Where did New Holland self-propelled harvesters come from?

Here in Ireland, the self-propelled forage harvester has been something of a phenomenon going right back to the 1970s. What role has New Holland played in this unfolding story?

For New Holland fanatics here on the island of Ireland, it all started with machines like the 1880 and 1895. However, New Holland actually built a self-propelled forager as far back as 1961 – in the shape of the SP818 (pictured below).

Image source: TractorFan NL (www.tractorfan.nl)

In that case, New Holland essentially converted an existing trailed (pull-type) forager into a self-propelled contraption. The SP818 was the machine – for New Holland at least – that kick-started a half-century of product development, culminating in today’s FR line-up. It was designed and built in New Holland, Pennsylvania (US).

That machine worked with just a single-row header – tackling North American maize.

The 1880 (pictured below) didn’t come on the scene until 1968. It brought about an increase in throughput – and muscle. Cabbed versions also started to appear.

It was followed by the (200hp) 1890 in 1975. The 1895 (pictured below) – the first forager to be offered with a ‘built-in’ metal detector – arrived in 1977.

A whole new generation of machines arrived in 1979. That line-up, for example, included the 2100 with its 300hp or so (courtesy of an inline, rather than a transverse-mounted, engine). These new machines were considerably bigger and more modern than previous offerings. Pictured below (in the foreground) is a nostalgic pairing of such beasts; leading the way is an S 2200.

These harvesters really established New Holland as a force to be reckoned with in many silage-harvesting circles. Indeed, pictures such as these might well evoke nostalgic memories for some Irish readers.

These contraptions underwent a package of updates during the 1980s; the 1900, for example, eventually morphed into the 1905. The 2405 became the new flagship of New Holland’s line-up.

These machines became part of ‘forager folklore’ here in Ireland. These gleaming yellow beasts, most especially with a clatter of blue-liveried Ford tractors in hot pursuit, were a sight to behold.

1995 saw the arrival of the FX series. These models looked radically different to what had gone before, thanks to a deep, wrap-around front windscreen and a radially-mounted blower (accelerator). Alas, here in Ireland, they arguably arrived too late.

By the mid-1990s, John Deere’s new 6000 Series and Claas’ new 800 series foragers already had several seasons under their belts.

Image source: Shane Casey
Image source: Shane Casey

By then, New Holland’s once-revered late 1970s and 1980s models (i.e. the family of machines that stretched from the first 1900 to the last 2405) were dated; the ‘game’ had moved on.

Though popular in Northern Ireland (relative to the size of the overall market), FX series harvesters didn’t attract quite the same market share south of the border.

Image source: Shane Casey

Of course, some battle-hardened, seasoned New Holland operators embraced the FX; and models like the early (Iveco-powered) FX375 (1995) or later (Caterpillar-powered) FX58 (1998) are still out there to this day – toiling away on those sultry summer days.

The last incarnations of the FX series (2003), like earlier units, were home to either Iveco or Caterpillar engines (depending on model). By that time, a new flagship – the C15-engined FX60 – topped out the range.

These machines – the last of the ‘FX’ Mohicans – were notable for their hydraulically-driven feed-rollers and ‘HydroLoc’ chop-adjustment system.

The first FR9000 Series foragers arrived in 2007 – just over a decade ago. These were (and still are) physically big machines.

The original five-model line-up spanned the 424-824hp segment. The FR9080 was the only model in the range with a Caterpillar engine; the others were powered by FPT motors.

Revamped FR models (an example of which is pictured below) first appeared in 2012 – bringing with them a plethora of updates.

Most recently, New Holland has just unveiled its most powerful forager yet – the new FR920 (pictured below). It has 911hp on tap – courtesy of a 20L FPT engine.New Holland FR920

It replaces the existing FR850. The added muscle has prompted New Holland to beef up other parts of the harvester; the feed-roller and crop (kernel) processor frames are apparently stronger. The main drive-belts are also larger – to cope with the additional torque.

The FR920 carries on the New Holland forager story; it has plenty to do – to thwart the efforts of Claas (the market leader – in terms of global sales), John Deere, Krone and – don’t forget – Fendt.

It’s a tough, tight market; even here in Ireland we’ve seen machines from the likes of Mengele, Case IH and Hesston (pictured below) come and go.

Some performed better than others. But the big question is: What brands will survive and flourish over the decades to come?

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