Classic corner: No rest for the wicked; 37-year-old earns its keep
Whisper the word Fendt in farming circles and many eyes will roll upwards – just at the thought of the great stack of euros supposedly needed to secure such a purchase.
No one denies that the initial cost is high, but when their longevity is taken into account (and the investment is spread over a longer term) then the numbers don’t seem quite so frightening after all.
It is unlikely though, that any finance company will offer you 37 years of credit – certainly not at 0% interest anyway.
Yet the tractors themselves are quite capable of lasting that long and still be in good working order at the end of it. It is true that Fendts are not the most common of tractors on farms or on the classic scene; when they do appear at rallies or charity runs, they are often ‘un-restored’ and still undertaking regular work.
It may be coming to its fourth decade, but that does not stop it still being counted on as an essential part of the family contracting business.
Although Seamus and his father now run a modern fleet of Claas tractors for round baling and mowing, the Fendt spends the summer hitched to a rake or slurry tanker – light duties perhaps, “but what would we replace her with?” asked Seamus.
For the money she’d fetch, we’d only be buying into trouble if we got another used machine.
Reliability would appear to be this Fendt’s greatest strength. The clock shows 6,000 hours although Seamus explained: “That’s probably the second or even third time around; we honestly don’t know.”
Yes, the engine is a touch smoky when first started, but it soon clears itself and settles down into that ‘no-nonsense’ purr so distinctive of six-pot motors. Despite the word ‘Turbomatik’ appearing on the bonnet, it is a naturally-aspirated MWM motor of 6.2L and 105hp.
The ‘Turbomatik’ label refers to the fluid flywheel, which relieves a great deal of strain on the clutch. It has apparently never given a moment’s trouble or needed any sort of maintenance; it continues to work as well as ever.
An interesting feature of the MWM D226-6 motor is that, although it is water-cooled, it retains separate heads for each cylinder – as was the pattern for German air-cooled engines of the era.
Should the need ever arise for replacing the rings or pistons, then they may be done individually. So far they remain untouched.
However, not all is rosy in the garden; the exhaust silencer is from a Deutz-Fahr tractor and it bugs Seamus a little. He would love to get an original item fitted in its place.
Original items are available from Fendt, but not at ‘pocket money’ prices – so he is waiting for a used one to come his way. In fact, if anybody knows of such an item then he would be delighted to hear from them; meanwhile, he’ll stick with the one he has and, to be fair, it doesn’t look too out of place.
As already alluded to, the engine is connected to the transmission by a fluid coupling – often referred to as a fluid flywheel. This unit does not replace a standard clutch – that is still required for gear-changes – but it does act as a shock absorber between these two major components.
It also allows the tractor to ‘idle’ at standstill, while still in gear. It also saves a great deal of wear on the clutch when moving off.
While it would be impossible to quantify the advantage this bestows, it is telling that both the engine and drive-train are still in superb working order – after nearly 40 years. Fendt was clearly on to something.
The gearbox and both axles were manufactured by ZF.
They have proved ultra reliable, although it is quite a fiddle to change the oil-immersed rear brakes – as these are buried deep within the axle housing.
The front is an entirely different matter. The single disc and pads are mounted on the prop-shaft where it exits the transmission. The unit is in the open air and easy to get at, but looks rather inadequate for the job. Yet, Seamus has no complaints about its efficacy.
While on the subject of brakes the master cylinder has also been changed. After many days of fruitless searching for a ‘salvage’ replacement, Seamus bit the bullet and took the old part to Atkins at Cork, who had a new one on the shelf.
Five years later it was purchased by Seamus’s father, who originally intended it for drawing silage from a JF 900 precision-chop harvester he ran at the time. Due to another tractor breaking down, it was coupled up where it performed well enough to stay working the JF for the rest of the season.
Since then, it has been a handy tractor to have around and has stayed within the fleet, where a good many other machines (of all makes) have come and gone over the years.
As to the future, it will be staying right where it is. The cab is starting to show the years and there are thoughts of having it stripped down and fully refurbished. Odd patches of spray appear here and there on the frame, although the rest of the tin-work is still in excellent condition.
“She’s semi-retired now but we’d never sell her; she’s part of the family,” concluded Seamus. Like any ‘old faithful’, he reckons the service it has given is priceless – whatever the initial cost may have been.