THE 1990s were an era of huge advancement for tractors across all brands.
Three noticeable features that evolved in the 90s were: clutch-less ranges in gearboxes, electronic advances in areas output and automation, and the move from straight-line styling to curves with an emphasis on operator visibility.
Initially launched in 1979, Ford had taken the design of its TW series to the limit having eventually transformed into the Generation 3 tractors of the late 80s.
However, Ford had one more roll of the dice for the tried and tested TW range, which had more than proven itself as a hardy workhorse.
Dropping the legendary TW name, the 30 series picked up the reins and were by and large almost identical to the TW tractors they replaced, comprising three tractors, the 8630, 8730 and 8830. The unique feature of the 30 series was the Powershift gearbox option.
Funk transmissions took up the task for Ford and designed and manufactured a transmission with 18F and 9R clutchless gears on offer.
In a great feat of engineering, Funk had to design the gearbox around the already established TW series and its housings. In a twist of a fate, Funk was purchased by John Deere in 1989.
Replacing the two gearsticks of dual power, the gearbox has a console-mounted lever, controlling gear changes as well as direction changes. Pushing or pulling the lever sideways initiates gear changes, while pulling a toggle ring and moving the lever forward or back selects forward or reverse – all of which could be achieved without pressing the clutch pedal.
A backlit LCD screen on the console informs the operator of the selected direction and gear.
Other features included continuous gear shifting by holding the lever, as well as preselecting a starting gear for directional changes.
Models fitted with this gearbox received a Powershift decal under the tractor model number.
The 8630 continued to encompass all the tried-and-tested Ford components. Equal in bore and stroke, the 6.6l Ford 401 engine produces 132hp. The Super Q cab is a familiar home to any Ford operator. The tractor has a lift capacity of almost 7 tons and comes heavily weighted with rear-wheel weights and rims as standard.
The 30 series was short-lived, being dropped in 1994. However, the Funk Powershift gearbox found a home in the large Ford/New Holland 70 series Genesis tractors, and formed the foundation for the range command and power command gearboxes launched by New Holland in 1997 which are still in use.
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