Machinery and Equipment: Built for 50mph comfort, Fastrac shattered a few tractor myths

Nearly every Fastrac had unique innovation: the 8250 launched in 2008 was the first tractor to have colour touch screen control.

JCB has been building their unique Fastrac range of tractors 25 years, since 1991.

After a quarter-century of innovation, they claim the current range is the most productive, most versatile, most comfortable and safest series of tractors on the market.

The Fastrac is unique in offering full front and rear suspension, for unparalleled ride, comfort and traction.

External disc brakes offer excellent heat dissipation, and compare favourably with oil-immersed systems found on conventional tractors.

Full chassis construction is designed for strength, stability and load carrying ability.

The centre-mounting of the cab reduces jolts, and helps to achieve near-50/50 weight distribution, to make the operator more comfortable and more productive.

Fastracs can travel smoothly and safely in the field and between fields — up to 50 mph, where laws allow.

The first prototype was built secretly in 1987 beneath the office block at JCB Transmissions in Wrexham, North Wales. 

In 1989, the first HMV (high mobility vehicle) prototypes commenced testing and evaluation. Tests quickly shattered the myth that suspension and ploughing was an impossible combination.

Prototypes were entrusted to selected farmers for final feedback and refining before the result of the £12 million Project P120 was unveiled to the media and to the public at the Royal Smithfield Show in 1990, ahead of production start-up the following spring.

It was 1991 when the first Fastracs come off the new JCB Landpower production line.

At the Royal Show in July, models were unveiled of 120hp (the 125) and 140hp (the 145 Turbo), powered by six-litre Perkins engines with 18x6-speed transmission — the first purpose-built farm tractors with front and rear axle suspension for ride comfort and stability, and truck standard all-wheel disc brakes for high speed road travel.

Success was confirmed by the Design Council’s British Design Award in 1992, when the 500th Fastrac was produced.

Paying tribute to his engineers, Lord Bamford said: “The Fastrac is a remarkable example of JCB’s innovative engineering culture at its best.

“The concept of a tractor better equipped for road travel and transportation tasks, but also very capable at undertaking demanding field work, has proven its worth over the years, in terms of increased productivity and lower operating costs.

“At the same time, the Fastrac has advanced the principle of giving operators the best possible comfort and working environment, so they can be as productive as possible while looking after their health and well-being.

“There are many cases of farmers with back troubles, often brought on by driving conventional tractors, who have been able to continue with field work thanks to the supreme ride and comfort of the Fastrac.

“That in itself is something worth celebrating.”

In 1993, the powering up of the Fastrac started, with the addition of the 150hp Fastrac 155.

A notable innovation in 1995 was the Fastrac 1115 — a smaller, lighter, more nimble tractor with a top speed restricted to 50kph (31mph), so it could run on standard rather than high-speed rated tyres. It was joined later that year by a 135hp turbo-engined version.

JCB engineers then tranferred their expertise in multi-mode four-wheel steering systems for Loadall telescopic handlers, by producing the Quadtronic system for the Fastrac 1115 and 1135. 

This reduced the tractor’s turning circle as much as 25%; it remains a standard feature of today’s Fastrac 4000 Series.

In 1998, a more powerful, longer wheelbase Fastrac, the 2115, was launched.

And the 148hp 2150 joined the ‘small Fastrac’ range.

The same year brought new engines and the Autoshift 54x18 speed transmission.

More recognition came in 1999 — the Sir Roland Burke Perpetual Challenge Machinery Trophy from the Royal Agricultural Society of England for the Fastrac.

In 2003, the Fastrac 2140 model (with 142hp, 5.9-litre Cummins engine and two or four-wheel steering), became the sole 2000 Series model.

The 3170 with 155hp replaced the 3155, with styling and specification similar to the 3190 and 3220.

In 2010, the Fastrac 3230 Xtra model was launched.

With the P-Tronic 24x9 semi-powershift transmission, Xtra-Drive brake pedal stop-start, and the new 7.4-litre AGCO Power (Sisu) engine with SCR emissions control and driver-selectable boost power for transport operations, power went to 147hp and 172hp for the 3200 Xtra, and 172hp and 201hp for the 3230 Xtra.

Features such as the new Command Plus cab came in 2013 on the Fastrac 4000 Series of three models with 175hp (4160), 208hp (4190) and 235hp (4220).

They also featured 60kph stepless CVT transmission, and self-levelling suspension at the front and rear.

Last year, full-scale commercial production of the Fastrac 4000 Series got under way.

Another tribute to the Fastrac has come from the utility companies which use it, and the armed forces worldwide which have become Fastrac buyers for a variety of tasks.

It is also the tractor you will see at work in many road and rail projects, and at numerous airports for clearing snow and ice from runways.


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