We look at a tractor that you can build yourself - from flatpack!
It seems a wild idea to build your own tractor but the more you think about it the better the idea seems. Perhaps it was a childhood dream to build your own tractor or you would just relish the idea of building your own and we all know that time means money so if you can build it yourself then surely you can save money. Whatever the motivation it seems that the opportunity has finally arrived!
A brand new tractor that comes in self-assembly form as a flat pack for £2,950 is a bargain by any standards: a take-away with a difference that comes all the way from China! In their sixth year of importing tractors from China and with over a thousand tractor sales under their belts Siromer Tractors are confident that this compact tractor is now the perfect workhorse for the smallholder market Menu of Changes Of the first tractors that were imported, Jeff Howard Managing Director, said that he could see that the tractors weren't a touch on what you'd expect of a modern tractor, although the potential was clearly there. So he went out to China and provided a list of about fifty changes to the Chinese tractor company directors. Many of these changes concerned the quality of finish and some safety issues needed attention. 'The Chinese engineers were most co-operative; they welcomed the opportunity to bring their product up to standard for export markets, so this was useful feedback for them, and we soon built up a good relationship' said Jeff.
Safety First Prior to travelling out to China, Jeff consulted the Health and Safety Executive, who came up with a list of improvements to satisfy safety regulations. He also received valuable advice from staff at nearby Myerscough Agricultural College, who offered suggestions to improve operational performance and efficiency.
Jeff commented, "Getting into the Chinese tractor business involved a leap of faith, a complete gamble in many ways. But at the end of the day, I came to the conclusion that with a few adaptations, the Chinese tractors were basically the same as those built to European standards. Quality assurance at the factory is comprehensive, the engineering is very sound; so it was just a matter of sorting out a few details."
Women and Engineering Jeff's wife, Kath is one of the company secretaries, and she recounted a few impressions visiting the Chinese factory. "I was surprised to see so many women in senior engineering positions. No way is this a Third World country; things are changing fast, the new factory compares to the modern tractor factories. However, the manufacturing techniques are different, rather like they were over here thirty years ago, with each person doing a single assembly task. After the tractors leave the main factory, workers take them for a test drive before stripping them down and packing them into flat-pack crates for export. I saw very few tractors in use in China: the Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao insisted on everything being done by physical labour. No doubt that's set to change now!"
Flat-pack prices excluding VAT start at £2,950 for a 204, rising to £3,750 for the 204S, and a top of the range 404 sells for £7,500 (only available in fully built form), and intermediately priced models are also available.
The base model 204 comes with a 20hp two-cylinder, 12 forward and four reverse speeds and a three-point hitch with a capacity of 400kg. Just the job for less demanding users who need a basic tractor for towing and a three-point hitch for lifting, although Jeff has found that most buyers go for the more comprehensively equipped 204S model. This has a three-cylinder engine, which has the same 20hp power output as the two-cylinder 204, but the extra rear lift capacity of 850kg is a strong selling point, also the ability to operate heavy-duty implements, such as a small baler, back hoe or front loader.
Features of the range include a choice of tyres, sprung comfortable seat, folding roll over protection for ease of storage, a maintenance free battery as well as Hi Lift hydraulics, a two speed PTO, power steering and four wheel drive as standard.
If you are not a self build enthusiast and would prefer to have your tractor assembled and ready for action then Siromer have a network of over 30 outlets across the country and your local dealer will be happy to build the tractor for you. An impressive range of accessories and implements for use with the tractor are also available. Siromer dealers are able to supply 40 plus implements from several manufacturers, all at competitive prices, making your local dealer a one stop shop.
ASSEMBLY Putting the tractors back together falls to Siromer's resident engineer, Allan Thornton who lives nearby in Preesall, who obligingly stripped down a newly arrived flat-pack crate, measuring eight feet by four feet which contains a 204S tractor within such tight dimensions. Building one of the these tractors together doesn't look all that daunting, as the skid unit together with the engine, gearbox, back end and the wheel hubs are fully built as a single assembly.
After unpacking the flat-pack, the back of the skid unit is lifted so that the rear wheels can be attached, a process that's repeated at the front so that the tractor stands on all four wheels. The mudguards are then attached followed by the roll bar, the front weight frame and the battery, with the air filter coming next followed by the engine cowling, bonnet and exhaust.
The three-point link and draw bar area are then attached, and finally, grease is applied as per the 65-page assembly instructions, lubricant, coolant and fuel are added, and after connecting up the battery leads, the engine fires up for the first time on British soil!
Allan showed me the toolbox that's very inclusive, not only containing tools but also enough items for the tractor's first service.
Flat-packs are delivered to buyers by a lorry equipped with lowering gear, although self assembly owners would need to use a hoist or a front loader and straps to lift the tractor so that the wheels can be attached, however, tractors can be supplied as a rolling chassis.
The compact dimensions, low cost and the availability of a range of implements have appealed to a wide range of buyers, and Jeff's daughter, Louise described the various customer's profiles. "Most sales are to smallholders, that's our biggest market, followed by 'horsey' people who need to maintain paddocks, also fringe farming activities such as keeping alpacas or ostriches. Other buyers have included boating and gliding clubs for launching and retrieval, the Swansea and Poole lifeboat crews and someone on North Uist who uses their Siromer for launching a fifteen-foot inflatable used on whale spotting expeditions.
Jeff added, "We've also supplied tractors for towing helicopters in Aberdeen and Kazakhstan, one went to Rhodesia, another to the Falklands and a lot go to British people living in France and Spain. We've sold a few to farmers as yard scrapers, but not many: farmers are very conservative. They want to see someone else using one for ten years, and then maybe they will buy if it's cheap enough!"
As previously mentioned, since Jeff began trading as Siromer tractors in 1999 and the company has sold over 1,000 Siromers, which range in horsepower from 20hp to 40hp. The comparatively low price has been a major selling point, particularly as buyers can then afford to add on a few implements or go for a higher specification model whilst remaining within budget.
With China predicted to overtake the UK as a major commercial power over the next few years, no doubt their tractors will become increasingly popular in future years!