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A puller is born
'Major Aggro'

This story starts at Welland in 2005 when Darren Mann went to the show on the Saturday, but didn't get to see any Tractor Pulling because the track was waterlogged. He left the show at 16:00 hours, 2½ before we finally managed to get the Pulling under way for the day.

He and Phil Parker discussed the possibility of building a Puller and on August Bank Holiday weekend they went to collect a Fordson Major from Mates Farm at Earlswood, about 5 miles form Phil’s yard in Solihull.

 

 

The Tractor had to be hauled out of a bramble patch with the aid of a HIAB on one of Phil’s flatbed Lorries. Darren and Phil paid £150 for the tractor which had spent 10 years in the bramble patch.

 

 

Phil’s astute bargaining managed to bring the original asking price of £250 down to a more manageable figure.

 

 

 

When they got the Fordson back to the yard they discovered they had a squatter in the shape of a mouse who had taken up residence under the radiator housing! With the mouse re-homed they pumped up the tyres, hooked up a battery and in typical Fordson fashion the engine promptly fired up!

 

 

By the end of the first day the tractor had been stripped down leaving only the front grill, gearbox and back axle. As Darren and Phil had already decided on the rather unusual engine combination and arrangement the front axle was removed. The chassis rails were extended with two sections of channel which had to be specially fabricated as they were non-standard size.

In October the front axle was refitted and the following evening the straight-6 was mated to the clutch housing using the standard 18” single plate Cargo clutch between the engine and gearbox. The engine had only done 45,000 miles from new so they decided a strip down and rebuild was unnecessary. The first of the V8’s fitted to the embryonic Puller was a 510, a 250 bhp normally aspirated Ford power plant. The rear wheels and tyres (26” fitted with 28.1 x26” Continental tyres) where purchased for £450 from a Farm Sale in Staffordshire.

The Puller was sprayed and finished and then fired up for the first time. It worked, but while they were moving it across the yard to put air into the front tyres the V8 promptly seized! The hunt for a replacement V8 encompassed the length and breadth of the UK but a replacement was eventually located 200 yard from the yard, on the other side of the railway line. The ‘new’ Perkins V8 was found on a Farm in a scrapped Ford Cargo 6-wheel tipper. After some negotiation the £450 asking price came down to a much more realistic (?) £250.

 

The Cargo cab was removed with the aid of a JCB which was also used to remove the engine from the truck chassis. The engine was lowered into the back of a Land Rover, but it soon became very evident that the engine was far too heavy for the Landy! The V8 ended up making the journey back to the yard slung under the bucket of the JCB at a rather sedate pace. Since the Perkins V8 sump fouled the chassis rails, the sump had to be removed and the oil pickups modified. New engine mountings were fabricated to mate onto the chassis rails and with the Perkins connected to the straight-6 Cargo with a solid shaft it was time to try again. Both engines fired up perfectly so our dynamic duo gave the V8 a full service.

With the Puller rebuilt and before the ‘new’ engine was given a coat of Ford/Fordson blue, it was time to give the Puller its first test. The first pull against a Komatsu 14 tonne Dozer wasn't a great success. They spent half a day half filling the rear tyres with water ballast. 2 tonnes of water later it was time to try again. The second attempt at pulling to Dozer was a trifle more successful since they had to put on the Komatsu brakes to stop the Tractor charging through the boundary fence.

 

Long evenings were spent in the Punchbowl sipping pints of fine ale trying to decide on a name for the new Puller. Probably because every job and modification undertaken was considered to be ‘major aggro’ (pronounced in a good strong Solihull accent) at Gabrielle’s suggestion, our dynamic duo decided to call the Tractor ‘Major Aggro’. A good name for a good Puller!

The first outing for ‘Major Aggro’ was the weekend before Easter 2006 at James Slater’s ‘invitation only’ private Pulling event in Pembrokeshire. Apart from Dave (‘Gaffa’) Spencer, Steve Knight and Shawn (‘Ginny’) McGuinn, this was the first time Darren and Phil had met the rest of the ‘Independent’ Pullers on the circuit. They enjoyed sun, rain, freezing cold and snow along with two broken half-shafts for their maiden outing, along with the realisation that they were amongst good friends.

 

At 07:00 they started stripping down a spare Major Tractor James just happened to have on the Farm. By lunchtime ‘Major Aggro’ was up and running again and by the end of the event they had managed to claw their way to 3rd place despite all the problems with the Tractor and the vagaries of the Welsh Spring weather.

Shillingstone was ‘Major Aggro’s’ second outing where it performed flawlessly. By the time the Puller got to the Hamptworth and Landford Vintage Rally the back end was into its second re-build. Before this Pulling event every cog had been replaced. As the weekend progressed it became very apparent that the (original) 18” single plate Cargo clutch had decided to cry enough. Small wonder when you consider the horsepower running through it. During the heat of the day it was clear the clutch was slipping, however in the (relative) cool of the evening the clutch performed flawlessly.

The outing to Welland was a great success. Nothing broke and the crowd were really taken be the strange engine combination. Fortunately Phil's trip up the Welland 'Mountain' (a huge earth safety bank at the end of the track) had no ill effects.

The ‘bonnet adornment’ (OK, ‘Major Aggro’ isn't a Rolls Royce sporting the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ above the radiator) is ‘Wiley Coyote’ from the Warner Brothers ‘Loony Tunes’ series of cartoons. Poor Wiley’s nemesis is the ‘Road Runner’ who always comes out on top. I can empathise with Wiley because I know exactly how he feels. Their Wiley was purchase on e-Bay. Number one went missing (?) in the post. Number two arrived with both ears snapped off in the box (poor chap). The ears were glued back on and now Wiley number two proudly leads the way on every Pull.

The next outing for ‘Major Aggro’ was the Orllwyn Teifi Vintage Show, Croeslan, Wales on the 27th and 28th August. The Bank Holiday week-end ended in disaster. The fist catastrophe was a broken half-shaft which Phil and Darren replaced but the following day came the 'BIG BANG'. The whole gearbox/transmission self-destructed splitting the casing in about seven different places.At the time of writing (mid September) they are still working on it! This Puller is an exceptional project which has been executed with imagination and skill by two exceptionally talented best friends with plenty of common sense advice and support provided by Gabrielle (Mann).
'Wandering Deere'

'Wandering Deere'The marriage of a John Deere back end with a Detroit 8V71... Built by Dave Williams of 'Westcountry Wander' fame the project has taken just under two years.

Dave has very kindly supplied a fine collection of images and the story was documented at Astwood Bank. The article has now been finished, just in time for Astwood Bank 2012. Click here to go back to the 'Wandering Deere'.