The second of three books looking in depth at David Brown and its products.
Was David Brown the best tractor manufacturer in the world? Stuart Gibbard certainly believes it was, and he explains why in the second part of his David Brown Tractor Story, which covers the history of the marque from 1949 to 1964.
Based in the Yorkshire township of Meltham in a remote Pennine valley, David Brown Tractors Ltd was a fiercely independent and family-controlled organisation. It exuded that great British tradition of putting engineering excellence before monetary considerations. The firm didn’t have the resources of the multinational conglomerates, but it had plenty of northern grit and determination, and an immensely skilled workforce. Willing to take on the opposition on the global stage, it frequently beat the larger manufacturers at their own game.
Focusing on the company's agricultural tractors, the book starts in the era of the famous Cropmaster model, which pioneered so many industry "firsts" including the high-speed direct-injection diesel engine. It heralded the beginning of an intense period of engineering innovation as the range was enlarged to include crawlers, a six-cylinder wheeled tractor and a novel toolbar machine.
David Brown's goal was to capture the world's markets with a range of six tractors and 60 implements. It nearly all fell apart after the product line became overloaded, coupled with the somewhat underwhelming appearance of the ill-fated DB 900 model in 1956, but the company regrouped and channelled its resources into a new series of middleweight wheeled tractors that brought even greater success.
Moving into the early 1960s, and the final years of David Brown's ‘red’ tractors, the hugely popular 880 and 990 Implematic models began to have a dramatic affect on sales - helping to confirm Meltham's position as Britain's third largest tractor manufacturer after the mighty Ford and Massey Ferguson organisations.
Stuart describes each model and its development in consummate detail; not just the production tractors, but also the principal - and highly fascinating - prototypes. He focuses on all the main developments, including the company's ground-breaking TCU and Autodrive systems. The narrative also deals with the American Oliver connection and the German 750 Farmatic tractor.
During the course of his extensive research, Stuart has uncovered much new material, and several of the machines featured in the book have not been mentioned before in any other publication. The development of each tractor is set against the background of company policy, management decisions and world events. Stuart also explains the makeup of the larger David Brown Corporation and how the various facets of the organisation, particularly Aston Martin, impinged upon Meltham production.
Above all, it is a story of people and personal achievement - from the Brown dynasty in the corridors of power to the generations of the same family who worked on the factory line. Not forgetting, of course, the creative engineers whose passion for technical innovation, and sometimes wild imaginings, drove the company forward. Stuart has woven all the strands together to provide a remarkable record of a proud organisation during probably the greatest period in its history.
This long-awaited work is the result of more than ten years of meticulous research during which time Stuart has interviewed many of David Brown's key personnel. It is probably the most extensive book ever produced about any British tractor manufacturer. The absorbing text, written in Stuart's highly readable style, is accompanied by more than 500 illustrations - many of which will not have been seen before.
Whether or not you agree with Stuart-s assessment of the company, you cannot help but be drawn into the story and transfixed by the tales of human endeavour, engineering enterprise and dogged determination that typified David Brown's ambitions to mechanise the world's farms. The reader is taken on an amazing adventure, gaining a greater understanding of Britain's industrial heritage and its importance to the agricultural landscape
Writer: Stuart Gibbard
text in english
Hard bound, 275 * 215 mm