Anniversaries are important, just ask the man (not me) who has forgotten one. For companies, milestone years speak well of long-term management and strategy. Earlier this year, Great Plains Mfg. celebrated its 40th year, T-L Irrigation just passed its 50th in business. And as we move forward, the folks at JCB are looking at a product anniversary - 25 years of Fastrac that equal-sized tire tractor with a high-speed setting.
Back then we didn't think of farms that were 25 miles apart, or the need for a tractor suspension system. Remember that first air-ride seat?
The Fastrac model lays claim to be the world's first real tractor with a full suspension system - an innovation that's commonly found on other tractors today. And it's a necessary feature as tractor road speeds have increased. JCB doesn't make just tractors, it has a full range of construction-focused equipment and it's never far from those roots (note its construction yellow color).
The company released a fascinating media statement about the machine noting that it was developed from a prototype built in1987 in secret beneath the office block at JCB Transmissions at Wrexham, North Wales. The machine also busted a myth - that a suspension system wouldn't allow for plowing. Remember, in Europe full-on moldboard plowing is still carried out, and machines - even fast ones - still have to do that job.
Farmers helped develop the first model of the machine, quietly testing it on their farms - an idea not unfamiliar with every farmer reading this. Farmers have been testing machinery for equipment makers since the first blacksmith bent metal into a plowshare.
The company lays claim to more firsts than having a suspension system. The Fastrac is also the first to have truck-standard disk brakes, multi-mode four-wheel steering, an anti-lock braking system and self-leveling suspension. And it combines those features with an advanced electronoically managed continuously variable transmission.
In that same press statement, JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford comments: "The Fastrac is a remarkable example of JCB's innovative engineering culture at its best. The concept of a tractor better equipped for road travel and transportation tasks but also very capable of undertaking demanding fieldwork has proven its worth over the years."
There's nothing quite like coming upon a JCB Fastrac moving down a two-lane road, pulling a 45-foot chisel plow, and doing 40 - at night. The machine redefines "slow moving vehicle."
Other machinery makers have upped their road speeds, though 43 mph is still higher than many will travel. It's an innovative technology from a company that continues to innovate the machine.
For farmers that have taken on the technology, the machine is popular and as the company expands dealers in the U.S. more producers are finding favor with the machine. It was a standout when it first appeared at farm shows back then, and it does retain a unique look in a market filled with innovations today.