One centenary in the tractor world that we haven’t heard much about this year is that of Fiat Trattori.
Although most sources suggest that it was in 1919 that the company launched the 30hp 702, there can be little doubt that at least one prototype was demonstrated during the previous year. Whichever date is chosen to be celebrated, the fact remains that it was upon this quiet foundation that much of the present-day Case New Holland (CNH) corporation is built.
It has been an interesting journey for the company; it has achieved this growth without any ‘razzamatazz’ or any great effort to manage the brand as a designer label.
Indeed, it is noticeable that the name disappeared completely from these tractors during the 1990s, as New Holland was assimilated into the group. It was this latter name that is now used on all the Fiat empire’s agricultural products.
One of the last tractors to be built and badged as a Fiat was this F140 from 1995. Sharing the same six cylinder turbocharged engine as the Fiat (Fiatagri) 140-90 (which it replaced), it was part of the ‘Winner’ series and stayed in production until 1996.
Offering a much more modern cab and styling than its predecessor, it can now be seen as the link between the old, and rather awkwardly-cabbed Fiat (Fiatagri) 90 series, and the shiny new world of New Holland (which was much more up-to-date).
It is an unfortunate truth that the Fiat name was often associated with corrosion-ridden vehicles. While the engineering was basically sound, the metal used in the panels was frequently not. The resultant rust was associated with the company’s cars and trucks as much as its tractors.
However, that did not deter Steven O’Connell of Ballincolig, Co Cork, from seeking one out and bringing it home.
Steven always had a soft spot for Fiat tractors, most possibly due to his father being a fitter for Agro-Power, the Fiat dealer in Cork City that ceased trading in 2010. This tractor (see pictures) eventually came to him via a rather convoluted succession of events, although it did not travel far. It came from Kinsale – a few miles down the road where it had spent the previous 10 years on a dairy farm.
Its exact whereabouts before that are unknown; the Galway registration suggests where it was first used in Ireland. Yet that is not the whole story; a French plate was found beneath the Galway one – something of a novelty.
Having gotten the tractor back to his yard, the job of restoration could begin. It was stripped down to the skid-unit, which was sand-blasted and resprayed.
The front frame of the cab was in a very sorry state of repair; this was rebuilt from the ‘waist level’ up, as were the mudguards and the bottom of the doors, which were also rusted through.
The engine and gearbox were given a thorough service by Steven’s father; a clutch plate from a later Ford TM (one with a compatible transmission) was fitted, as this is considered to be stronger than the original Fiat part.
Since the restoration, there have been just three minor mechanical issues. The first was a failed clutch cylinder, which was fixed within a couple of hours. The second was a little more alarming; a loud bang signalled the failure of an assistor ram mounting, while out harrowing. Further investigation revealed that it was rather an amateur addition anyway, so it was taken off altogether. It was left off, with no further ill-effects.
The third problem concerned the exhaust, which had cracked at the exit from the turbo-charger. There was already a rather rough repair to the exhaust manifold, that had been undertaken previously, and this was left in ‘situ’.
However, a new pipe and elbow would be needed to conduct the gasses away from the turbo and up through the bonnet. This was neatly fabricated from stainless steel and, due to there being no silencer included in the reconstruction, the tractor now responds to the throttle with a throaty growl.
It’s the sort of noise that makes your spine tingle, without being over-loud.
Other than the corrosion issues, Fiat had designed and produced a largely-good cab; this example is still a working tractor. There is plenty of room and glass to ensure comfort and visibility, although the lack of a passenger seat (or much in the way of stowage) detracts from its overall practicality.
There was a healthy choice of transmissions available within this range of tractors; Steven’s example has a rather sober 24F 24R unit; it has proven totally reliable.
He reports that the tractor is very light on fuel – no doubt helped by a third PTO speed of 750rpm. By selecting this option, and running at 1,600-1,700rpm, the tractor will happily power a 10ft mower with very little apparent effort from the engine.
Neither is much oil consumed – in fact, none at all during the 250-hour service intervals, according to Steven.
Fiats of this size are not particularly common in some parts of Ireland, especially in this condition. There has been a good deal invested in it and, although it has been advertised, he is in no particular hurry to sell.
It is not just a question of the right money being offered; the work put into its restoration was aimed at bringing it back to full functionality. Steven would like to see it going to a home where ‘she’ would be used (regularly) as intended – keeping the ‘flame of Fiat’ alive, despite it being 20 years since the name was last seen on a new tractor here.