NEW HOLLAND GOLDEN JUBILEE
Throughout 2014 New Holland offered its customers the chance to buy special edition Golden Jubilee versions of its T7.270 Auto Command and T6.160 Auto Command models, produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Basildon tractor plant. Rory Day finds out how the distinctive tractors, which are surely destined to become collector’s items of the future, were created and what makes them special.
What a year 2014 has been for New Holland’s Basildon tractor plant. Fifty years of tractor production at the facility, the last of Britain’s major tractor manufacturing sites, has been celebrated with special decoration for the factory exterior, an open day for families of the workforce and local residents, a reunion for past employees, a VIP gathering and the introduction of a pair of special edition Golden Jubilee tractors.
Then there have been all the special dealer and club displays at major and local agricultural shows and events around the UK and Ireland, many featuring examples of Basildon’s most iconic models.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that the plant has produced a special edition tractor to celebrate a major milestone in its history. Back in 1989, a batch of 7810 Silver Jubilee models were commissioned to commemorate the factory’s 25th anniversary. However, as has been well-documented, these tractors proved not to be as sought-after as the company’s management had hoped. Their unfamiliar silver paintwork was a turn-off for customers, especially those with a long history of only buying blue tractors, while a high specification made the 7810 Silver Jubilees unsuitable and also too expensive for certain sectors of the farming industry, notably the livestock sector.
It was a worrying time for those involved in the project, not least because the bright silver special edition tractors sitting forlornly in the yard at Basildon were highly visible from the main offices! It wasn’t long before some very attractive discounts were being offered to dealers to help dispose of the slow-moving stock of tractors.
It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that the distinctive 7810 Silver Jubilee models finally began to gain acceptance with the classic tractor collecting community. Interest in the special edition machines has since rocketed, along with residual values.
Yet surprisingly, considering the distinctive appearance and high profile of the 7810 Silver Jubilee models, not a huge amount is known about who originally instigated the project, exactly how many were made and where they all went. Geoff Tiplady, chairman and chief executive of Ford’s UK tractor operation in the mid-to-late 1980s, is believed to be the man who authorised the 7810 Silver Jubilee tractors, and he may even have come up with the original concept, but sadly he’s no longer with us.
It is thought that 150 tractors were made, reputedly one for every Ford tractor dealership in the UK, although the final production figure has never been verified and by all accounts not every dealer wanted a new 7810 Silver Jubilee on its books. However, some dealers sold more than one 7810 Silver Jubilee and one main dealer from the north of England is said to have painted several in blue to make them easier to sell. Ford’s records of the time don’t differentiate between a standard blue 7810 and a special edition Silver Jubilee version, so it’s impossible to say for sure how many were produced. So there are more questions than answers, but maybe that’s all part of the mystique of the 7810 Silver Jubilee?
Mystique or not, it’s frustrating that we don’t know all the facts pertaining to such a special run of tractors. But at least there won’t be any gaps in the story of the latest special edition tractors from Basildon. The T6.160 Golden Jubilee and T7.270 Golden Jubilee models are not classics just yet, but they will be one day, and that’s why their story is being told now, while it’s still fresh and everyone involved with the project is still working for the company.
The Golden Jubilee tractors were announced and shown for the first time at the LAMMA show at Peterborough in January 2014, but their story began in mid-2013. With the 50th anniversary of the Basildon factory looming, Richard Hollins, New Holland T7 Product Manager, sat down with the brand’s Global Launches Projects Manager, Andrew Dunne, and his colleagues from the marketing department at Basildon, to discuss how to commemorate the factory’s impending milestone.
Jointly, and following Richard’s lead, they came up with the idea of producing a special edition tractor, similar in principle to the 7810 Silver Jubilee, but with a very different commercial approach. First and foremost it had to be cost-effective to produce on the assembly line, which meant that the changes would have to be purely cosmetic. The easiest way to achieve this was with a special paint scheme, but what colour? “We tried a combination of gold on the panels and black on the chassis, but it didn’t look very tasteful,” recalls Richard. “Black tractors have been done before, so we settled on Profondo Blue. We wanted to keep the colour blue, but a different shade to the Blue Power models already made at Basildon.”
Throughout the planning process, Richard and his team also worked closely with John Plom, a technical coordinator at the Basildon plant, who provided the all-important link between the marketing department and the manufacturing operation. John was a general foreman in the Manufacturing & Assembly II (M&AII) area of the factory when the 7810 Silver Jubilee was being produced back in 1989. “Several colours were suggested but I proposed a colour within the remit of the two platforms (T6/T7) which had to be a blue, but not too close to the Blue Power option, preferably dark or navy,” explains John. “I did some paint trials with my supplier and chose Profondo Blue which is a company-owned Alfa Romeo colour (brand code 49WRB, OEM Code 466/B).”
The panels on the standard ‘blue’ tractors come ready painted from the supplier, but the metallic Profondo Blue paint applied to the bodywork of the Golden Jubilee models is professionally applied by a local approved contractor.
It was also important to include gold in the colour scheme to signify the golden jubilee.
John gave the team a choice of three different golds. “They chose RAL 1035 Perlbeige from the ‘gold’ samples I sent them,” he says.
This gold colour was applied to the exhaust shield and front grilles and it was also used on the main bonnet decals. The special livery was completed by silver wheels, as opposed to the off-white colour used on the wheels of standard blue machines.
The next step was to paint a unit and get final approval before going into production. This trial unit was completed on 7 November 2013 and approved soon after. This was crucial because without the final approval of New Holland’s top management in Turin, Italy, the project couldn’t proceed any further. The company’s CEO Carlo Lambro obviously liked what he saw and duly signed-off the special edition tractors.
Whereas the specification of the 7810 Silver Jubilee was fixed, thereby locking customers into features they didn’t necessarily want or could afford, the Golden Jubilee versions have offered a lot more flexibility on specification. The top-of-the-range Auto Command transmission providing infinitely variable speeds from 0-50kph is standard, but if customers don’t want a full leather seat and steering wheel, they don’t have to have them. They can also specify different wheel sizes plus a host of other options to suit their work requirements.
The models chosen to receive the Golden Jubilee special treatment were the T6.160 Auto Command (rated 131hp/max 163hp) and the T7.270 Auto Command (rated 228hp/max 269hp), the latter being the most powerful tractor ever built at Basildon.
“Originally we planned to just do the T7.270 as a Golden Jubilee, but the North American market wanted a T6.160 model, so we decided to make them both available in the special livery,” notes Richard.
During the development process, Richard also came up with a rough sketch of the ‘Basildon 50 Years’ logo that would eventually find its way onto the frontage of the factory and to on every tractor that left the plant in 2014.
Before the Golden Jubilee tractor could make its public debut promotional and marketing material had to be produced. So very shortly after the final approval for the Golden Jubilee project was given, the first unit was sent over to the Fiat Group’s photographic studios in Turin. During the ensuing photo shoot, reference was made to the mirror image of the Ford 7810 Silver Jubilee that appeared on the front cover original sales leaflet, only this time the mirror image wasn’t achieved by flooding the floor of the photo studio with water, as per the 1989 shoot in a Ford studio near Basildon, but by some clever digital editing.
With high quality images now on file, work on the brochures, posters and other promotional items could begin. This was carried out during December and completed in time for the official launch of the Golden Jubilee tractors at LAMMA on 22-23 January.
The first production units were produced at Basildon on 15 May. The official cut-off date for orders was 1 November 2014, although the factory is being flexible so that it can cater for late orders, especially from North America. With some orders not being required until 15 January 2015, production of Golden Jubilee tractors could easily spill over into the first weeks of the new year, says John Plom.
A total of 188 units had been ordered by 7 November and subject to late orders the final figure could end up around the 200 mark. About a third of these have been T6.160 Golden Jubilee models, with the remainder being T7.270 Golden Jubilees. Each unit has been issued with a limited edition number on a certificate together with a signed letter from plant manager Colin Larkin. “This number can be traced as it is recorded in our records against the tractor serial number and plant order number,” says John.
Unlike the earlier Ford 7810 Silver Jubilee tractors, every tractor that went down the line was built to order. That’s why there were never rows of them standing at the factory, waiting for customers. Plus, whereas the 7810 Silver Jubilee was really a UK market initiative, the Golden Jubilee tractors have been sold in 18 different countries around the world.
Overall, the Golden Jubilee project has been a great success, generating interest in the Basildon factory during its special year and allowing some of New Holland’s most loyal and enthusiastic customers to become part of the celebrations to mark the plant’s major milestone.
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