• Few, if any , tractor manufacturers can equal
the David Brown record of pioneering achievement in tractor manufacture
and development. Major examples are:
1937 - World's first farm tractor equipped with hydraulic lift
and converging 3-point linkage
• 1948 - Two speed power take-off
• 1949 - High-speed direct injection diesel engine
for farm tractors
• 1953 - Traction control (implement weight transfer)
• 1958 - Six-speed and 1966 - twelve-speed gearboxes
• 1959 - All purpose tractor hydraulic system with
single lever control
• 1964 - Dial-controlled tractor hydraulic system
• 1968 - Introduction of fully approved safety
cabs for all models
• 1971 - Semi-automatic transmission providing
on-the-move clutchless changes to any of four ratios in each working range
Brown's involvement in farm machinery began in 1936 when the company,
then a subsidiary of the local family firm David Brown and Sons (Huddersfield)
Ltd., collaborated with Harry Ferguson in the manufacture of the legendary
Ferguson-Brown Tractor. Built
initially in the corner of the David Brown gear factory, the Ferguson-Brown
model was the world's first production tractor to be equipped with hydraulic
lift and converging 3-point linkage; a revolutionary concept which soon
became a fundamental part of farm tractor design the world over.
1,350 Ferguson-Brown tractors were built - the last twenty or so at the
Meltham factory - before Ferguson and Brown parted; the former to join
Henry Ford in the USA and the latter to make tractors of his own design.
The first David Brown model, the VAK1, was exhibited at the 1939 Royal
Show, it was widely acclaimed. Before quantity production could begin,
the Second World War broke out and the Meltham factory's resources were
directly mainly towards gear manufacture, for which the name David Brown
- then as now - was renowned.
Meltham plant was able to maintain and develop its tractor manufacturing
expertise by producing small quantities of aircraft towing and recovery
vehicles. This facilitated the switch over to peacetime production of
tractors in 1946. Despite the company's comparatively late entry into
the highly competitive farm tractor industry, Meltham built machines quickly
earned a world reputation for quality and inventive design.
1955 the company acquired the long-established firm of Harrison, McGregor
and Guest Ltd. of Leigh, Lancashire, whose range of Albion farm machinery
products (notably mowers and binders) had previously earned them high
In more recent years
the Meltham and Leigh plants had been extensively modernised and extended.
In July 1971, a new tractor assembly complex - the most modern of its
type in Europe - was completed at Meltham, containing many unique features
and production techniques with particular emphasis on quality control.
The revitalised Leigh plant became the main supplier of large tractor
components for the Meltham plant and also the design and build of basic
tractor-mounted implements, front loaders and rear-mounted ditcher/digger/loader,
this time the David Brown company had become Britain's third largest farm
tractor manufacturer. The company held the Royal Warrant and had won several
Queen's Awards to Industry, both for Export (four out of every five David
Brown tractors were sold overseas) and for Technological achievement.
In 1976 the company's unique Hydra-Shift semi-automatic transmission won
a Design Council Award - the first such award to be made in respect of
farm tractor design.
The Atlantic Alliance
year 1972 marked another significant milestone in the company's development.
David Brown Tractors Ltd. was acquired by the international conglomerate,
Tenneco Inc. of Houston, Texas, and was affiliated to another world-famous
Tenneco subsidiary, the J I Case Company, of Racine, Wisconsin. Under
the Tenneco banner, David Brown Tractors and Case were actively and successfully
co-ordinating and expanding their combined production, marketing and distribution
facilities. Early visible evidence of this powerful new alliance came
in 1973 with the adoption of a new unified colour scheme throughout the
full range of David Brown and Case farm tractors; a combination of orchid
white, power red and black.
and Dealers in the UK and in several parts of Europe now offer selected
machines from the Case companies complementary range of farm tractors.
In other parts of the world also many joint DBT/Case franchises were established.
Additionally, an increasing number of Case construction equipment products
employed engines and transmission units manufactured by David Brown Tractors.
The Tenneco purchase of part of International harvester was in 1984 but not approved by the US government until January 1985 . The decision not to pursue any further product development (in effect meaning eventual Meltham closure) was taken in February 1985. 1988 was a sad year for David Brown enthusiasts as it was announced that the Meltham factory was to close, and so a history of building tractors since 1939
came to an end.
The company and its products had been granted an usually large number
of national awards and distinctions.
four occasions - 1966, 1968, 1971 and 1978 - the company
had been granted a Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement.
1972 its Hydra-Shift semi-automatic transmission was
awarded silver medals for outstanding design
by four national agricultural institutions - the Royal Agricultural Society
of England, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, the Dublin
Agricultural Society and the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society.
1974 the company also gained a Queen's Award
to Industry for Technological Achievement (Hydra-Shift semi-automatic
transmission) - the first such award made to a farmer tractor manufacturer.
1976 the company received a Design Council Award
for the design of the Hydra-Shift semi-automatic transmission.
1955, the company held a Royal Warrant
of Appointment to Queen Elizabeth II.