Classic corner: Even a troubled story has a ‘silver lining’
When Ford decided to celebrate 25 years of tractor production at Basildon, it came up with the idea of creating a ‘Silver Jubilee‘ model.
This, it obviously thought, would be an excellent way by which its customers could join in the happy occasion and share the moment – by buying a special tractor at a not-very-special price.
Unfortunately for Ford, the plan didn’t quite work out as expected; the story of the 7810 ‘Silver Jubilee’ model has become something of a legend in tractor circles. We all know that any good legend should have a certain element of myth and mystery; these, too, feature in the unhappy tale.
It must have been in the late 1980s that the marketing department of Ford Tractors started fretting about the upcoming 25th anniversary and wondering how it could be used to its advantage.
No doubt many ideas were considered and two, at least, seemed to have made it to the short-list. The first was a pewter model to accompany each tractor sold that year.
The second was the creation of a special ‘Silver Jubilee’ edition of the hitherto blameless 7810.
It was home to the same six-cylinder engine as the TW series – from which it produced a modest 100hp (the TWs never offered less than 123hp).
It did, though, have the possibility of a fully-synchronised 16F 8R gearbox, unlike the TWs which remained with ‘crash boxes’ throughout their production run. Options included 4WD, a second set of spool valves, air-conditioning and an assister ram.
All these goodies were to be fitted to the ‘Silver Jubilee’ edition of this already relatively expensive (mid-range) tractor.
The engine and transmission would remain blue. All in all, it was to be an exceptional tractor; each UK dealer was to be offered just one to sell into its area – at the full list price. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot in fact. Ford’s ‘semi official’ explanation was that it was too well appointed for customers in the west of Britain, where smaller stock farms predominated. Yet, these tractors were also slow to move in the east.
Ford may have been well respected and popular, but not to the extent that farmers were willing to pay over-the-odds for a tractor that was over-specified for their needs, even if it was Basildon’s 25th birthday.
Quite what happened next is certainly the stuff of mystery and quite a few myths. It is generally believed that many were ‘taken back’ to be repainted in standard Ford blue, although it is unlikely to have happened at the factory. Other rumours suggest that some were stripped of their optional extras and sold on as ‘standard’ models at a lower price.
There are also tales of quiet shipments to the continent – the Netherlands in particular.
Such a method of disposal would certainly account for the many different stories surrounding their fate. In any case, Ford would hardly want them parked up at Basildon.
It was probably inevitable that, after such a shaky start, they are now highly-prized collector’s items, and rather rare to boot.
To come across a brace of these tractors in Ireland is a notable occurrence, so all credit to Jimmy Cotter (pictured below) of Co. Waterford for getting a pair together and sharing them with enthusiasts at rallies throughout the country.
The first to come his way was an excellent ‘nut and bolt’ restoration that has won many prizes at various events, including ‘Best Overall Tractor’ at Malvern in 2007.
At that time, its rebuild had just been finished by PJ Savage of Cork, who eventually sold it to Jimmy in 2013. It is now maintained in excellent order and even has the original accompanying pewter model and certificate of authenticity, which adds greatly to the overall appeal.
It is a complete example, with all the appropriate extras – as noted above. It would have been a dream tractor in the late 1980s (depending on your allegiance, of course) and would still pass muster as such for many today.
The second example (pictured below) has obviously led a harder working life; yet, it is still in reasonably sound condition. It is certainly not in any immediate need of restoration, despite its regular use on a beet harvester near Cashel, Co. Tipperary.
Compared to the first tractor, it is missing front mudguards and the second set of spool valves.
The front wheels are slightly taller as well, which is something of a puzzle, as that would require a different reduction gear in the transmission. Yet the paintwork appears genuine, so there is no reason to doubt its authenticity.
There was a time in the vintage and classic world when any vehicle with a patch of rust or leaky seal would be deemed to be in immediate need of restoration. Thankfully, such an undiscerning attitude no longer applies.
Many collectors now prefer to ‘preserve’ the original machine as much as possible.
Here, we have both sides of the argument on display and, since Jimmy often shows the two together, we can all get the chance to compare – and decide for ourselves which is the most appropriate.