|Founder(s)||Stuart Taylor & Graham Edwards (co-founder)|
|Headquarters||Little Stanney, Chester, England|
|Number of locations||Lancashire, England|
The Trantor tractor was a high-speed transport tractor built in Lancashire, England. Stuart Taylor (a research student at Manchester University) and Graham Edwards are the originators of the design, and Trantor tractors were subsequently built from 1978 until 1987 in Lancashire (Series I) and Cheshire (Series II).
The idea was to create a new concept of tractor for on-farm transport duties, with low-draught focused specification, which was much more efficient (faster) and with much reduced fuel consumption than conventional tractors and also one that could be useful to most, if not all power take-off (PTO) work tasks.
They are no longer being built by HMT, but there is now an Indian supply-chain that enables Trantor International Ltd. to assemble the 2 and 4 Wheel Drive Trantors elsewhere, and the work of design continues in the UK but in a much higher HP range than the original models (from 90 hp (67 kW) (turbo-charged Tata engine) to a 180 hp (130 kW) Trantor Javelin specification which is a Series III model range, to 128 hp (95 kW) - 135 hp (101 kW) and Javelin range above 135 hp (101 kW)).
The Trantor tractor concept has found over 500 customers in 15 countries and the Trantor idea is reasonably well known, but not so popular in the UK, partly because its design is more relevant to a wider range of farming countries.
The idea was (and still is) considered by many to be ahead of its time, whereas the (much later) JCB Fastrac range of (heavy) tractors was designed and developed to compete head to head with John Deere, Claas, Fiat and Agco farm tractors (primarily to conduct heavy draught work e.g. sub-soiling and ploughing), and therefore entered the market of conventional but slower farm tractors. The Trantor tractor however was carefully designed as a transport and low-draught farm tractor, to work alongside the 33 million conventional tractors used each day in the new globalised world of farm machinery, which is a completely different concept.
- 1972 - Initial concept revealed in a University (Manchester) thesis by Stuart Taylor.
- 1973 - Prototype built in ten shillings a week garage in Withington, Manchester, UK.
- 1976 - Launched at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, UK
- 1978 - First models sold into Scotland with help from James Anderson. (Sandy Dawson the first UK owner of a Series I Trantor).
- 1983 - Series II introduced at 72HP, 96HP and 128HP in 2WDrive.
- 1986 - 5-off, 4WDrive Series II Trantors built in Sandbach (ex-Foden truck factory).
- 1987 - UK production ceased when many of the UK’s automotive component suppliers went out of business in The Midlands.
- 1991 - design and development work for use in all or most countries of the world has since been undertaken in the UK, and new product development is a continuous activity.
- 1999 - work conducted with Gajra gears of Dewas, MP enabled the company to create its Indian supply chain and one what began with TATA components originally designed by Mercedes-Benz. 3 prototypes were built.
- 2004 – HMT - agreement to build 10 x pre-production 65HP examples with assistance from the UK design team.
- Present - development work ongoing in the UK to develop higher HP models directed towards the newly emerging no-till farming system.>
The design was conceived by Stuart Taylor and Graham Edwards, who formed a firm to develop the idea in 1973. The name was derived from the original title of TRANsport TracTOR, which became Trantor.
A prototype was built in 1973, which was bought by Tiny Rowland's company Lonrho and went to Nigeria. Lonrho then purchased the next 20 revised prototypes and sold them (as Trantor's African Licensee) to South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria and Malaysia for evaluation and use by farmers, co-operatives and public authorities. McConnel of Ludlow, Shropsire helped build a few Trantors for Stuart Taylor, before EVA Industries Plc. purchased the UK rights for the Series I Trantor tractors and set up assembly in Belle-Vue, Manchester.
Taylor's company re-purchased the rights from EVA Industries Plc. in 1983 and set up assembly operations for the new Series II Trantors in Sandbach, Cheshire with the assistance of S.J.Castellani. The Series II Trantors were different to the Series I Trantors. Testing and development led to the first Series II models being built and sold in the UK, Luxembourg and Yemen, after being shown at the Smithfield Show in 1984.
The Trantor Series II was introduced to address some of the issues of customer use and manufacturing systems that were found with the early machines. Options of alternative engines from 72HP to 128HP were produced at Sandbach. The Trantors were 2 and 4WDrive and fitted with an air-over hydraulic-braking system, which allowed the operation of high-speed trailers on the highway at the legal UK speed of 50MPH (80KPH).
The Series III Trantor was developed with a more global market place in mind.
The Indian connectionEdit
By 2004 HMT, had constructed and sold about 400,000 tractors designed by Zetor, and entered into an agreement that enabled them to make only 10 numbers of a 65HP Trantor specification with the assistance of the UK-based Trantor design and manufacturing team. Serious working capital shortages had caused HMT to reduce their volume of tractors from their break-even level of 12,000 per annum, to a level nearer to 4,000 per annum.
The prime reason why the Trantor team was interested in India was because the British supply-chain had to be closed as one automotive supplier after another closed down in the 1985-1995 period. The work in India with Gajra Gears has been very useful to learn about the quality and cost of Indian automotive components. This family firm was as important to the Trantor project as that of Tiny Rowland's Lonrho, but in a different way. Ramesh Gajra helped our engineers understand the Indian automotive sector and ACMA (Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India) in particular.
When the Trantor design and manufacturing team went to work on building the 10 Trantors at HMT, they had ten years of experience of the Indian automotive sector. India's variable quality, low costs and the fact that there is a strong determination to be a manufacturing nation, is the reason that Trantor tractors invested so heavily in an Indian auto-component based supply-chain to replace the UK supply chain that had disappeared so quickly between 1987-1990 as the UK automotive industry suffered several high profile collapses. Because Trantor's key decision-makers were determined to create a farm tractor for worldwide farm efficiency, there were three critical factors.
- "Getting the product design and range right",
- "Assembling the product in a variety of countries where a significant volume market exists" and
- "Creating a supply-chain from a country that could provide high quality automotive components in the period to 2050".
Long term planning is essential for small, private companies, as Germany has so well demonstrated.
Trantor & The Future of FarmingEdit
The Trantor concept is now expected to be a part of the future of worldwide farming efficiency and, in particular to be a respected product design as the farming world moves from "tillage-based agriculture", to the "agro-ecological paradigm" (the eco-system approach of no-till).
Launching new concepts of farm tractors is not a common activity, as Harry Ferguson well knew. Trials and tribulations are a part of the learning process even for fundamental thinkers in market research and tractor design. A massively changing world is upon us, and the volume and security of food is but one of the challenges as peak-oil, fuel costs and chemical costs increase, and water table loss moves centre stage in most countries.
The productivity and efficiency of tractor and agricultural implement use is, of course, central to these issues. Since the Trantor team placed their unique suspension systems on a new farm tractor concept and created higher levels of tractor speed in and out of fields, the origins of the new ideas are obvious, and when Renault Tractors (now Claas) put their suspension under the cab, and did not create a suspended chassis, the "conventional users of tractor skid-units" simply followed suit and made minor changes to their tractors.
New concepts of farm tractors are rare, and the clear global-market need for something better is becoming ever more obvious as each day goes by and each farm tractor (except this Trantor concept) gets heavier and heavier and bigger and bigger. Change is coming. Watch this space.
The best-known high-speed tractors capable of being operated legally at 50MPH are the Unimog (Mercedes-Benz), Fastrac and the Trantor tractor. Other major manufacturers, such as Fendt, John Deere, Massey Ferguson and Valtra do not offer true high-speed versions of any tractors. The speed limit for these ploughing-first tractors is a slow one because they do not have the specification necessary to be legal at normal truck road speeds. They are low-specification, poorly braked and do not have the four suspension systems that the 50MPH (80KPH) Trantor has, for example. The 40MPH (65KPH) Fastrac has a specification that meets the legal requirements of most EC countries.
Conventional tractors are all based on a design which has a skid unit rather than a chassis and so the suspension is only on the seats and on some front axles. The gearing and transmission systems of Trantor, Fastrac and Unimog are designed for much faster, legal speeds than the conventional ploughers.
Trantor tractors originated the high-speed tractor and did so by creating suspension systems and braking systems, which use an air-compressor, so that the Trantor could pull trailers on the road at speed. This speed was not regulated by the standards of tractors, but to the same standard as trucks under the UK Construction and Use Regulations and EU directives. The trailers towed by such tractors also need suitable suspension and braking systems for the outfit to comply. Some agricultural tractors are being retro fitted with airline braking systems to allow them to pull highway spec trailers at higher speeds.
The Trantor was and is able to conduct shallow ploughing but its design was directed towards those farm duties that the conventional farm tractor is not efficient at doing.
Whilst the Fastrac fitted in to the conventional wisdom of farmers who wished to plough and conduct heavy cultivation, the Trantor tractor was primarily designed to work much more speedily and safely with the UK-style of farm trailers, but also work more efficiently on lower draught and PTO work tasks.
Clearly the JCB experience since launching the Fastrac, has been more easily accepted in the market place. The Trantor tractor, however, is much more a global-market concept aimed towards moving the 7000 million tonnes of crops from field to fork (table). It is also a concept that includes many of the desirable features of the Land-Rover/Land Cruiser pick-up truck as its weight, safety, speed and comfort is vehicle-related rather than tractor-related.
The Fastrac is 'not' light in weight and is 'not' designed to carry people (in farming villages) in the cabin and on the load platform and tailgate. The concepts are very different from each other and both are different to the Unimog - the Mercedes-Benz farming-focused specifications.
The Unimog was also designed for safety and speed, but the kind of trailers pulled in Germany are balanced, whereas in the UK, Africa, France etc. they are unbalanced and therefore the trailer drawbar imposes a load on the tractor, especially when there is a load on the trailer drawbar (when the trailer is loaded). The intelligent design of W.S.H.Taylor created a similar invention to that of Harry Ferguson. Whereas Harry borrowed the weight from the plough onto the 3-point linkage, Stuart borrowed the weight of the trailer (on to the drawbar of the tractor), suspended the hitch (also linkage...) and therefore created a new kind of tractor (with trailer-pulling as its main duty).
The Fastrac is known to have something very similar and was created after JCB farms bought two Trantors, examined the Unimog and MB Trac, and created a farm tractor like all others (except Trantor and Unimog), which had the orientation of "having to be good at ploughing" and therefore to have lots of traction.
The Trantor is something else and is a farm transport tractor for pulling trailers and conducting 'all' low-draught farming duties at speeds in excess of the convention for standard tractors both in and out of fields.
The Trantor is unique as can be seen on the Trantor Tractors website -www.trantortractors.co.uk.
- Original UK models
- Trantor Series I - 1978-83 - 72HP and 80HP and 60MPH (80KPH) legally in the UK, as for the Unimog from Mercedes-Benz.
- Trantor Series II - 1983-87 – 96HP Leyland engine in turbo-form and 126-HP Perkins engine.
- The Development of a Worldwide product range for the global market.
- Trantor Series III - 1987-2010 – 90HP turbo charged 2 and 4 Wheel Drive for Livestock, Dairy and No-till farming.
- Trantor Series III - 1987-2010 - 128HP no-till farming and transport tractor.
- Trantor Series III (Javelin) 140-185HP 2 Wheel Drive for No-till farmers.
- Somerset Tractor Show) - Clean Mk.I (chassis no 002) so 2nd Production machine. (2013
-  - Professionally restored Mk. I in Lancashire.
- Photo here - 1981 - MkI
- Astwood Bank Vintage show (Fullcab). - A well restored Series I at
- Cheffins (Bristol 2008). - 1983 Trantor Mk.II 4-cylinder diesel sold at
- Cromford Steam Rally. - Mk. II At
- Great Dorset Steam Fair 2008 and 2010. - (The Red Trantor in photos on the left) seen at
- - 1984 - MkII owned by A. Collins, in NI. (ex Water board machine) see references no.1.
Add your trantor photos here please;
- Related articles
- JCB Fastrac - Marketed as 'fast' tractor.
- Land Rover - Originally designed for light farming duties.
- HMT Indian tractor manufacturer.
- Unimog (Mercedes-Benz)
- Special Purpose farm tractors and farm vehicles.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2012)|
- Tractor & Machinery, 60MPH Marvel-Trantor, the world`s first high-speed farm tractor (G.Connolly) Feb 2007 Vol 13 No. 3.
- Vintage Tractor & Countryside Heritage, Issue 139, December 2011 pages 48-51.
- Landwards, Volume 55, No. 3 Autumn (2000), Institute Agricultural Engineers (UK).
- Vaporising, Volume XXVIIl (part 1 & 2) Summer and Autumn... National Vintage Tractor and Engine Club, UK (2000).
- Recent Developments in Tractor Design (D.Crolla), Japanese Society of Agricultural Engineers, Hokkaido, 1990.
- Die Alternative [farm tractor], Profis magazine in German (June 2003) in English November 2003.
- Tractor & Machinery Magazine, The Phoenix Phenomenon April 2007 Page 40-44 by Michael Williams.
- Meet the Trantor, Power Farming April 1978. (Norman Lucas).
- Our Tribute to Trantor tractors (M. Roberts), The first real high-speed tractor, Classic Tractor Magazine, November 2002 (5pages) December 2002 (4 pages).
- Innovation in the Tractor World… who leads, who follows? ASAE, Chicago, USA conference paper (2002).
- A new 50MPH tractor solves Hill Problems, British Farmer & Stockbreeder (Archive).
The paper published by ARAI, India has a PowerPoint presentation containing over 80 photographs. The presentation concerns the developments in farm vehicles from the early Land-Rovers and the Unimog just after the 2nd World War. http://www.lr-mad.co.uk has a copy of the published paper on its web.
There is an archivist at trantor tractors (P.M.Owen, Mrs) who has a wide collection of photographs of Trantors including the prototypes. She provides an information service for Trantor owners. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- www.trantortractors.com Official web site.
- HMT Trantor HMT web site.
- www.lr-mad.co.uk Land Rover enthusiast site with section on Trantor and photos.