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Manufacturers make history


With a packed schedule of major milestones this year, Richard Bradley takes a look at how a handful of manufacturers got to where they are today.

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From ideas sparked on holiday, to machines which took years to develop from existing platforms, manufacturers are ever striving to improve products, make them faster, more powerful or more efficient.

We take a look at a handful of manufacturers which are having celebrations this year. Whether they are marking decades of history and building up product ranges, or landmark amounts of machines rolling off the production line, we look at what has made them the names they are today.

JCB Fastrac tractor turns 25

JCB Fastrac tractor turns 25

JCB is celebrating 25 years since it first launched the Fastrac in 1991 at its Cheadle factory.

JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford says: “The concept of a tractor better equipped for road travel and transportation tasks but also capable at undertaking field work has proven its worth over the years in terms of increased productivity and lower operating costs.”

An early Fastrac 145 Turbo.

  • 1984: JCB chairman Anthony Bamford struck on the idea for the Fastrac while on holiday
  • 1987: Built underneath JCB’s Wrexham offices, prototypes commence testing and development
  • 1991: Fastrac launched with the 125 and 145 turbo at the Royal Show
  • 1996: Selectable four-wheel steering developed and air-over-hydraulic brakes introduced
  • 2001: Anti-lock braking system (ABS) introduced on the 2000 and 3000 series
  • 2005: JCB’s 60th anniversary year saw the launch of its 8000 Series, featuring a continuously variable transmission
  • 2006: Developed the High Mobility Engineer Excavator for the US Army – a Fastrac/3CX hybrid with 90kph travel speed, two-tonne loader and four-metre backhoe
  • 2007: The Stig takes a Fastrac 8250 for a flying lap on the BBC Top Gear test track
  • 2011: Fastrac 3000 and 8000 tractors switched to AgcoPower engines
  • 2015: Commercial production of Fastrac 4000 Series - launched at Agritechnica 2013

John Deere celebrates 50 years trading in UK

John Deere celebrates 50 years trading in UK

John Deere is set to hold an event this year celebrating 50 years since it first officially started trading tractors in the UK and Ireland.

The manufacturer’s marketing manager, Chris Wiltshire, says: “It is as important to provide support to customers as it is to manufacturer reliable and quality products.

“Having a strong dealer network for 50 years, who are passionate about the products, has pushed the John Deere brand in the UK and Ireland.”

Deere's 5010 produced 121hp.

  • 1837: John Deere, an American blacksmith invented a plough which saw the start of the company
  • 1937: First John Deere branded tractors, combines and ploughs sold in the UK and Ireland through independent dealers, Standens, Oldings, Levertons and L.O. Tractors
  • 1962: Manufacturer exhibited its 4010 with 100hp and 5010 tractors at Royal Smithfield show
  • 1966: The firm set up its UK trade base at Langar, Nottingham, where it still operates from today
  • 1966: John Deere invents the rollover protection system, making it available to all manufacturers
  • 1987: 50 Series tractor launched, with optional premium Sound Guard cab
  • 1992: 6000 tractor series revealed with full-frame modular design
  • 1997: Updates brought the 6010 and 7010 range and the manufacturer introduces its front axle triple link suspension system
  • 1998: Matbro telehandlers sold in green and yellow. Deere’s own models followed in 2000
  • 2001: Company launched its first Agricultural Management Solutions products with Greenstar. Automated steering followed in 2002
  • 2012: John Deere celebrates 175 years since founding
  • 2015: Launches the four track 9RX range, the largest and most powerful tractor the manufacturer has produced

Claas produces 50,000th Lexion combine

Claas produces 50,000th Lexion combine

Inside a Lexion 700

  • 50,000 parts
  • 4,000 metres of electrical cable
  • 215m of hydraulic pipe

Claas is celebrating its 50,000th Lexion combine rolling off the production line in Harsewinkel, Germany.

The manufacturer says: “The biggest single advancement in the Lexion range is the hybrid threshing system, which is its longest standing feature and is at the heart of all Lexion combines. We have also seen a large uptake in automatic systems, such as GPS, telematics and yield mapping, plus the most recent Cemos Automatic driver assistance system, which allows the operator to focus on driving.”

Lexion 480 was the first in the Claas range.

  • 1995: After almost 10 years of development, Claas launched the Lexion series to extend its combine portfolio for higher capacity machines
  • 1996: The manufacturer introduced its Terra Trac rubber tracks, saying they provided a lighter footprint and made the machine more stable, enabling it to work with wider headers
  • 2001: The 10,000th Lexion combine rolled off the German production line. The Lexion 480 had a potential harvesting capacity of 40 tonnes of grain per hour
  • 2005: Lexion 600 series launched, with potential harvest capacities up to 70t of grain/hour
  • 2010: Claas’ largest Lexion 700 series combine launched. The top-of-the-range Lexion 780TT has a grain tank capacity of 13,000 litres, equipped with the manufacturer’s Cemos Automatic driver assistance system, which automatically adjusts harvesting settings
  • 2015: 700 series updated with 4D cleaning system which adjusts fan speeds, sieve positioning and rotor flap opening, aiming to reduce losses on slopes

Zetor at 70

Zetor at 70

Czech manufacturer Zetor is celebrating 70 years since launching its first tractor.


Since day one, its ethos has been to design affordable, low weight tractors, suitable for mass production.

After a cash injection from HTC Holding the Proxima tractor range was launched to comply with latest emission regulations.

  • 1946: The manufacturer launches its first tractor, the Z25.
  • 1949: Within its first three years the manufacturer sells 10,000 tractors
  • 1958: The Unified series revealed, based on using the same parts across different models to reduce cost
  • 1960: Hydraulic three point linkage system introduced
  • 1968: Unified series II launched, featuring a cab with integrated rollover protection system
  • 1975: Crystal series launched, Zetor’s first tractor to feature a six-cylinder engine, with two- and four-wheel drive
  • 1993: A contract was agreed with John Deere to supply small, high quality tractors for the South American markets
  • 2002: To prevent the manufacturer entering bankruptcy, HTC holding provided investment
  • 2015: After 11 years, Zetor relaunches its six-cylinder tractor. The Crystal gets four-wheel drive, cab suspension and front axle suspension as standard

Two decades of Quadtrac

Two decades of Quadtrac

Case IH is celebrating 20 years since launching the Quadtrack, the first articulated rubber-tracked tractor.

Based on its four-wheeled, articulated Steiger tractors, the manufacturer says the Quadtrac overcomes the limitations of twin-track crawlers by improving traction, floatation and reducing compaction, making fieldwork more productive.

The same basic design has remained since the Quadtrac 360.

  • 1986: Articulated wheeled tractor specialist Steiger bought out by Case IH
  • 1992: Quadtrac prototype revealed, based on a 300hp 9150 Steiger, featuring four identical rubber track units
  • 1996: First production Quadtrac 360 launched in the US, based on a 360hp 9370 Steiger
  • 1997: Quadtrac debuted in Europe and UK at the SIMA show and Cereals Event
  • 1998: Larger 380 machine released with 400hp
  • 2000: Tractors gained new styling, cab, controls and new 16-speed powershift transmission. Two models released, the 380 and 440, with 375hp and 440hp respectively
  • 2007: The Stig sets the slowest ever lap time around the BBC Top Gear test track
  • 2012: Launches Quadtrac 620, the largest model to date, meeting Stage 4 emissions regulation with 697hp. Track units retain the same basic design as the first production machines
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