Since the harvest is almost upon us, I thought I’d get you into the mood with a journey through my life in combines. We’ll begin with the glory days of the hot summers of the mid-1970s when I was 15.
My father bought our first combine then, a new 10ft cut New Holland 1540S but he wasn’t keen on the cab option chiefly because it cost £800 more.
Eventually he conceded and this was an oven-like Cabcraft affair with a blower on the roof and as dust-proof as a torn Nilfisk bag. But, hey, it was much better than nothing and nobody else around had a cab.
New Holland and Fahr had the market cornered in the 1970s.
Ours was a reliable machine with a hydraulic unloading auger and produced a good sample with low losses, a characteristic which, I think, is still true of New Holland combines today. But the feeder slats were rivetted in – absolute b**tards when you bent one and the battery four-inch grinder was still 40 years away.
Output? If we filled the mighty eight-tonne blue MM trailer in an hour you were cruising and with the Ford 7600 up front and not a hint of trailer brakes or lights, it’d be off to M P O’Brien in Trim or Willie Cribbin’s in Enfield (both of which became part of Drummonds).
In 1985, our harvest acreage escalated and we urgently needed more capacity. A neighbour, Pat Brogan, was selling his 10ft Fahr 1002 which we bought to run alongside the New Holland. Despite being the same age as the New Holland, it was archaic. No cab, a wooden reel, a rope-operated auger, fixed sieves and exchangeable sprockets to alter the drum speed. But at least it burned diesel instead of coal.
However, Fahrs were well-liked and especially so for oats.
So, is the Claas my dream combine after nearly 50 years of searching? No, it’s not. Like other modern machines it bleeps and buzzes far too much and it does my head in
A neighbour ran a pair of 1002s and Rickards ran three big red Fahrs, all with cabs and 14ft tables, so they must be good. But I hated our Fahr.
By 1990, the combine world was changing. I was interested in the rotary IH Axial Flow for years.
John Maher was on a pioneering sales drive and soon we traded the two old 10fts and bought a 16ft 1660.
The cab was a revelation with air con and an electronic marvel with tiny switches instead of big levers and a grain loss monitor. The output was amazing in fit crops, topping 20t per hour. I loved it but in wet green-strawed crops it was a disaster with drum wraps where a rotor belt could ping like a rubber band.
But I liked it enough to buy another one, a 2366, which had a Cummins engine with a plummeting torque curve like a fishing rod landing a big pike.
It would stall, dropping 2300rpm in a nanosecond. I’d had enough of rotaries.
So, back to a conventional and a secondhand 17ft New Holland 760 which I liked. Great sample and great big grain tank but the output was meagre after the axial flows.
We were now min-tilling and more compaction-aware and I saw tracks as the way forward.
Secondhand tracked New Hollands were rare and this led me to a Claas 670TT, which was replaced last year by the current 670TT. However, tracks are not everything and wide tyres with on-board tyre inflation, where road width is not really important, could be a better LGP solution. So, is the Claas my dream combine after nearly 50 years of searching? No, it’s not. Like other modern machines it bleeps and buzzes far too much and it does my head in.
Oh, for the glory days and the buzzer-free cab of the Nilfisk bag New Holland1540S …