Michael Ryan, of Fedamore, Co Limerick, has something of a passion for Massey Ferguson 35s.
A resplendent 35x is part of his collection, there’s another in the workshop undergoing restoration, while a third sits in the shed, awaiting attention.
He has had his smartly turned out 35x for several years, having purchasing it from a local farmer in a state that called for a total rebuild.
The engine was sent away for attention, mainly to the bores and pistons, while everything else was stripped down, sandblasted, painted, and reassembled with all the necessary wearing parts and seals being replaced during the process.
More than 330,000 of these tractors were built at Banner Lane in Coventry, between 1956 and 1964. So you’d imagine that parts are easily come by.
But this wasn’t the case when it came to
the Multi-Power components in the drive train.
The first problem Michael encountered
in this regard
the necessary oil pump was missing altogether, along with various other essential items
that suggested they had been scavenged for another tractor, at some point.
Despite much searching, and chasing various suppliers, Michael had to resign himself to fitting parts from the larger MF65 tractor, and it is these that now sit in the transmission, fully refurbished, a job he undertook himself.
The MF Multi-Power system was designed to provide direct drive to the gearbox, through either a ratchet mechanism or a clutch pack.
The latter ensured higher speeds were possible (an extra 4.5mph in top gear), while the former provided extra torque at the tractor’s original speeds.
Being a ratchet mechanism, it meant
there was no engine braking when in ‘low’ gear, and the driver is reminded of this by a tiny notice next to the switch (it’s hardly grand enough to call it a lever) which informs him or her to “Shift to high for engine braking”.
There was at this time no sign of the famous hare and tortoise, just the blunt words ‘high’ and ‘low’, to indicate the function of said switch.
After fully reworking the mechanicals, the tinwork was blasted down and repainted. The bonnet was good enough to keep, but the radiator grille and front side panels had to be replaced, along with the wings.
New lights, wiring harness, dynamo and starter motor were also required, as well as a set of link arms, which look rather resplendent, with the grease nipple dust caps still in place.
These are usually the first casualties of even the lightest farm work, so their presence suggests
this is more a show tractor than working girl.
A 5ft finger bar mower was also sourced, and mounted to her rear. This implement needed little more than a good clean before painting and servicing, and is as ready for work as the tractor itself.
Although Massey Fergusons are hardly a rare sight in Ireland, certain models are more scarce than others, and this certainly applies to the 35X with Multi Power.
Quite why there are not more about is probably due to the extra expense of the system, which would have had little advantage for buyers in Ireland at the time of its production.
On a larger tractor, its cost would probably not have added quite so much to the overall price, and it would arguably have been of more use in the heavier work likely to be undertaken. But on the MF35, it was probably considered unnecessary, although it’s near 20mph top speed is quite welcome on today’s roads.
Instead, the six-speed “straight” 35 seems to have found favour in the market, and one of these machines from that era now awaits Michael’s attention.
This was also a local tractor, owned by a friend who sadly passed away, leaving the vehicle to his family, who sold it on to somebody they knew would cherish it.
The history is better known, it is believed to have been bought originally from a dealer in Athenry, and their plate still adorns the bonnet with a phone number proudly displayed, a two-digit phone number which places the tractor right back there amongst the misty memories of decades ago.
This tractor was probably fitted with its safety cab by a second dealer, ‘Ahearns’, around 30 years ago, and its style is obviously somewhat later than that of the tractor itself, which is none the worse for it.
When it is restored to a similarly high standard as the 35x, the two tractors will greatly complement each other, and may inspire others to take a little more notice of these iconic machines that played such a large part in Ireland’s farming past.