FARM CLASSICS: Massey’s 398 heralded a new era of technology

January 19th, 2023 10:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Riain Walsh from Nohoval at the wheel of his family’s 398, with dual wheels for harrowing.

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THE late 1980s was a time of great evolution for Massey Ferguson.

Launched in 1986, the 3000 series heralded a new era of technology and sophistication, setting the benchmark for other manufacturers to follow.

Having replaced the stop gap 600 series, and with the 200 series both underpowered and outdated, Massey Ferguson needed a ‘law of the lever’ workhorse, with a little sophistication that appealed to masses. MF did not disappoint, launching the 300 series in 1989 extending from the 362 to the range-topping 399. Marketed as global tractors, the range was sold in 140 countries in various configurations.

Slotting in just below the 399 is its slightly smaller sibling, the 398. The 398 is something of a ‘best of both worlds’ tractor encompassing the lightweight and nimble frame of a four-cylinder tractor, yet having the heavy backend of its bigger stablemate. Power comes from a Perkins AT4.236 – identical to that found in the 390T – but producing 97hp from the 3.9l block.

The backend of the tractor benefits from an assistor ram, raising the lift capacity to a little over 3tons, with a total hydraulic output of 63l/min and a two-speed PTO. Tipping the scales at 3.1T, the AG front axle provides an impressive 55degree steering, making the 398 a light, nimble yet powerful tractor, offering an excellent power-to-weight ratio.

Numerous gearboxes were available for the 398, including the familiar Synchro12, 3-gearstick box inherited from the 600 series. In addition to this, Massey Ferguson launched its all-new SideShift shuttle gearbox, complete with a chunky mechanical shuttle on mounted to the left of the dash. A floor-mounted gear lever provides four gears in H-pattern format, while pushing the stick through the gate fully, then right, then up or down, selects the high, medium and low ranges, which are identified on the dashboard.

This transmission was updated in 1994 with the addition of a button operated splitter on the gearstick and next to the lift controls, known as the SpeedShift transmission providing 18X6 gears. Furthermore, both gearboxes could also be specified with a 40km road speed.

Two cab options were available fitted to the 398, both new designs, the flat-floored HiLine cab and the low-profile LoLine cab, aimed at farmers with low-roofed farm buildings.

Further features included the auto engagement of the 4wd when braking and when the handbrake is engaged, as well as electronic engagement of the differential locks.

• Contact Peter at [email protected] or see Instagram @flashphotoscork

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