Farm Classics with Peter O'Brien
MASSEY Ferguson enjoyed outstanding success in the 60s and early 70s with their iconic 100 series tractors.
However, new regulations regarding safety and noise levels thankfully came to pass in the mid 70s, forcing all manufacturers to put the operator at the forefront of tractor cab design.
Along with other tractor brands, Massey Ferguson’s cab attempts had been primitive yet functional.
However, the launch of the 500 series in 1976 heralded a new direction or cab design for Massey Ferguson. Encompassing five tractors, the range spanned from the 550 to the range topping 595. Mechanically the tractors were very similar to their predecessors, but key to the design of the range was the distinctive and purposely designed cab.
The 550 arrived as direct replacement for the MF148, and its Perkins engine produced a similar 48hp with a long 5’ stroke. A light and nimble tractor, more capable than the acclaimed 135, it proved to be a popular yard tractor.
An eight-speed gearbox (4F/2R) was standard equipment with Massey Fergusons MultiPower (12F/4R) offered as a further option.
Hydraulic output of 36l was adequate for the size of the tractor with a modest lift capacity of 1.4tons. Hydrostatic steering took the effort out of directing the tractor yet it the whole steering system was prone to wear, wander and a feeling of numbness. The all new ‘supervue’ rubber mounted cab is accessed by a single step and door – an oversight by the MF design department, with later models revised to two doors.
The cab saw the introduction of pendant pedals, remote linkage controls, a ventilation system and a mechanical suspension seat (amongst others) for MF.
The floor is almost flat, with the transmission tunnel evident. A long floor mounted lever selects the gears with its shorter partner for the hi-lo range. Worthy of note is the gearbox oil filling point to the left. The dash is dominated by a large, deep dished steering wheel, with hydraulic lever located below the lift quadrant to the left of the seat, with the handbrake situated below the assembly. Painted in silver over red, later models had an all-red cab as well as two doors. However, the new cab had its shortcomings, primarily for repair work, with the cab having to be removed to access the gearbox or hydraulic system, resulting in both significant costs and downtime.
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Massey Ferguson 550
Years of manufacture