Are you in the Valtra camp? Here’s a good read…

Regular AgriLand contributor Justin Roberts has penned an interesting book, detailing the rise of the tractor in Northern Europe – with a particular focus on Valtra and its history (including Valmet and Volvo BM).

It not only provides an eye-opening exploration of this less well documented region, but also serves as an in-depth guide to machines that were designed and manufactured for an environment that’s quite different to that found in more southerly latitudes.

The book includes a timeline of the tractors produced by Valtra (and its forerunners), right up until it was acquired by AGCO in 2004.

Valtra Valmet Volvo BM

Over the last century, the farm tractor has become a highly sophisticated machine – designed and built to make agriculture more efficient than ever before.

Accounts of its evolution tend to revolve around Anglo-American manufacturers and engineers who created tractors to suit the working conditions of the major stock and grain growing belts of the world.

However, despite the great contributions made to agricultural mechanisation by the likes of Ford, Ferguson, Deere and Case, they cannot lay claim to all the innovations or advances in tractor design.

Away from the vast fields of cereals in the American mid-west and the mixed arable and stock farms of temperate Europe, there was a different sort of tractor emerging among the forests and clearings of Sweden and Finland – a tractor that was designed to do more than just pull a plough or cut grass.

It was a machine suitable for work both in the field and a frozen forest – from the ground up (rather than adapting a purely agriculturally-orientated machine to tackle trees and rocks).

This book tells the story of these northern tractors; how they reflected the demands of their customers who were often foresters as much as they were farmers.

Valtra
Image source: Shane Casey

Valtra now stands as the sole remaining representative of the breed created to fulfil these requirements. It has many years of such experience distilled down and held within its DNA.

Valtra
Image source: Shane Casey
The company’s pedigree is as broad as it is deep; it carries the genes of Valmet, Volvo, Munktells and Bolinder – amongst others.

Its lineage is lengthy, with direct connections going right back to the very first days of Sweden’s industrialisation and even the era of James Watt and his revolution in steam power.

Humble beginnings

The tale has humble beginnings; the son of a Shropshire farmer left his native England, at the invitation of a Swedish noblemen, to set up a workshop in Stockholm in the early 1800s.

From that point the book traces the rise of the Swedish industrial base, which supported early attempts at bringing power to the land via Theofron Munktell’s mobile steam engines.

It also charts the Bolinder brothers’ move to internal combustion and the subsequent partnership of these two companies – which brought Volvo into the tractor market at the end of World War II.

This was a significant moment for Volvo; the tractors it developed were the foundation upon which the present Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) company is built.

Volvo passed tractor production onto the state-owned Finnish engineering giant Valmet, when it decided that its future lay in the construction business.

In common with many other companies after the war, Valmet was looking for a new product line. Just as many others did at the time, it alighted upon the notion of building a tractor (to replace the long-serving horse).

The early models were brave attempts at satisfying an unknown demand, but they soon established themselves as worthy competitors to machines imported mainly from America or Britain. In fact, Valmet Tractors became a trusted marque throughout much of northern and central Europe.

Three further major events then took it forward to the Valtra of today. The first was the absorption of the Volvo tractor manufacturing business; the second was the privatisation of the Valmet tractor division (which involved the change of name to Valtra). The third was its purchase by AGCO – the North American farm machinery giant (which is where this book leads us).

Valtra

The Nordic Tractor‘ is published by Old Pond Publishing; the book is in hardback and it includes a full model listing of tractors up until 2007. It comprises 192 pages, with many previously unpublished images.

It is available through bookshops or direct from the publishers.

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