Lightbars, mats, mirror guards and custom paintwork is a common sight on lorries, but an increasing number of tractor drivers are starting to customise their steeds. Geoff Ashcroft reports.
Tractor drivers are customising their machines to stand out from the crowd.
Highly polished chrome, bright lights, dazzling paintwork and leather-trimmed interiors are synonymous with owner-drivers in the trucking world as they aim to stand out from the crowd with heavily customised rigs.
It is fast becoming accepted among tractor drivers too and this growing trend is much more than just having your farm name plasma-cut into the front weight box. Roof-mounted lightbars, LED marker lights, polished exhaust systems and logoed carpet mats are starting to make their way into the machinery market for those who want something different.
With several halls dedicated to accessories and components, Lamma 2017 could prove a good source of frippery for those looking to pimp their tractors.
So, is it clever marketing, wasted wages or light-hearted entertainment normally associated with a younger audience looking to stand out?
For Oxfordshire farmer and contractor Chris Cox of JTW Cox Farms, Beckley, it is all about spoiling yourself.
The 6210R’s side and rear windows have been given a dark tint, and a stainless steel exhaust guard has been fitted.
“I am a bit of a tractor nut,” he says. “And I do like a bit of bling. There are some great looking lorries on the road and so I thought, ‘why not make my tractor stand out a little more’?”
“It is good marketing and it does get you noticed when you are out and about pulling trailers, but there is also a sense of pride in what we do, too.”
Mr Cox’s current mule is a four-year-old John Deere 6210R, and it has been given the once over, with ‘Coxy’ name plate on the dashboard. He and his brother Richard got tired of the standard look many years ago and have been fettling their rides for a number of years.
The obvious addition to Chris’ tractor is a stainless steel heat shield for the exhaust silencer and the exhaust pipe has been finished in heat-resistant silver paint. His roof-mounted light bar shows he is no shrinking violet, too.
“I made the light bar myself and fitted four 55W work lamps. Then I had to relocate the Greenstar receiver to take advantage of the extra illumination,” he says.
Leather trimmed seats, green LED ambient lighting and custom floor mat finished off Chris Cox’s cab.
With side lights turned on, the lightbar emits a soft green glow, as do the forward facing marker lights under the indicators, and a horizontal row of five green LEDs complete the custom-look as they wrap round the weight box.
“There is not much to do in winter once the cattle are fed.”
Inside the cab are two green LEDs for ambient lighting, a custom carpet set, and both seats have been retrimmed in yellow and green leather.
“It makes an ordinary tractor feel a little more special. I have had a few flashes from truckers who obviously appreciate the custom look.”
But his showpiece is the one you cannot see – a two-tone, high decibel train horn under the cab.
“We have a similar hooter on the forager too and it does wake the trailer drivers when they are not paying attention.”
Alec Wilkinson, Bowles Farm, Barnard Gate, Oxfordshire, is also something of a tractor nut. He runs two articulated lorries to support his 1,500-hectare (3,700-acre) contract farming business, and his sense of pride and achievement is easy to see.
Equipment is bordering on immaculate and the subtle introduction of a little bling is easily spotted across the AL Wilkinson tractor fleet.
Alec Wilkinson's truck features murals of his farm equipment.
His flagship tractor, a US-built John Deere 9620 artic, has been fitted with a custom-built Eminox exhaust stack from local firm Coles and Sons, Banbury, which operates a fleet of high profile custom trucks in its haulage business. The firm also supplies custom parts.
Mr Wilkinson says: “There is no doubt my truck is my guilty pleasure. All the murals painted on the truck are of my farm equipment. But I also like my tractors to look smart too and older equipment can look really smart if you look after it.”
Almost all his seven tractors feature stainless steel exhaust systems and the 9620 has a beacon bar across its roof, plus a low-level lightbar under the nose to help with on-road presence – not that the big Deere lacks presence.
“I like subtle improvements – it is good for our business, as looking smart gets us noticed.”
Philip Trim used custom artwork on three of his foragers.
Bere Regis, Dorset-based contractor Philip Trim has had custom paintwork applied to three foragers over the years. But with more time now spent in the office than the cab, he now saves custom paint for his fleet of 10 lorries, used for liquid waste haulage, to complement his general contracting operation.
Mr Trim says: “My last forager paint scheme was an all-black affair with silver wheels to mark 25 years of business. But with paintwork costing about £4,000, it has become a luxury which is financially difficult to justify.”
He says truckers have a different mindset to many tractor-based employees, and their approach to the job is worthy of recognition.
Philip Trim says his trucks operate over a much greater area than his tractors, so they are a better proposition for mobile marketing.
“They live in their cabs all week, so it is their home away from home. I have noticed my truck drivers have much more pride in how their vehicles look than those who hop between tractor cabs. They also have a lot more loyalty to the business compared to seasonal operators.”
With trucks operating over a greater area too, they are much more visible and a distinctive paint scheme does help the Trim brand to get recognition.
“When the contracting team goes muck spreading and tractors get plastered, it is just not the same as people saying they have seen your shiny yellow trucks on the road.”