGIC Tractor Glenn Shaw HORSEPOWER: Deutz Road Express tractors, above and centre, had powerful four-stroke diesel engines. TRACTION: The Deutz MTZ 320 had rubber tyres IT is hard to imagine today that farm tractors could be powered by anything but a diesel engine. We have come to expect the farm workhorse to be a reliable, easy starting machine that operates on (what used to be) the cheapest fuel available, one that enables the most acreage covered per gallon (or litre) burnt. The truth is, while our younger generation have grown up with diesel-powered tractors, spark ignition petrol/kerosene-powered machines were the order of the day for most farms right up to the high horsepower end of the scale -- especially in the US as late as the early 1970s. Diesel was available but it took a long time to be recognised as a reliable and well accepted option. There were obvious reasons for this -- mainly the extra cost of such a machine -- but also the added complexities of the diesel with its fuel-injection system which no doubt scared many a mechanic. So what was available in diesel power in Australia in the 1930s? Believe it or not, there were several options available as far back as 1926 with the first imports of a strange looking three-wheel tractor from Germany built by the Benz Company and generally referred to here as the ''Benz-Sendling''. The Benz was a most ungainly looking machine with a conventional axle at the front and a large single rear-drive wheel which the operator sat to one side of. The tractor was also fitted with an outrigger wheel should the machine tip on undulating ground. What the Benz did have though was a two-cylinder vertical diesel engine driving a two-forward speed transmission which promised excellent fuel economy. The downside was that is was a nightmare to start when the engine was cold. Sales of this beast were never going to be big but thankfully one or two of these unusual three-wheeled tractors have survived in museums in Victoria and South Australia as well as a more conventional four-wheeled model in Western Australia. By 1928, farmers could buy a hot bulb semi- diesel single-cylinder Lanz Bulldog crude oil tractor which would soon become a household name for operating economy and simplicity. However, the diesel proper would not arrive here again until 1934-35. This next arrival was the McCormick Deering WD-40 diesel which was the first wheel-type diesel tractor built in the US and the first for the company that built it -- International Harvester. The company would remain unchallenged as a diesel wheel-type tractor builder in the US until the late 1940s when Oliver and John Deere introduced competitive models of their own. Even so, the availability of a diesel engine in the biggest McCormick Deering did not convince farmers in the US to go for this machine despite its capability of burning cheaper fuel. The reason for this was because it was an expensive tractor and it had a complicated petrol starting system. But despite this, Australian farmers appear to have realised the potential of the WD-40 diesel far more so than their counterparts in the US with a large proportion of production being shipped to Australia for broad acre wheat production. The owners of these new diesel WD-40 McCormick Deering tractors could soon boast of huge fuel savings over their kerosene- powered counterparts and apart from an occasional cracked cylinder head, the WD-40 was a well-engineered machine that slashed operating costs. The word was out there and by the late 1930s the time was right for other diesel-powered makes to test the Australian market. Meanwhile, back in Germany (the traditional home of diesel technology), great strides had been made in tractor advancement as well as engine design. While the Heinrich Lanz Company at Mannheim was committed to improving their tractors with the two-stroke crude oil semi- diesel engine, Deutz at Cologne was firmly wedded to the four-stroke compression- ignition diesel engine for their tractors. Despite the differences in engine design, there had been a lot of similarity to the tractors both makers had been building in their early machines. Lanz built their first tractor in 1921 which was literally a 12-horsepower stationary engine on a chain-driven cart with only one gear -- to get reverse farmers had to stop the engine and get it to fire in the opposite
February 24th 2011
March 10th 2011