1974 Ford 7000 agricultural Tractor
Well it was mine once, but for a regrettably short time.
As a small boy in the 1970's I had seen a Ford 7000 working on land close to my home in the UK and had drooled over and admired it's shiny paint and turbo charged engine. I spoke to the driver who let me sit on it, with the engine running!!!. One day I thought I’ll own and drive one of those.
Many years passed, I kept a passing interest in Ford tractors and could always spot the 7000 model, gazing at them first at agricultural shows and then classic shows etc.
We had emigrated in the 1980's to Australia and had owned various blocks of land but none were more then 5 acres and a tractor wasn't cost effective (a bad reason I know). We did have a Cox 12.5hp ride on mower though, an amazing little machine.
Eventually in 2005 we purchased a property in Albany on the South coast of Western Australia. The block was sizeable and it had a very large number of trees which were farmed under contract to a blue gum plantation company. There was also a major coverage of the dreaded Sydney Golden Wattle (SGW) which is a terrible weed in the area.
Even though SGW is a pretty tree, given the right climate it will grow to a large size in a short time and spreads seed liberally. Removal is either by weed killer or by pulling out. I didn't fancy spraying so close to the tree plantation, so a tractor with some quite serious pulling power was on the wish list.
We had a limited budget and a nice new 4x4 model was going to be out of the question. I went looking at various old tractors, but most in our price range were total basket cases and the new ones were either way too small or built so lightly that they just didn't look up to the job.
One day I dropped into Wilson's Machinery a local machinery supplier/manufacturer and tractor wrecking business. I asked if they had anything for sale. No was the reply "but I'm putting one together for sale, would you like a look", feeling that there was nothing to lose I took a look.
Trevor as he was to be known was a sorry sight, he had been stripped down to the bare bones, basically just the engine block and rear axle/gearbox was all there was too see. All of his other components were spread liberally around the workshop. What is it said I and to my amazement "a 1974 Ford 7000" said Ian.
In the days before very high power tractors in Australia, the tractor had been the main draw bar machine on a broad acre farm in the local area. After the retirement of the farmer and subsequent sale of the land, it had been left abandoned in an open paddock. The dealer had seen through the rust, lack of electrics (eaten by the cattle) and home made corrugated iron cab additions and purchased it (wish I had a photo).
Apparently the tractor was going to receive a full ground up rebuild, everything was to be done axle engine, gearbox, electrics, hydraulics, paint, seat etc were on the to do list. It was also to be fully sand blasted prior to the repaint.
I looked at it scratched my head and asked "how much then?" a price was named. I was a little taken aback at the time at the price, but on reflection and discussion with she who must be obeyed. It all added up to a good deal. That is if the restoration proved to be as good as Ian had claimed it would be. We intended to keep the tractor for a long period so it would make economic sense. It was also the mythical Ford 7000 which in my eyes made it a must buy.
Later on the phone I called Wilson's spoke to Ian and the deal was agreed. Delivery time was a problem, as it would have to be fitted in around other work. Typically their latest mechanic had just gone and handed in his cards, Wilsons were always short of mechanics.
In the end after many missed delivery dates and eventually about a 4 month wait, Trevor was delivered to our property. He arrived on a low loader and was to my eyes spectacular, complete with the refurbished front end loader, new blue body paint, new decals, white roof, mudguards and brand new Wilson’s heavy duty slasher. The engine ran beautifully all be it with the usual Ford clatter.
I put the tractor to work immediately and made short work of some very long grass and reeds etc. Unfortunately the planned tractor shed hadn't been started yet so Trevor spent the first 2 months in the open, fortunately that didn't have any effect on it's condition. The tractor proved very useful pulling SGW and even though it was 2WD it could pull trees with trunks up to about 24 in diameter.
In the approximately 18 months that I owned the Ford 7000, it worked faultlessly. There was a problem with a leaky oil seal on the PTO and left hand rear wheel. But to their credit even though it was a major job Wilson’s sorted it out under warranty. It apparently involved the removal of the ROPS and the front end loader to get at the wheel seal and took a lot of time.
Other problems were down to general use, I ran out of fuel one day while pulling SGW, a branch had knocked the fuel filter and dumped 40 liters of Diesel. Not happy about that at all at the times.
I managed to get the tractor bogged several times. Our property formed the lower part of a relatively shallow valley with a stream running through the bottom of it. There was lot of peat down there and even in summer there was just a thin hard crust on top of the peat.
One summers day while slashing the paddocks I drove past a drainage ditch and thought "that needs cutting". it was summer after all and the ground was dry with no water running in the stream. So I turned around and dropped the mower deck. Things went well for about 100 meters. then I realised that there was no way to turn around at the bottom due to the surrounding trees and a fairly steep bank. The ground was getting soft and my way was blocked by SGW so I stopped and selected reverse. I moved back about 10 meters then the wheels slipped, I engaged the diff lock managed another meter and stopped with both rear wheels spinning. Into forward again and decided to attempt a turn up the bank. I had forgotten about the slasher on the back and that grounded, reverse again and this time I got it bogged down to halfway up the wheels.
I stopped the machine and stepped straight off it on to the mud and stood back to admire my handy work. It was not a pretty sight I can tell you. Gleaming blue paintwork covered in mud the slasher was half submerged and the front wheels were about half a meter above ground. What to do?
I went and got the Mazda 4x4 utility (Pick up) a load of chain and various tools and drove back to the site. I detached the slasher and on a long chain attempted to pull it clear with the 4x4, It moved clear of the tractor, but after about 4 meters stuck fast in the mud and the 4x4 went down to the axles. Even though I detached the slasher the ute was now also stuck, Oh happy day!.
I then tried the tractor and it still wouldn't move even though the weight of the slasher had gone. In fact even if It had moved forward there was no where to go as I was still surrounded by trees "Bugger it" I said. I was covered in mud as was the tractor and now the 4x4 which was also totally stuck. I shut the Ute doors and went back to the house a broken man. Thoughts of needing a crane or at least something with tracks to move the tractor passed through my mind, but I decided to sleep on the problem. By morning I had formed a plan.
The tractor had on it's front end loader and I had plenty of chain. The front wheels were on a hard surface so there was a chance I could get it to move by rigging the chains tightly to the base of a large tree and to the frame work of the loader. So I attached the chain and raised the loader. The rear wheels lifted and the tractor moved forward just a little bit. I quickly put on the brake adjusted the chains and tried again this time engaging low and it pulled out and straight up the bank, oh what a feeling that was !!. I then drove around to the back of the 4x4 and pulled that out with the chains followed by the slasher.
There was absolutely no damage to the tractor, the slasher or the 4x4 but it needed a lot of pressure washing to clean the mud off.
Another time I got bogged in the peat it was in an area with not a single tree in front or behind the tractor, the ground had looked innocent enough but I had broken through the crust and lost traction. This time though once the heavy slasher was detached I could use the front end loader to gradually pull myself out of the mud. It took quite some time though. I got pretty expert at digging myself out and have done a web page on it unbogging a tractor
In spite of the bogging problems we made a significant dent in the Sydney golden wattle with the tractor and I kept all of the fire breaks and quite a few of the neighbors fire breaks clear. The 7000 wasn’t noticeably heavy on fuel and didn’t use one drop of oil.
In early 2007 we decided to sell the farm, we both loved the place and the location but felt the need to return to the UK for a time. To do that and keep the property was impractical. As a result the tractor had to be sold. Naturally I tried to get some of my investment back. As is typical with these things and even though the price wasn’t really very high for what was an in restored condition, powerful and very serviceable tractor that would last for many long years there were no takers. If it had been on offer for the price I was asking when I’d been looking I’d have grabbed it instantly.
In the end I sold it back to Wilson's at a significant discount on the price I’d paid. But it had done a lot of hard work for us and even though we lost money on the sale to have hired in a tractor and driver would have cost a lot more.
If/when we get another property a Ford 7000 will be top of my tractor search list. They are powerful, simple to work on and very rugged. I miss mine a lot. Who ever has Trevor now I wish them all the luck they need, but with that machine I doubt they will need much.