In a recent article covering the development of tandem tractors, the name Someca appeared as a manufacturer of tractors in post-war France, a company which would have celebrated its 70th anniversary this year.

La Societe de Mecanique de la Seine, thankfully reduced to plain Someca, was a particularly successful tractor brand in France and throughout Europe, although not widely known in Ireland.

No French connection

Ireland managed to escape any great invasion of French tractors during the 1950s and 1960s despite German marques such as Porsche and Lanz finding their way over in reasonable numbers.

Someca 30 tractor France
Around 40 Someca 30s were said to have been sold by Dempseys of Tullamore, although this is a later private import belonging to Alan Mitchell

Quite why this is so is not clear, both France and Germany were in need of foreign currency to boost their war-torn economies, and the world needed tractors, but the two never seemed to quite come together in Ireland.

Someca might not have penetrated the Irish market too deeply, but it did, however, have one great advantage over other makes and that was that it had the power and financial might of Fiat behind it.

Power behind the Someca throne

In fact, it may be said that the company was simply a way for the Italian giant to infiltrate another market by dressing its product in a cloak more appealing, or less offensive, to French farmers, seeing as Italy had been on the wrong side, for most of the time, in the conflict.  

Fiat France tractor
Later Somecas were undeniably badge engineered Fiats

Someca first came into existence as the agricultural offshoot of Simca, a Fiat-backed producer of cars in France.

Simca itself had been formed in 1934 through a collaboration between Fiat and its agent in France, producing Fiat designs using locally sourced components, and it was this business model that was then applied to the tractor market some 20 years later.

Starting afresh

Having suffered the ravages of war and with much of its industry destroyed, there was the need within Europe to get economies up and running again, and that, in those years, meant making things once more.

The war had laid waste not just to the landscape, but also to many old ideas and established practices, one of which was that the horse would forever remain the major source of power on farms.

Someca 20 st Denis paris
The early Somecas, such as this 20, were built in the suburbs of Paris

Simca was not oblivious to the mechanical revolution overtaking farms and so cast around for a suitable entry into the market, eventually alighting upon the MAP tractor company.

MAP was, at the time, producing a tractor powered by a two-cylinder, four-piston, two-stroke diesel with a cumbersome rocker arrangement transmitting the power to a central crankshaft.

Opposing pistons

This sounds a hugely complex affair and to some extent it was, but running opposing pistons in the same cylinder with each attached to its own crankshaft was nothing unusual at the time.

MAP engine Someca
Large rocker arms on the MAP DR3 transmit the power to a central crankshaft

Junkers had such an arrangement installed in its aircraft with its Jumo engine while the renowned Deltic diesel engine powered everything from railway locomotives to minesweepers.

These engines, however, had multiple crankshafts geared together, while the MAP DR3 relied upon the aforementioned rocker arrangement to drive just the one, in a manner similar to a four-stroke valve chain.

Attractive acquisition

Physically it was a big motor with a lot of internal weight moving reciprocally, which further detracted from its already modest output of 20hp.

Hardly surprising then that the company, with all its production machinery and factory space located in the suburbs of Paris, was ripe for a takeover as it struggled to sell its rather novel product.

The deal was done in 1952, within a year the old MAP model had been discontinued and the new Siveta (later changed to Someca) company formed to make and sell tractors, based on Fiat designs, in an already functioning factory.

Sensible engine

Its first model to emerge from the factory under the Someca name was the DA50. This was a 37hp machine based on the MAP tractor but with a slightly less exotic inline four-cylinder diesel replacing the boxer engine of MAP’s own design.

Tractor Manufacture France italy
Early Someca tractors were powered by an engine from the sister OM company which was better known for its trucks

This model sold 18,741 units in its 12-year life span, being heavily updated along the way with a new gearbox and adjustments to its geometry which lowered the centre of gravity and increased traction.

This was the start of a range of tractors which eventually reached 180hp, although in later years it was only body components that the company provided to the Fiat factory at Modena, making it difficult to define at what point production in France actually ended.

A second factory for Someca

Based in the centre of France, in the town of Bourbon-Lancy, there was another company which manufactured and imported agricultural machinery, mainly Fiat tractors from Italy and Presidents from the UK, in addition to being agents for MAP.

The company was Someca-Puzenat, another concern in which Fiat had an interest and later was merged totally into the parent company.

Puzenat factory bourbon lancy
Someca Puzenat imported Laverda combines from Italy and sold them in Someca colours

Within a few years, production of tractors was gradually switched from Paris to the Bourbon-Lancy factory, beginning with the 45hp Som 40 in 1961.

It was here that the machines were built, up until 1973, when all production was taken back to Modena in Italy after several fall-outs with John Deere over a joint venture to produce diesel engines at the plant, although Deere was less inclined to consider them tiffs.

Fiat takes charge

Someca by then was fully under the Fiat wing and had been producing tractors under licence from its Italian parent since 1965. In 1983 it was fully integrated into FiatAgri and then Fiat New Holland 10 years later.

Someca Fiat tractor production
Although distinctively Fiat-like in appearance, the Bi Som Trac was created by a Someca dealer in northern France

The factory at Bourbon-Lancy moved to the production of forklift trucks before manufacturing engines under the Fiat Power Train (FPT) banner, a role it still fulfils today.

The story of Someca appears typical of the rise and fall of marques in the latter half of the 20th century and it does indeed mirror that of many other tractor companies of that period.

Same story, different country

The pattern was the same throughout Europe and the U.S, a sudden flowering of companies in the post-war years as demand increased due to the conversion to oil powered farming, and then the slow decline due to the need having been fulfilled.

Farming Fiat Italy
Consolidation of tractor manufacturing started in earnest in the 1970s and assembly of Someca tractors was taken back to Italy

Once the virtues of tractor power had been established, the demand switched from many smaller units to a fewer larger machines, reducing the required manufacturing capacity.

Of the surviving mainline brands we see today, they all have a legacy that either stretches back to before the war or they became part of a much larger group.

Few survivors

Valtra, Zetor and Steyr are the three major brands which were born in the ‘hot house’ of the post-war tractor boom and still survive, and it is only Zetor that stands alone, the other two being divisions of global corporations.

John Deere, New Holland, Massey Ferguson etc can all trace their routes back to the early 1900s or beyond.

Zetor hot house France
Born in the post-war turmoil, Zetor still survives today as an independent manufacturer

Fendt came a little later, in 1930, while Kubota and JCB Fastrac only became involved in large tractor production more recently, and each have a parent company with resources large enough to back their development.

Someca very much fits into the category of boomtime tractors and Fiat was astute in managing its rise and demise, an astuteness that we can see today as it bases three brands on common componentry, yet it lets each one find its own way forward.

As a model for extracting the maximum advantage from a phase in agricultural history, the Someca story is particularly representative and informative.