Over the years farm equipment manufacturers have done a variety of things to celebrate anniversaries and production milestones. For example, IH—among others—was famous for giving some tractors a special paint job and calling them anniversary editions. Case IH has still been doing a bit of that in recent years. But rarely is setting a land speed record part of any brand’s celebration agenda.
That’s where UK-based JCB moves out of step with the rest of the pack of tractor manufacturers. Speed has always been their thing with the development and production of the Fastrac tractor. But making the jump from that first production Fastrac’s top speed of 43 m.p.h. to 103.6 required a little engineering effort. And they achieved that top speed exactly on the 28th anniversary of JCB Fastrac production.
In late June that 103.6 m.p.h. gave JCB the title to a British land speed record for a tractor. They used a modified Fastrac to achieve it. The company recruited UK racing personality Guy Martin to pilot the tractor through two qualifying speed runs at Elvington Airfield in the UK.
The previous land speed record for a farm tractor, in case you didn’t already know, was set last March at just over 87 m.p.h. by the crew of the BBC television program “Top Gear”.
“We’ve long harboured a dream to attempt a speed record with the Fastrac and the whole team has worked tirelessly to achieve this amazing result,” said Lord Bamford, the owner of JCB. “I’m extremely proud of what they have achieved in such a short space of time. It really does highlight the skills and innovation we have in our engineering team. They have done a truly fantastic job.”
The power to move that Fastrac down the strip at a speed of 100 plus came from one of JCB’s modified 7.2-litre, six-cylinder DieselMax engines that was rated at 1,000 horsepower, which I suppose makes that engine and driveline the tractor world’s equivalent of “Star Trek’s” warp drive. Of course the tractor was subject to a whole bunch of other modifications and engineering adjustments too. One look at the picture tells you that.
Surprisingly enough, JCB is no stranger to setting speed records. The company hit 350 m.p.h. on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2006 with the first diesel-powered car to go that fast. I happened to see that special machine at JCB’s Savannah, Georgia, facility when I was there a few years ago. In case you were wondering, it isn’t a tractor. It’s a purpose-built speed machine.
On the day the Fastrac speed record was achieved in June, I retweeted one of JCB’s tweets announcing it. One person replied with a somewhat sarcastic question, asking me what the point of setting a speed record with a tractor was.
I guess if you have to ask that question, you’ll never really understand it.