Classic corner: Restored Ursus is ready for work or play

This eye-catching Ursus 1222 belongs to Wexford man Brian Cullen. He lives in Saltmills, close to Fethard-On-Sea.

It has been restored – to bring it back to its former glory. Given that Ursus tractors had a very strong footing in Ireland many moons ago, the tractor must surely now qualify as a ‘classic’.

There is an interesting story behind this powerful-looking 2WD lugging machine. It came into Cullen’s ownership last December, but he drove this exact tractor decades earlier – helping out a local farmer when Cullen was decidedly younger.

Ursus

Nowadays, Cullen spends most of his time running Becson Industrial Services – a Dublin-based company that undertakes industrial painting, coating and thermal insulation for a variety of high-profile clients. But he does indulge his passion for tractors at the weekends. Spare time is also spent training under-eights and under-tens at the local hurling club.

Ursus, via its then distributor D&S Machinery and a network of dealers around the country, was a significant player in the Irish tractor market in the 1990s. Models like the MF-inspired 60hp, 2WD 4512 were a common sight, for example. In fact, there still is a significant number of 4512s dotted about Ireland.

With its own tractor manufacturing origins stretching back to the 1890s in Warsaw (Poland), Ursus began building tractors based on Zetor designs in the 1950s. Massey Ferguson inspired models followed in the 1970s, thanks to the advent of a licensing agreement between the two companies.

Ursus

AgriLand caught up with Cullen this week to find out more about this intriguing tractor.

Why did you pick an Ursus 1222 as a project?

I first drove this tractor – the actual one I now own – in the mid 1990s; the tractor had been bought new in 1993. It was a relatively big tractor in its day; output was in the region of 120hp.

I spent a couple of days driving it – hauling loads of beet across fields for a local farmer. It was working alongside a smaller 82hp Ursus 912 – which bore a ’94-reg – at the time.

Though I was only about 12 years of age at the time, the 1222 left a lasting impression on me; I’ve sort of become a fan of Ursus tractors since then.

Ursus

When did you buy it and how did it come about?

In recent years, I was keen to buy an Ursus 1222; I suppose it is partly to relive the nostalgic days of my youth but also for the challenge of restoring an aging tractor. As luck would have it, I came across the actual 1222 I previously drove [all those years ago] on DoneDeal last December. It was being offered for sale by a dealer in Co. Galway.

Apparently, the tractor – in a tired state – had been dropped in by a customer to undergo some repairs. Whilst there, the farmer asked the dealer if he could see about selling it. It seems that the farmer was not especially attached to it.

There were 5,500 hours showing on the odometer, though the clock had obviously stopped some time ago. I’m not sure what’s on it now.

After some haggling, I bought the tractor and brought it home to Wexford.

What jobs needed doing to the tractor?

It needed plenty of work; the first task was to overhaul the engine – including fitting new pistons, rings and liners.

Ursus

I got a local man to do this work. The back-end and transmission seemed fine, so we didn’t embark on major surgery in those areas.

Ursus

Restoring the tractor’s overall appearance was ultimately a bigger task. I got the whole tractor blasted, primed and painted, including all the removable panels. This job cost €2,500. It was carried out by Crosbie Brothers. Eugene Crosby and Seanie Murphy did most of the work; they took great pride in what they were doing.

Ursus

I was happy with the results; painting is the single-most important job in a project like this.

Had you any difficulties sourcing all the parts you needed?

There is a Polish man in Cork [Bart Chowanski], who advertises regularly on DoneDeal. From what I can see, he can source parts for practically any Ursus or Zetor tractor. He was a big help on this project – not just for common items like lights and starters but also smaller things like clocks [dials and gauges].

It’s gotten plenty of new odds and ends inside the cab. The list includes new interior padding, door and window rubbers, matting – along with a new sunroof, radio and speakers.

Ursus

Were there any stumbling blocks along the way?

There were some hard-to-tackle areas; the roof had to be re-fabricated for example. This job fell to Jim Bernie – a local, skilled metal worker.

Despite the ups and downs, I didn’t lose interest in the tractor; there was something to be done most weekends for a few months. I did have to abandon the project for a while in the middle – simply because I was too busy with everything else.

Are you planning to keep or sell the tractor?

The tractor is for sale now; you might ask why. The simple answer is that the project is done now; I’m ready to move on to the next one – hopefully a 4WD 1224.

I’ve already looked at a few prospects. The ones I’ve seen so far are probably too far gone; the cabs are too badly corroded and would take too much time and money to restore. But I’ll keep looking and I’m sure I’ll find a suitable one soon.

In the meantime, I’m looking for €15,000 for the 1222. That’s a very fair price, considering the money that’s been spent on it. It’s suitable for a collector but it’s also more than capable of earning its keep; I had it out drawing silage a few weeks ago.

It was filmed towing a big, tandem-axle trailer, as part of a YouTube video profiling KC Agri Contracting [below].

If you have a tractor or, indeed, a harvester or shovel that would make for an interesting Classic Corner read, why not get in touch? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a fully restored ‘classic’; it might even be a ‘project’ that is still a work-in-progress. In any case, we’d like to hear from you.

Ursus

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