ONWARDS & UPWARDS
ONWARDS & UPWARDS
This Fendt Farmer 305LSA had clocked a huge 25,423 hours when it last appeared in Classic Tractor a little over 10 years ago. Since then it has changed hands and piled on another 5000 hours. Rory Day caught up with the Fendt as it prepared to embark on another phase of its remarkable life.
Every so often a tractor crosses our path that demands a second look. Ten years ago, Classic Tractor paid a visit to see a 1993 Fendt Farmer 305LSA that had done 25,423 hours in 11 short years. The owner, and the man who had put every single one of those hours on the clock, was Suffolk hedge trimming contractor Rowly Steward.
Rowly was no stranger to the Fendt marque, having had almost 50,000 hours of experience of driving the German tractors at the time of our visit. He first encountered the brand while working for John Graham of Brundish, a local contractor and one of Fendt’s earliest UK dealers. Mr Graham was appointed a Fendt agent by UK importer Bill Bennett in 1974 and as well as selling the premium brand machines, he also used them in his agricultural contracting business.
During his time working for John Graham, Rowly spent thousands of hours driving a six-cylinder Fendt Favorit 610 equipped with a Hydrocut Giraffe hedge cutter.
When he was made redundant in 1982 Rowly set up his own hedge trimming business and by 1985, with the venture going well, he was in a position to invest in new equipment. Rowly had always been impressed with the Fendt tractors he’d operated during his time with John Graham, so he decided to order a brand two-wheel drive Fendt Farmer 306LS model from his local dealer, Derek Clarke of Sparham, Norfolk. Derek had previously worked as a salesman for John Graham, and had then taken on the agency for Fendt.
Over the next seven years, Rowly put 12,000 hours on his Fendt Farmer. Its reliability and comfort lived up to expectations and so when the time came to think about a replacement, Rowly had no hesitation opting for another model from the same range. In August 1993 he placed an order with dealer Peter Rose of PHR of Braintree, Essex, for a slightly smaller 70hp four-wheel drive Fendt 305LSA. This tractor, registration number K613 RGV, was the focus of our attention back in November 2004 (Classic Tractor January 2005) and now again today.
Rowly paid £23,800 for his new Fendt and it proved to be a remarkably good investment and very reliable – see ‘Repair log’ panel. He certainly got his money’s worth in the first 11 years, clocking an average of 2300 hours a year, mainly during the main hedge trimming months of June through until March.
Rowly, who was 61 at the time of our visit in 2004, was hoping his Fendt Farmer would see him through to retirement. It seems it did just this, although we’re not sure exactly when he retired. Sadly, Rowly died from a serious illness in October 2013, aged just 71.
What we do know is that when he retired he sold K613 RGV to Derek Clarke, the former Fendt dealer who supplied his original Farmer 306LS model and also carried out occasional repairs to the 305LSA. Derek recalls that he bought the tractor about 8-10 years ago, adding it to the fleet of three other Fendt tractors he was running at the time.
Derek had a lot in common with Rowly. They had both worked for contractor John Graham in the 1970s and early 80s and had been heavily involved with Fendt tractors during this time. Both men had also gone on to set up their own businesses, Rowly becoming a hedge-trimming contractor and Derek the owner of his own dealership.
Derek’s claim to fame is that he was most probably the first person to demonstrate a Fendt tractor in the UK.
“During the early 1970s I was working as a tractor driver for agricultural contractor John Graham,” he recalls. “John had taken on a large ploughing contract and had ordered two new County Super-6 tractors. Unfortunately, there was a waiting list for most British tractors and it became clear they were not going to be delivered in time. It was while John was looking for an alternative that he saw an advert for Fendt tractors in the Farmers Weekly. The company was looking for a distributor and John ended up going to Germany for a meeting to see if he could take on the agency. He thought this was a way of getting hold of some new tractors, but also a good business opportunity as well. “Apparently, as John walked into the office at Fendt’s headquarters, Bill Bennett walked out, having just signed up to become the UK distributor,” he continues.
John Graham, trading as J. E. Graham, took on the Fendt agency in 1974 and held his first demonstration at Harleston not long after signing up. According to Derek, who drove one of the Favorit 612 tractors at the demo event, it was the first time Fendt tractors had been seen working in the UK.
Derek eventually became a salesman for J. E. Graham and continued to work for the business until it gave up its Fendt agency in the late 1980s. However, that wasn’t the end of Derek’s association with the German brand because he decided to take on the franchise himself, forming D. J. Tractors, based at Sparham, near Norwich, in Norfolk. He held the Fendt agency until around the year 2000.
Coincidental with running the dealership, Derek also had his own agricultural contracting business, offering a range of services that included baling and lime spreading. He latterly ran four tractors in his fleet – all Fendts, not surprisingly – comprising 305, 306, 308 and 312 models from the Farmer Series. The Farmer 306, which was the only two-wheel drive, was the one that Rowly Steward traded in for his 305 in 1993. All four tractors were no strangers to working long hours and had clocked well into five figures by the time Derek began to wind his business down in 2014.
Three of the Fendts – the 312, 308 and 306 – were sold last year. The 312 had done 23,000 hours by this time and was sold for £8800 at Clarke & Simpson’s first collective machinery auction at Campsea Ashe in Suffolk in May 2014. The 306 and 308, both latterly sitting on around 13,000 hours, were sold privately in mid-year.
Derek’s remaining Fendt Farmer, the 305LSA, worked on until Christmas last year, carrying out lime spreading duties with a 5t Bredal spreader. Since then it has spent a few months kicking its heels – a rare lull in what has otherwise been an incredibly active life – waiting for Clarke & Simpson’s machinery collective sale at Campsea Ashe on 23 May.
Loading and pulling a lime spreader was one of the main tasks for the 305LSA during its time with Derek. It used to clock about 500 hours a year and would travel out to customers within a 40-mile radius of Derek’s yard at Dennington, near Framlingham.
It bears the scars of battle – hundreds of little paint chips accrued during its former life as a full-time hedge-trimming tractor – while rust has taken hold in the lower section of the front nose cone. The pedals are worn and there’s a hole in the fabric of the lower seat cushion, but you get this sort of typical age-related wear on tractors that have done a tenth of the hours.
Mechanically, the MWM four-cylinder engine starts easily and runs sweetly. Apparently its innards have never been touched which, if correct, is nothing short of astonishing. How interesting would it be to look inside this engine to see what condition it’s in after all these hours and no replacement parts?
After clocking at least 26,000 hours with its first owner, Rowly Steward, plus a further 4600-odd hours with Derek, the clock on K613 RGV is currently reading an astonishing 30,613 hours. This incredible little Fendt has definitely lived up to the ‘built to last’ claims of its manufacturer.
Considering its massive hours, this plucky little Fendt has cost very little in repairs. During the 13 or so years it spent with first owner Rowly Steward, it received a couple of new hydraulic pumps, a set of gaskets for the four individual cylinder heads, a new clutch disc, plus a replacement thrust bearing and clutch carrier at 12,500 hours and again at 24,300 hours.
It also got through two new sets of tyres (13.6 x 24 on the front and 16.9 x 34s on the rear).
During its time with second owner Derek Clarke, K613 RGV has been a rock of reliability, apparently never failing to start or requiring any sort of mechanical attention. Considering that this Farmer 305LSA had already done at least 26,000 hours when it came into Derek’s ownership, its excellent record for reliability speaks volumes for its build quality. Many tractors would be on their knees and requiring some serious and frequent remedial attention after clocking 25,000-plus hours, but not this little Fendt, it seems.
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