Classic corner: American-built beast musters the muscle in Kilkenny

When it comes to farming there are two things that Pat Carrigan is passionate about – John Deere tractors and lots of metal in his machinery.

Happily, they come together in this rather magnificent John Deere 4955 – a tractor of 228hp and 8.7t.

Despite his enthusiasm for the marque, Pat draws a line between European and American-made machines. “The ones they make in Europe are nowhere near as good,” he said.

“They are just too light and flimsy.”

Not the highest of recommendations for the Mannheim factory in that statement; yet as we walk around this great green beast you begin to appreciate his point about the massiveness of stateside engineering.

John Deere 4955

The castings involved in its construction give every impression of being hewn from the landscape. The transmission case, for instance, runs from the top link all the way forward to the engine in one solid lump.

A meteor impact, fit to cause a mass extinction, would be needed to break it – or spill the 31 gallons of oil contained within.

Another massive casting is the lift cylinder that sits right at the rear, on the top of the transmission casing. It pushes the piston forward to raise the lift arms by the means of a cam. This is ably assisted by two external rams; yet the pins and lift-rods that connect it all together seem rather puny in comparison.

John Deere 4955

“They do the job,” conceded Pat. He has certainly put them to the test over the five years that he has owned it.

It was bought as a working tool to replace a Same Titan, which was just too light to pull the three-legged sub-soiler that Pat had built himself. In fact, he has built several for other customers as well. Their most immediate feature is, unsurprisingly, large amounts of metal carefully arranged to provide the strength and rigidity that these implements require.

190 Italian horses were scarcely up to the task, so Pat brought in some American muscle – with the power and the grip to do the job properly.

John Deere 4955

Operating at a depth of 24in, a special kind of tractor is required to meet the draught requirement and handle it at the headlands. The John Deere proved to be a perfect match, especially on the headlands where there is the greatest traffic.

Pat has often been called out to break up the soil in fields where ploughs are bouncing off the hardened surface.

“The headlands are where your costs are; the middle of the field is where you make any profit,” he believes, so anything that increases production at the field edges is to be welcomed.

The tractor was already in Ireland when Pat bought it. It had originally come in from the UK with just 500 hours on the clock.

John Deere 4955

Once here it was used by a contractor on a 4m one-pass system but its 30kph box became a handicap as he found himself working further afield.

It didn’t take much to persuade Pat to buy the tractor and take it back to his Kilkenny base, for it had been well looked after and showed no signs of ill use or fatigue.

It is obvious that throughout its life it has been well cared for and now, at 24 years-of-age, it stands in excellent condition. Pat keeps all of his machinery undercover throughout the year.

John Deere 4955

“The sun can do as much damage as the rain,” he explained – so the policy is to keep everything in the sheds when not in use. It’s a plan that appears to work; all his equipment is still in excellent order. Thorough maintenance is also important; the big John Deere receives attention to all its filters and fluids on a regular basis, including the final oil pump intake gauze.

This is one that is often missed, lying as it does in the transmission sump behind the left-hand rear wheel.

There are not too many John Deeres of this size and era about, yet the parts are still available from any dealer – not that Pat has needed many.

John Deere 4955

Other than the regular consumables he has only changed the thermostats in the block. They didn’t actually need changing; it was just a preventative measure for peace of mind.

The engine temperature gauge has never moved beyond the first third of the dial, even under the hardest work – further proof of the solidity of this machine.

This particular tractor rolled out of the Illinois factory in late 1994. It was a period of change for John Deere, as it was revamping its range of larger tractors at the time.

John Deere 4955

The new tractors (the 8000 Series models) dispensed with the iconic Sound Guard cab and its curved door, leaving the 4955 as one of the last John Deeres to be fitted with it. Towards the end of the production run, John Deere also moved the exhaust to run up the cab pillar and relocated the air intake to beneath the cab.

John Deere 4955

To mark these, and other minor changes, this model was designated as the 4960 for the American market, but remained as a 4955 elsewhere.

A change in farming policy has persuaded Pat that it is time once again for the tractor to be sold on. It is not a decision that he has taken lightly, as he has grown awfully fond of the old girl – but life moves on and new circumstances must be accommodated.

This example of John Deere’s 4955 is a big working tractor with a long and useful life ahead of it still; it is in sound condition for its age. He believes offers of around €50,000 would be close to the mark.

John Deere 4955

However, he is not done with large, ‘grunty’ US-built John Deeres yet; he already has a 60 Series articulated tractors lined up to buy in the UK. He’ll let us know when it arrives.

For any prospective buyers or collectors, Pat Carrigan can be contacted at: 086-2507205.

John Deere 4955