Farm Classics with Peter O'Brien
WHILE many people associate Mercedes-Benz with cars and SUVs, the German brand also has its fingers in other pies such as HGVs, buses and commercial vehicles – not to mention Formula 1.
However, with the assistance of Unimog, the firm also dabbled in the production of tractors, leaving a lasting nostalgic legacy.
Identifying the gap in the market for a high speed, systems tractor, Mercedes produced its first equal wheel tractor in 1972.
Initial models were lightweight tractors, instantly recognisable with their mid-frame-mounted cab, rear-loading platform and unmistakeable green paintwork.
Even though equal wheel design was not original concept, the combination of speed and suspension was radically innovative.
Furthermore, Mercedes did not use the engine and gearbox casing as load-bearing components, instead opting for what they termed as a ‘ladder’ type frame.
In 1980, Mercedes released the MB-Trac 1500 as the then range-topper of its heavy duty class of tractors.
Powered by Mercedes’ own turbo-charged OM 352 engine, the 5.7l unit produces 150hp – a substantial figure for 1980. Two gear levers are located to the right of the driver’s seat – the closest is a shuttle lever, while the second selects gears. Gearbox options included a 40km six-speed, as well as a 65km eight-speed in H pattern layout, complete with a splitter.
Due to the mid-mounted cab, more weight is transferred to the front axle which provides a great balance of weight when the tractor is loaded or hitched to an implement – improving traction as well as comfort.
Upon climbing the three steep steps, the operator sits in a high, commanding position, along with the left-hand passenger seat, with a large steering wheel dominating the dash.
Two analogue clocks provide the vital statistics of speed and engine performance. To the right, a twistable dial engages the air diff locks and 4wd, a dump handle for the handbrake and hand throttle. A most satisfying feature is the car-type window winders found on both cab doors.
The high specification of the 1500 included front axle suspension, air brakes, air activated four-wheel drive and differential lock, CAT III rear linkage.
Other extras include a front linkage and PTO, as well as the unique reverse drive option – when the seat and dashboard rotated 180 degrees to operate the tractor in reverse.
However, the right hand console stayed in position, which meant the gears and hydraulic controls functioned backwards!
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Mercedes MB-Trac 1500
Mercedes OM 352
Years of manufacture