By Manfred Rieder
Don't laugh - it is a research projectIn 1956 I watched my aunt Ingrid single handed rebuild her Steyr Daimler farm tractor at the family's pumpkin farm in lower Austria. Pumpkins there are a huge cash crop as the seeds are pressed into the most delightful salad oil, a staple in almost every Austrian kitchen. After that experience, I always wanted my own tractor, just like the kid that never got that red fire truck with the long ladder...
A few weeks back I interviewed Jean Thibeault, the king of tractors in Sutton who owns dozens of beautifully restored machines. Last week I saw him at the IGA, and foolishly told him:"if you can ever find me one for (amount deleted for marriage considerations) I would love to own one". Then I forgot about the conversation until Jean showed up two days later at my house and told me that my tractor was ready for pickup. (Whattagoddado at this junction...?) I obediently followed him to his place and there it sat" A big white elephant of unknown origin of which Jean only would tell me that it was make "sometime somewhere in England". As a collector of pure Canadian and American iron, this clearly was an intrusive species, acquired with others at a sale some decades ago.
Jean schlepped a battery to the machine, clamped it on and after the motor reluctantly turned over, pronounced it "ready to go". At this junction, I have to admit that I have less than one third of an acre of yard in the center of Sutton but 40 acres "out back". At myage I am not going to begin farming and I have never sat on anything larger than my riding lawn mower. However, $ 60.- of flat-bed charges later, the monster arrived in my yard, and thankfully, "she who must be obeyed", had not yet returned from work. I realized that it was not likely that I could find a way to hide a 4,268 pound piece of equipment in the backyard. Needless to say, I had not conferred about this with Nancy, my secretary of finance for four decades, who had just made the last payment on the restoration bill of my lovely 1995 Range Rover.
Unfortunately, our Roman Catholic church in Sutton does not have a resident priest, because I suddenly felt the urgent need to go to confession, start marriage counseling or seek asylum, all not necessarily in that order.
Then Nancy arrived and the look I got was about the same as a woman, 40 years married, would give the old fart if she would have caught him in bed with a 26 year old bimbo. (Actually, I am always surprised that people can still come up with a mien of utter incredulity, after you have known them pretty much all your adult life....)
"It's just a research project", I mumbled. "You know I write about cars, airplanes, trains, all transportation related items interest me and I want to start researching farming equipment". At this point let the mists of time swallow the ensuing conversation which had as a tenor the subject: "Well,you write about trains but you don't buy one", or: "You spent twenty years writing about airplanes and (I got her there because we had owned two, one never flew, the other one still does - so there) etc.
However, here it is, a 19637 David Brown farm tractor, a bit seedy looking and in need of paint and Bondo, but of sound machinery and a great roaring three cylinder 76hp motor, which can drown out Nancy even at her very best voice. And it goes! Six forward and two reverse speeds, power take offs, hydraulics to mow, tow, move houses, differential braking like a German Panzer and even power steering. This DB was the first machine in England to have this option because otherwise the beast would become an immovable object.
Now comes the research part (Would I lie to Nancy?): I have one thing in common with James Bond: we both own Aston Martin DB's. David Brown, the storied manufacturer who by royal warrant built those things since 1935 and equipped thousands of troops with them in WWII as movers, aircraft tugs, refueling rigs and trench diggers, purchased Aston Martin in 1947 after which every Aston Martin motor car had a "DB" designation, Bond's was a "DB-5".
Bond's car (or any other "DB" of that year, was capable of approximately 140mph, mine does exactly 6 according to the information available through the David Brown Tractor Club in Melham, England, of which I am the newest member. But as long as my very personal "Miss Moneypenney" will permit me the purchase of sandpaper, a bit of Bondo, a can or two of Duplicolor "White Lilac" and "Old Colony Red" for the wheels, I will hold my personal David Brown very dear as my personal link to James Bond. And if I should ever install a wet bar on it, I don't have to worry about "stirred, not shaken". With this truck, stirring is not an option!