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Machinery sale: Drive-through auction marks Cheffins’ 20th anniversary

A sale marking the 20th anniversary of Cheffins Sutton sale ground attracted some interesting lots and bidders from across the globe. Jane Carley reports.

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Bidders travelled from as far afield as Kenya; the older tractors were particularly popular with overseas visitors.

Cheffins Machinery Sales celebrated 20 years at its Sutton sale ground, with an innovative new drive through auction for its main agricultural tractor sale, allowing bidders to see prospective purchases in motion.


In total 2,000 lots were offered and more than 50 per cent sold. Bidders came from as far afield as Kenya and about 2,000 people attended the anniversary auction.


Bidding was keen in the drive through auction for the most sought-after lots, notably loader tractors of various sizes, from small stock farm units to higher powered prime movers, showing the demand for powerful materials handling capability for loading grain trucks or muck spreaders.


With many of the newer tractors coming from dealer trade-ins there was an opportunity to purchase a modern, well specced model at a competitive price. However, there were limits to the depth of bidders’ pockets – a smart pair of New Holland T7s failed to make their asking prices.

More than 150 lots were entered in the older tractors section.

More than 150 lots awaited in the older tractors section, which as ever attracted plenty of overseas bidders.


One keen purchaser was particularly interested in Fendt and Deutz tractors, both in this section and the main drive through auction.


“We come to every sale to buy older German tractors for German farms, and it’s a good opportunity to see a lot of machinery in one place,” she explained. “At the moment it is very favourable for us because of the exchange rate, but we are concerned about the effects of Brexit, especially if it means we have to pay VAT or more tax.”


Bidders came from far and wide in Britain itself, from the tip of Scotland and Nothern Ireland to Cornwall – one regular travels from Somerset specifically to source loader tractors to do up and sell to local farmers.


“It has been a very good day and I have made some excellent purchases. There seems to be a lot more machinery today and the choice of tractors has been extensive.”


There were some 500 lots of implements with the top lot being a Quivogne disc cultivator, reaching £15,000, while a John Deere 592 baler made £5,400. Plant choice was also plentiful with a Claas Scorpion telehandler going to a bidder in Northern Ireland for £31,000.

Top Picks

Claas Axion 820

Top lot was Claas Axion 820 one of just five produced in a striking silver livery to mark Claas’s 5,000th unit off the production line in 2011. It reached £35,000 and is destined for Gdansk, Poland.

New Holland T7.200

A 2013 New Holland T7.200 with 3,390 hours on the clock caught the eye of an internet bidder and was knocked down for £32,500.

JD 7930

John Deere purchasers were spoilt for choice with examples from most of the recent series. A 2009 6830 with 40kph PowrQuad transmission went for £22,400, while a 2008 7930 (pictured) from a franchise dealer made £34,000, heading for a farm in Warwickshire. Bidders got close to a trio of 6R series but the final totals were not quite enough.

JCB Fastrac 2135

With no reserve, a JCB Fastrac 2135 4WS was just what one bidder was looking for at £13,000.

Massey Ferguson 6485

There were also some smart examples from Massey Ferguson on offer, a 2010 MF6485 catching the eye late in the day and reaching £25,800.

MF 4270

Distinctive in its yellow municipal livery, a 2WD MF with front brush will come in handy for its purchaser and reached a tidy £9,000.

Ford FW 30

A Ford FW 30 articulated tractor, consigned by a farm in neighbouring Ely, made £12,600. Dated 1981 with 8,000 hours on the clock, it was hotly pursued with the hammer falling to a Scottish dealer.

Challenger MT765

Several older tracklayers had failed to make their reserves, but a good example of the Challenger MT765 on a 52 plate made £29,000. An ex-hire machine, it went to a Dutch farmer but is headed for the Ukraine.

History in the making

Bill Pepper

Cheffins relocated to the 17 hectare (43 acre) sale ground at Sutton, near Ely, when the original site near Cambridge railway station became outgrown.


Director, Bill Pepper explains; “Machinery sales began at Cambridge in 1941 when the directors of the cattle market decided to sell some tractors after the livestock sale. With the big push to farm for the War Effort, it was an instant success with five tractors sold at the first auction and seven at the second, growing to more than 500 today.”


In total, more than 70,000 tractors have been sold and 600,000 lots offered since the move to Sutton.


Some 70 per cent of sales are for export, and a significant milestone for the business came in 1996-7 when dealers from the Middle East descended to buy hundreds of Fordson Major, Fiat and Universal tractors for farms in Syria before its government banned imports.


The end of the Cold War brought buyers from Eastern Europe, first Poland and then other countries joining the EU, eager to snap up tractors.


Sudan proved a similarly lucrative market, with the demand for MF290 models pushing prices to £7,500 or more.

More than 70,000 tractors have been sold and 600,000 lots offered since the move to Sutton.

There have been some memorable individual lots too. “We had Fred Dibnah’s steam engine which went for £250,000, and a vendor in Kent called to say that he had a Land Rover that had belonged to Winston Churchill. It had been used to tow his daughter’s horse trailer and was in a scruffy condition so we were expecting £40,000 at the most. It was knocked down for £130,000,” Mr Pepper recalls.


But the top priced lot in Cheffins’ history was a 1907 Burrell Road Loco, which fetched £600,000.


“It is not uncommon to see tractors go for £60-80,000, and there are a lot of combines in this price bracket,” Mr Pepper reflects. “But while much of our business is dealer to dealer, we see a lot of local farmers looking for a good second hand tractor, and machines in the £10,000-£20,000 range are the most sought after.”


Brexit kick-started the export trade this summer, and the July and August sales grossed greater profits than they have since 2013.


“The shift in exchange rates has made a difference in prices of several thousand pounds, making a purchase more attractive to EU buyers. But we also still see strong trade outside the EU, as far afield as South America, the Middle East and Africa. Equally the uncertainty in the market may mean that UK buyers are looking again at second hand machinery.”


The dawn of the internet age has made online bidding a popular option and the innovation of a ‘drive through auction’ means that internet bidders can see the tractors on the move via video link rather than relying on a photograph.


“We have even trialled online-only auctions for niche sales such as combines and balers and would expect this to be expanded in the future,” comments Mr Pepper.

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