Cheap and cheerful old Zetor tractors have a lot to offer says Jonathan Whitlam.

Zetor tractors have a reputation as a cheaper alternative to the big tractor manufacturers here in the UK but there is much more to the Zetor machines than simply value for money. Although they have never been state of the art tractors with all the bells and whistles, Zetor machines were amongst the first in the industry to offer factory fitted four wheel drive, diesel engines and spacious quiet cabs and even an onboard air compressor for inflating tyres!

Hailing from what was once Czechoslovakia, tractor building in the Czech Republic has a history going right back to before the First World War when the Laurin & Klement company built its first Excelsior motor plough in 1911.

The first Skoda tractor appeared in 1928, the Praga firm built motor ploughs from 1912, Wikov built farm machinery and its first tractor by the end of the 1920s while Pujman-Pluto built tractors from 1939 and Svoboda from 1934. As can be seen the Czech tractor industry was by no means a small one but the Second World War took its toll on manufacture and it became obvious that the industry had to rationalise to survive in the face of foreign imports. The first Zetor tractor actually made its appearance in 1946 when the Zetor 25 was introduced. This successful design proved to be the one taken up by the new Soviet socialist regime when the entire Czech industrial structure was nationalised and it was declared that Zetor was to be the sole tractor brand to be manufactured in Czechoslovakia.

The Zetor 25 was powered by a 25hp two cylinder diesel engine and also featured an advanced for the time six forward by two reverse transmission and a 540rpm power take off. A smaller 15hp Zetor 15 was also built as a lower cost alternative to the 25 and featured a single cylinder diesel engine and a six forward and one reverse gearbox.