Chris Jubb’s mighty John Deere 8430 was one of the highlights of the Newark Vintage Tractor & Heritage Show last November, winning the ‘Best John Deere’ award and attracting a crowd of admirers. Rory Day traces the history of this very early UK-registered tractor and finds out what was required to bring it up to show standard.
Standing 3.2m tall to the top of its Sound-Gard cab and measuring 5.7m in length, Chris Jubb’s stunning John Deere 8430 is not lacking in presence. Its sheer physical size made it hard to miss at the Newark Vintage Tractor & Heritage Show on 13-14 November, although what really won the day – and the trophy for the ‘Best John Deere’ – was its magnificent finish.
There is, however, much more to this giant John Deere than a glistening paint job, applied by one of the UK’s leading tractor restorers. A display board accompanying the John Deere at Newark informed passers-by that it was one of the first in the country, arriving here from the United States in mid-1976. Further confirmation of this could be found at the rear of the tractor, where the presence of a ‘P’ suffix (1975-1976) in the original registration number of OTL 781P marks it down as a particularly early import.
It was, in fact, the registration number that caught Chris’ eye when he first caught sight of the John Deere standing on the export terminal of Liverpool docks in October 2010.
“I was delivering a generator to the docks when I saw the big John Deere in the terminal,” says Chris, who runs Markham Moor Transport, a heavy haulage firm based at Markham Moor in Nottinghamshire. “As soon as I saw the registration letters ‘OTL’ and the name of Rainthorpe on the door I knew the tractor had come from the neighbouring county of Lincolnshire.”
Although he’s not a tractor enthusiast as such, Chris has always had a passing interest in John Deere tractors, stemming from the time when his father John ran several of them in his agricultural contracting business.
“I was brought up around John Deeres and I always thought there was something about them – they really were the bees-knees,” he says. “My father bought a John Deere 4020 second-hand in 1971 and then a 2130 brand new in 1977. We still have both of these tractors and I had the 4020 restored by Ben Craig as a surprise 75th birthday present for my father in 2006.”
The Jubb family always ran a commercial vehicle and Chris found driving the trucks they operated more enjoyable and rewarding than farming. Together with his brother Philip, he went on to develop the trucking side of the business considerably, increasing the size of the fleet to its present four vehicles and diversifying into heavy haulage. As the heavy haulage enterprise flourished, the agricultural contracting operation began to dwindle as agricultural practices changed and farmers geared themselves up to carry out some of the more specialised jobs previously handled by contractors. The Jubbs ceased contracting altogether in 1991.
Having the family’s John Deere 4020 restored had whetted Chris’s appetite for another tractor. He had looked into the possibility of buying a UK-based John Deere 8640 that had been repowered by a Cummins engine, but the asking price was prohibitive at the time and the owner didn’t really want to sell the tractor.
His interest in buying a big John Deere was rekindled when he came across OTL 781P waiting to be exported at Liverpool docks.
“I made some enquiries and found out it was being exported by a dealer from York,” recalls Chris. “I knew I couldn’t let it leave the country so I asked the dealer what it would take to prevent it from leaving. After some haggling we agreed a price and I paid for the tractor.”
With big Deere’s future now secured, Chris transported it to his yard and began the process of unravelling its previous history. He soon discovered that it had originally been one of two operated by Jim Rainthorpe, a progressive, large-scale arable farmer from Welton, near Lincoln (see ‘The original owner’ panel).
The first of the pair to arrive, registration OTL 781P, was ordered by Mr Rainthorpe in late 1975 or very early 1976, not long after the official UK dealer and press launch at Stoneleigh in October 1975. According to records held by John Deere Limited at Langar, near Nottingham, Mr Rainthorpe’s first tractor, serial 8430H003172R, was supplied by his local John Deere dealer, Ramsay Farm Equipment of Market Rasen, Lincs, on 6 July 1976.
It wasn’t the first John Deere 8430 in the UK – that honour belongs to tractor serial 8430H001087R, which was the machine used for the dealer launch at Stoneleigh – but it was apparently the fifth one to be delivered to a customer. Deliveries began on 26 June 1976 and by the end of the year, a total of 13 John Deere 8430 tractors were out working on UK farms, mainly in the eastern regions. A further 15 units were supplied the following year.
Mr Rainthorpe obviously approved of his 8430’s performance because he quickly ordered a second one, taking delivery, this time via dealer Louth Tractors of Louth, Lincs, on 11 October 1976.
OTL 781P remained on Mr Rainthorpe’s farm until 1996, when it was sold to Ian Houlgrave, a machinery dealer from Willoughby, near Alford, Lincs.
“It was then sold to Castle Milk Farm Estate near Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway, where I believe it was fitted with a pick-up hitch so that it could be used to pull slurry tankers,” notes Chris. “It was sold again in 2004, this time by auction, and went to a collector from Ross-on-Wye, where it remained until 2009 when it was sold to the machinery dealer who I bought it from.
“It was in excellent mechanical condition when it arrived in my yard,” he adds. “I borrowed a friend’s set of discs and took it out into the field for an hour to make sure everything was working properly. Apart from an odd oil leak there weren’t any problems.”
In April 2011, Chris sent the big John Deere down to Ben Craig at Harby, near Nottingham, with instructions to make it look like new again, preferably in time for the Newark Vintage Tractor & Heritage Show on 13-14 November.
“Ben took some persuading to take on the project because he said he’d never tackled such a big tractor before, but eventually he said he’d do it,” says Chris.
Refurbishment work began at Harby in early July. One of the first things Ben did was contact Richard Clarke, who works in John Deere’s training centre at nearby Langar, to see if he would inspect the tractor before they started stripping it down.
“Richard used to work on articulated John Deere tractors in East Anglia and he came down here and spent some time driving the 8430 and checking it over,” says Ben. “The only problem he found was with the hand-operated transmission park brake which was added in the UK as part of the homologation process. The brake was dragging, which was apparently a common problem, so Richard freed it off and then disconnected it.”
Mechanically, the big John Deere was in very good condition, so the focus of the project was on curing the handful of oil seals that existed and making the tractor cosmetically perfect.
“We fitted new seals to the load shafts, PTO and the steering ram and then sorted out some areas of corrosion on the front of the bonnet and the mudguards,” explains Ben. “”Everything else was taken to pieces, cleaned, sanded down where necessary and then put back together.”
The Sound-Gard cab was removed, completely stripped to a bare shell and then sanded down and repainted. The existing wiring was in good condition and was reused, but the interior was completely retrimmed with a new upholstery kit sourced from John Deere. There was no need to replace the original seat cushions, which were in excellent condition, but the seat did require a new armrest.
Some of the original curved panes of glass in the cab had some bad scratches, so they were replaced with new glass, again from John Deere. The only parts that were not available were the rubber seals that provide a seal between the door and the cab frame, but fortunately the originals were sound and cleaned up well.
One area where John Deere doesn’t tend to excel is the appearance of its replacement decals, which rarely look the same as the originals. Because of this, Ben turned to Ridgeway Graphics of Melton Mowbray, which came out to take photographs of the original decals before the tractor was stripped down, then returned again to fit the new ones.
“The same lady who came out from Ridgeway Graphics to take pictures of the original decals returned to fit the new ones they made,” explains Ben. “They did the whole lot, including the ‘Ramsey Farm Equipment’ suppliers’ decal, and made a very, very good job.”
During the rebuild, Ben says he benefited enormously from the excellent availability of replacement parts through the John Deere network.
“Virtually everything we needed was available through John Deere and in many cases the parts were not expensive,” he notes. “With some tractors, it can take a lot of time sourcing the correct parts, assuming they even exist, but with the 8430 all the parts we needed were available from John Deere and, because they were genuine, they also fitted perfectly. Most arrived from the States within a week of being ordered.
“The project itself was initially very daunting because of the physical size of the tractor, but as far as finding the parts were concerned, it was very easy,” adds Ben. “You can’t do a tractor like this on your own and I had a lot of help from my father Jim, brother Tom and David Allen.”
It took four-and-a-half months to complete the epic project, with the finishing touches being added the afternoon before the Newark event. During this time, Ben and his team were also working on George Yarwood’s Roadless Ploughmaster 78K (CLASSIC TRACTOR February 2011), which also made its debut at the same show.
“Taking the finished tractor to Newark and displaying it there in front of all those people was really special,” says Chris. “I’ve never, ever felt so proud of anything like that before and I really didn’t think I would feel like I did.”
This article is just a sample of what you can expect every month in Classic Tractor magazine. To ensure you don’t miss a copy subscribe today.