In 1965 David Brown tractors lost their familiar ‘hunting pink’ red colour scheme and became chocolate and orchid white, but, as Jonathan Whitlam found out, there was much more to these trusty economic machines than just a simple change in their colour.

The last new David Brown tractor to wear the famous hunting pink colour scheme was the 770 Selectamatic launched in January 1965. This little tractor featured a three cylinder 33hp diesel engine and the twelve speed gearbox.

This was the very first tractor to feature the new Selectamatic hydraulic system which enabled the driver to choose which hydraulic system was required. By turning a dial draft control, position control or external services could be chosen.

Later in 1965 the famous pink livery disappeared in favour of Chocolate Brown and Orchid white. A new era of David Brown tractors had arrived and Orchid White would be a main feature of David Brown machines for the next 20 years, and so the new Selectamatic range of 1965 marked an important milestone in the history of David Brown tractors with the new livery replacing the original ‘pink’ colour used since 1939.

The 880 received a power boost up to 46hp on the Selectamatic version and featured a six forward and two reverse transmission. Two speed power take off and differential lock were fitted as standard while a twelve speed gearbox was an optional extra.

This was also true of the bigger 990 Selectamatic which now boasted 55hp. High clearance versions of the 880 and 990 were available by buying a conversion kit and industrial versions of the 990 were also built and painted a bright yellow colour.

Many were also fitted with a Sta-dri cab which offered basic but welcome protection from the elements.

From 1967 the 780 Selectamatic replaced the 770 and featured 46hp but was only available as a Livedrive version.

A six speed gearbox was once again standard with a twelve speed version controlled by two separate levers available as an option.

Power came from a three cylinder David Brown diesel engine and many of these little tractors have survived into preservation and see regular use at ploughing matches.

The 67hp David Brown 1200 Selectamatic also appeared in 1967 and was a big tractor designed to meet head on the flagship models offered by other manufacturers. Six speed or twelve speed transmissions were offered and in 1968 more power was available when the engine was up-rated to 72hp.

The whole range received a major facelift in 1971 and the Selectamatic feature lost its prominence as it was no longer displayed on the bonnet – although the tractors were still fitted with Selectamatic hydraulics. This is an early example with the chocolate and white livery and red decals.

Highway versions of the 780, 880 and 990 were produced at the David Brown factory at Meltham for use by local councils. Basically the same as the conventional machines the highway versions were also fitted with front fenders and offered with a wide variety of implements from hedge cutters to loaders, dozer blades and rear mounted diggers.

Cabs built by Sta-dri were fitted that met safety requirements.

In 1973 the colour of the engine and chassis changed to ‘Power Red’ as the new owners, Case, made their presence felt. The 885 was now the smallest tractor in the range, replacing the 780, with a 48hp three cylinder engine and twelve forward and four reverse gearbox. Selectamatic hydraulics, dual category linkage, synchromesh on eight of the forward gears and a live 540 and 1,000 rpm power take off were the tractors main features.

The 885 was also available as a narrow model for vineyard and orchard use. Not as common as the standard version, these are now fairly rare machines.

The 990 now had the benefit of 58hp and could also boast the same features as fitted to the smaller 885. High clearance versions were also still being built and the 990 engine was also used as the power source for a tracked loader that formed part of the Case construction equipment range.

The 995 and 996 were new models which were basically more powerful versions of the 990. The 995 was powered by a four cylinder 64hp David Brown engine.

Many of this generation of tractor were fitted with the de-luxe Sekura quiet cab that was made in Barnsley and featured a flat floor, an escape hatch in the roof and padded fenders to reduce noise and vibration.

A similar low-profile version was also built for the David Brown tractor range. Before the advent of the Sekura cab David Brown’s own safety cab was used with its characteristically narrow doors.

The same 64hp David Brown engine that powered the 995 was also used in the 996, but this tractor had a separate hand clutch to operate the power take off instead of the usual dual clutch fitted to the other tractors.

Many of this generation of David Brown tractor can still be found out at work on farms and smallholdings all over the UK and they still give sterling service.

The David Brown engine and gearbox are pretty bombproof and these have always been very reliable and sturdy machines although drivers unfamiliar to the mark may find the gearbox a bit clumsy to use and some of the firms own design of cab were somewhat hard to get in and out of as well as not offering much elbow room once inside them!

Despite these faults the David Brown Selectamatic range and its successors would make the ideal ‘no-thrills’ addition to any smallholding or small farm’s tractor fleet. Many are still available ex-farm as well as many restored examples that are offered through the pages of tractor enthusiasts magazines.

As always prices vary greatly on condition, price and model but one thing is obvious from the following prices – the David Brown range still offers a great deal for not a lot of money! The original Selectamatic tractor – the 770 is a much sort after machine ranging in price from £900 to £5,600 depending on condition. The 880 is similarly priced at between £950 and £4,900 while the bigger 990 ranges between £850 and £5,600. The 1200 is a highly regarded machine and this is usually reflected in its asking price of between £1,600 and £5,900 while the 995 fetches between £1,400 and £5200 while the 996 averages somewhere in the region of £950 to £4,700.

Often overlooked the David Brown orchid white range was an extremely capable and economic tractor line when it was still in production in Yorkshire and one of these machines would still be a good choice for any farming operation in the 21st century n