Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

David Brown Tractors by Jonathan Whitlam

Arriving in 1945, the VAK1A replaced the original model and featured a modified front axle arrangement as well as quicker engine starting. (David Brown Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

While writing the book David Brown Tractors it became apparent that 2017 was a good year to produce a book dedicated to the David Brown tractor line. Why was this I hear you ask? Well 2017 marks no less than 70 years since the David Brown Cropmaster tractor was first introduced. A tractor that did nothing less than put the David Brown tractor on the map and was also responsible for several firsts.

Otherwise known as the VAK1/C, the Cropmaster was the first David Brown machine to feature a model name and this no doubt helped to catch the imagination of the farming public of 1947 when it was launched. David Brown had first brought out a tractor on their own back in 1939, known as the VAK1, followed by the VAK1/A in 1945. The Cropmaster was very much an evolution of that design with an improved engine and a longer build incorporating a hydraulic lift system. The whole engine and gearbox of the Cropmaster was also offset slightly towards the nearside, giving the driver a better forwards view. The company also claimed it improved traction on the nearside rear wheel when ploughing with the other wheel in the furrow bottom as the weight distribution was where it was needed.

One of the reasons the Cropmaster was so successful was the fact that many items, such as pneumatic tyres, electric starting, lights and hydraulic lift, were included as standard features rather than extras as was the norm with the competition. Although a four speed transmission was standard, a six speed version was also offered as an option, this being the first tractor to offer such a huge range of gears. Another feature was a turnbuckle top link, which was an industry first and used by every tractor manufacture today.

A David Brown Cropmaster working with a binder at a show in the south of England. (Photo: Kim Parks, David Brown Tractors, Amberley Publishing)

In 1949 a diesel version of the Cropmaster became available, built by David Brown and making the Cropmaster the first British tractor to feature a direct injection diesel engine. This only further enhanced the popularity of the tractor.

As time passed the Cropmaster inevitably evolved and in 1950 the more powerful Super Cropmaster appeared, followed by the Prairie Cropmaster in 1951 and a narrow version in 1952 for orchard and vineyard work.

But all good things must come to an end and so in 1953 Cropmaster production ceased in favour of the new 25, 25D, 30C and 30D models which continued the evolution of the David Brown tractor but saw the end of the familiar Cropmaster name.

70 years is a long time, and tractors have changed a great deal since then. But the Cropmaster was a landmark model and one that would set the pattern not only for future David Brown tractor features but also tractors industry wide. Not a bad feat for a tractor produced in a small factory at Meltham Mills, near Huddersfield in Yorkshire!

David Brown Tractors tells the whole overview of tractors produced by the David Brown company from the Ferguson Type A of 1939 through to the very last Case IH 94 Series that left the factory in 1988.

Jonathan Whitlam's new book David Brown Tractors is available for purchase now.