The cost of new tractors has spiralled in recent years. In many cases, we see new tractors having doubled in price in the past 15 years alone. This trend is industry wide, and not brand specific.
However, as a result, we see some of the more renowned so-called “premium brands” being pushed further away from the reach of many punters. This may provide other more “budget brands”, such as Armatrac, an opportunity to increase their market share.
To get a taste of how the brand is faring, we caught up with Derry contractor and Armatrac user David King. The owner-operator invested in a new Armatrac 1104 Lux at the beginning of this year.
Over the past 12-15 years, David has transitioned from livestock and tillage farming to full-time contracting, while selling the meadow off his land in the form of round bales. He specialises in baling and reseeding, carrying out the vast majority of the work by himself, within a 10-mile radius. Based five miles from Coleraine, he runs four tractors, all of which were Massey Fergusons until he purchased the Armatrac.
“I’m a Massey man at heart but the new models are very expensive. I came across the Armatrac one day and I decided to go and have a look. I had little to no intention of buying one, but the price was very attractive. It was half the price of a new Massey, and it seemed to be well-built, using good components like the Deutz engine, ZF gearbox, Bosch electrics and the Dromone pickup hitch. I was initially a little sceptical as there were few of them working around here, and the tractor I bought was actually the first sold by the then newly appointed Northern Irish dealer McMullan Agri. I ended up trading a 2002 MF 4370 for the 1104 Lux model.”
Engine and transmission
The 1104 model comes with the choice of a Perkins or Deutz engine, with David opting for the latter. This four-cylinder 3.8l turbo version has a power output of 113hp. Running a fleet of Masseys built in the early to mid-90s (1990 3080, 1994 375 and a 1996 6150), David has been impressed with power output, but disappointed in terms of fuel consumption.
“I’ve found that when you work the tractor hard it will swallow fuel. It has a 120l fuel tank and it would burn one and a half tanks over the course of a 12-hour working day pulling a standard four furrow plough.”
Despite this, David is impressed with the ZF transmission, especially how well geared it is. The tractor is equipped with a 16x16 gearbox, with four forward and four reverse gears, with a splitter in each.
“I use the tractor to do all my ploughing and I found it to be perfectly geared for the job. I plough in second gear, and have the ability to go up or down an increment through the splitter. Its traction is one of its standout features for me. The tractor is seriously grippy and pokey. I would rate it as a better gripping tractor than the same horsepower MF 4370 which I traded in against it.
“I’m not the hardest man in the world to please, but the tractor comes with cab suspension as standard and I find it comfortable. It’s also pretty well finished inside. One point I will note is that there is great visibility in the cab. There’s a lot of glass all around and the cab pillars are quite slim. I’m hoping to use it hedge-cutting next year, I think it would be an ideal tractor for the job. The only issues I have is that every night I have to turn off the isolator switch or else it will drain the battery over the course of a few days. It’s a nuisance. I also feel that the high-low lever is positioned a little bit awkwardly. In saying that, the LED lights and the reversing camera come as standard, both of which are great additions,” added David.
“The tractor has done everything I have asked of it,”said David. “I’ve used it to plough, run a 3m power harrow, tedd, rake and spray. It comes as standard with the likes of front and wheel weights, air brakes, four spool valves, cab suspension and a hydraulic levelling arm. The hydraulic levelling arm is a great job for ploughing, it makes it very easy and quick to set the plough. The tractor has a Dromone hitch. It’s not telescopic, although I would have preferred if it was.
“To date, I can’t fault its performance or build quality. I am finding it a bit sore on diesel compared to the older Massey Fergusons but it has been very reliable. I was sceptical at the start whether I would buy an Armatrac or not but I am happy with it and would have no problem in buying one again down the road.”
Model: Armatrac 1104 Lux.
Engine: Four cylinder, 3.4l Deutz.
Transmission: 16/16 ZF with max forward speed of 40km/h.
Weight: 4,050kg (unballasted).
Lift capacity: 5,000kg.
Fuel tank: 120 litres.
Current stock price quoted by McMullan Agri: €47,000 (£39,950) plus VAT.