Keeping the David Brown legacy in action

Good as new – this David Brown 990 has been carefully restored by owner Grant Cunningham of Katikati.

Grant Cunningham’s David Brown 990 tractor may be decades old, but it looks as good as it did the day it rolled out of the factory.

That’s thanks to 18 months of painstaking restoration of the tractor, which Grant saved from being dismantled and sold for parts.

“It had been used to tow tractors at Whitianga; and like most tractors used for that purpose had suffered a lot of corrosion,” says Grant.

“I felt it was too good to be used for parts and its owner, who I knew, agreed to sell it to me because he knew I’d restore it.”

Grant had a particular interest in the tractor because it is the same model as one which was part of his childhood, and owned by his father Tom, when the family farmed at Galatea.

Grant stripped and re-built the David Brown’s body and engine, restoring existing parts where possible and importing new one from companies in the United Kingdom which reproduce authentic parts for a series of vintage and veteran tractor.

Conventional bales

Once fully restored, a friend spraypainted the tractor in the distinctive David Brown colours of red and yellow, giving it a good-as-new or even better-than-new look. In 1968 the David Brown livery changed to white and brown.

Today the tractor it’s back in use, making hay for lifestyle block owners in the Katikati district as part of Grant’s small-scale contracting business – a sideline to his orcharding.

“There is still a small but growing demand for making conventional hay bales and the David Brown is ideal for the job.”

Grant is a member of the Tauranga Vintage Machinery Club, a group he says is as much about the people involved and the social aspect as about machinery.

“We all have a common interest in tractors and machinery and we share ideas and information. “Like a lot of clubs our membership is getting older and it would be nice to see some younger people take an interest.”

Red and white roses

Grant’s David Brown sports the badge which incorporates the white rose of Yorkshire and the red rose of Lancashire, which was introduced when, in 1955, the company’s tractor division took over the Lancashire firm of Harrison, McGregor & Guest Ltd which produced the Albion brand of agricultural machinery to complement its tractor product line.

The David Brown company was founded in the United Kingdom in 1860 as a pattern manufacturing company. In 1936 the company began building tractors with Harry Ferguson, producing the Ferguson-Brown tractor. However, Brown and Ferguson couldn’t agree over tractor design details which led David Brown to design his own version, the VAK1, in secret and launch it at the 1939 Royal Show.

Ferguson went on to form an agreement with Henry Ford in 1938. The David Brown’s tractor division flourished until a worldwide recession saw a slump in tractor sales and the company was bought by JI Case of America, which ultimately led to the Meltham factory in England ending production.

Thanks to tractor enthusiasts like Grant, and the solid engineering which went into the machines, many vintage David Brown tractors are still in action today.


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