What Price Enthusiasm?
A Vintage Tractor sale in the UK
By Anthony West
Quite frankly, for some time now restorers like myself have become more and
more concerned about the rapid increase in the prices of old farm machines
here in England. There is now a growing market for "As found" machines. Which
as machines get rarer, has found the birth of a new industry....one of the
"procurement agent". These agents appropriate as much old machinery as possible
then inflate prices at auctions. So at what price enthiusiasm? We are now
seeing poor machines which 3 years ago made maybe £100 to £150 ($162 to $243 US) at a sale now
going under the hammer for £400-£500 ($648 to $810 US).
No doubt too that once this industry of "buy cheap - sell high" manages to
get a firm hold of the market. Established and would-be restorers will be
priced out of the bidding for the piece they really want.
This will undoubtably lead to machines of historic importance being left to
rust due to over pricing. On the other hand rare pieces will end up in the
hands of the few wealthy collectors and will perhaps...one hopes!... recieve
the attention they deserve.
On an inclement day in early September this year, I visited a sale which being
the owner of an early Series 1 Field Marshal, held particular interest for me.
In fact it was a sale which has aroused much interest and anticipation amongst
the vintage tractor fraternity, it took place on Saturday 16th September, at
the premises of the Walker family, Moore End Garage, Bradley in Ashbourne,
The sale is believed to have been held so that the family can concentrate on
other activities and was purely a family affair with no agents. The location
for the sale, the quaint village of Bradley.... was delightful. Set high up in
the rolling hills of Derbyshire, arguably one of the UK's prettiest counties,
the overcast, damp weather of the previous few days had moved on to leave a
delightfull sunny day.
The bulk of the lots offered were tractors and tractor spares, a high
proportion of which were marshall parts, with some vintage commercial lots and
a few miscellaneous lots such as several ex-post office bicycles. The
Auctioneers were commercial vehicle auctions Ltd, of Doncaster, in nearby
The first part of the sale, the parts, was taken by Charles wright, who later
handed over to his brother Chris Wright. After the conditions of sale were
announceed to the assembled buyers, the auction got under way exactly on time
at 11:00, am.
As the first few lots were sold, one or two of the prospective purchasers were
heard to say what a good public address system was being used, it was very
clear and every word the auctioneer said could be heard. This was nice as
usually i ended up with the rusty roll of chicken wire as a result of putting
my hand to my ear!!!
The first of the tractor related lots was a Nuffield 10/60 fuel pump and
starter, which sold for a very modest £10:00 ($16 US). A "Turner Yeoman" cylinder head,
front axle and various spares managed to reach £110 ($178 US), while a Fordson major
water pump and headlight reached £25 ($40 US). For most of the parts lots, there was
keen bidding, which increased considerably as the Marshall items came under
the hammer; a field Marshall series 3 engine block was soon knocked down to
the well known Marshall enthusiast for £240 ($388 US).
A buyers premium was in operation but this was a fairly modest 2.94%inclusive
of VAT. Continuing the Marshall lots, further cylinder heads changed hands and
prices ranged from £180 to £245 ($291 to $396 US), while a series 1/2 piston and dynamo made
Maybe bargain of the day was lot 163, described as " Field Marshall series 2
One or two knowledgeable people seemed to think it would be difficult to fit
to the said tractor, but it sold very quickly, despite its unrestored and
somewhat neglected state, for £60 ($97 US). Close by a Perkins P6 engine, rumoured to
have been removed from a Fordson E 27N and stored for a number of years, made
£400, although it was believed to be seized!!
The tractors entered in the sale were almost the last lots to be sold. All
exept one of the Marshalls, which had a partially dismantalled engine, and one
Allis B, had all been running during the morning. The Marshalls on offer
subject to very close scrutiny by the large number of enthusiasts that
surrounded them for most of the morning.
The first of the tractors to go under the hammer was a 1939 Allis Chalmers B;
this ever popular tractor was fitted with a petrol / TVO engine, and as said
earlier, was not heard running. As far as the tin work went, it was complete
and in reasonable condition, a sand blasting and spraying would have greatly
The main problem with it from a quick look was the wheels and tires. The rims
all seemed to have extensive rust damaged and the tyres were unuseable, and in
fact, the side walls of at least two were ripped. It was sold for a very
Modest £210 ($340 US) and I have no doubt that this machine will soon be out on display
at some rallies.
Another tractor gaining favour with collectors, perhaps due to its ease of
transport, is the David Brown 2D; the model offered had a registration number
( NJL 869 ) but no documents.
It was not offered with any tools, just the basic tractor.General condition
was very much "ex farm", and as such it would not take too much work to
return it to a show condition. Was it slightly expensive at £610 ($988 US)? obviously,
the new owner thought not.
A very useful and 100% functioning tractor was next, a circa 1955 Ford
Roadless 4x4, registration number 339 FDV, fitted with a very usefull Cookes 2
speed winch and powered by a 6 cylinder diesel. This machine sounded very
businesslike when used earlier in the day when used to tow start a couple of
the commercials!! much attention was paid to this tractor, and it was obvious
that bidding would be keen, and so it was!! Chris Wright, the auctioneer very
quickly worked the bids up to £2,000 ($3240 US), and they continued rising to a hammer
price of £ 2,650 ($4293 US). This was considered a very fair price for the lot.
For many including myself ther star attractions of the sale, were the
Marshalls. Lot 233 was the first of five to be offered and was in very
"original" condition, without benefit of documentation, even the serial number
plate was missing!!
The hammer fell at £3,800 ($6156 US), which seemed to set the price for the other similar
tractors on offer. Sold with its engine partially dismantled was lot 234. It
was a 1947 series 1 (similar to my own) fitted qwith lights and a winch and
having the number FWD 56 seriel number 3649. This made £3,900 ($6318 US).
This 1945 Field Marshall Model M
sold for £6,050 ($9801 US).
1947 series 2 number JK 9877 seriel number 4179 was offered complete with
lights and a full length canopy, in good condition. In addition this machine
had some documented history and all the relevant paperwork from new, the rear
tyres looked original with about 25% left on them. Generally it was a very
nice tractor, that didn't require more than a wash and brush up prior to re-
entering the ring. It was sold in the end for a respectable £4,400 ($7128 US).
The last of the series 2's was offered in good condition, also with canopy
but a short version sold for £4,100 ($6642 US). Which everyone felt was about right.
We had now arrived at the highlight of the auction, the item that seemed to
have created most interset. A 1945 model M, seriel number 1441 was by far the
most inspected of the marshalls and a very fine machine it was!! Fitted with
an early type Marshall light winch and original tyres, its general condition
could only be described as "a very straight tractor".
The only visible fault with this machine was the seat which, appeared to be of
a ransomns impliment parantage. A small critisism which could be soon
The seriously interested buyers, and there were several after ownership, soon
proved there interest by running the bidding up to a final hammer price of
£6,050 ($9801 US).
I managed to aquire a number of much needed spare for mine and with the sun
still shinning the auction drew to a close. Those attending felt that the sale
had gone well and had been well organmised for a family event.
Some of the other items which went under the hammer were:
2 fordson major front wheels and tyres £60 ($97 US)
3x40 gallon barrels of TVO £50 ($81 US)
ransomes No9 match plough £410 ($664 US)
2x field marshall front wheels and tyres £240 ($388 US)
ferguson front wheel, seat and tow hitch £40 ($64 US)
Fordson E 27N tool box and radiator blinds £45 ($72 US)
Fordson cast radiator sides and top £20 ($32 US)
Field marshall exhaust pipe £150 ($243 US), ( bought by me)
Perkins P6 engine £400 ($648 US)
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