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Riding with a tractor aficionado

Team FIN member Daryl Bridenbaugh knows how to size up tractors.

He's driven nearly every tractor with more than 100 hp built in the last 20 years. He can name them by heart: Deere series 20, 30, 40, 50, 55, 60, 7000, 7010, 8000 and 8000T and 4-wds; Cat 55, 65 and 75s; Case IH's new and old Magnums and Maxxums; International Harvester 4-wds; AGCO's models; New Holland's Genesis; and a Belarus, which he test drove for Farm Industry News.

He was put on his first tractor - a Ferguson 20 - at age four. By the time he was five, he could start, shift, drive and brake it like an adult. "I've been totally immersed in tractor driving ever since," Bridenbaugh says.

He currently owns six tractors: three John Deere 4020s and a 4320 to do light work, and two large Allis tractors for the heavy work. To learn about the latest tractor features, he tours tractor plants, attends dealer field days and goes to farm shows.

So when Farm Industry News asked him to test-drive tractors at the Farm Science Review in his home state of Ohio, he was up for the challenge.

This year only Case and Fastrac had designated tractors and space for test-driving at the farm show. Bridenbaugh drove all the models available. They are the Case IH MX 200 Magnum, Case IH Quadtrac 4-wd, Case IH 9330 Steiger, Case IH MX Maxxum, Case IH 67-, 74- and 83-hp PTO MX series, and JCB Fastrac 185-65. He drove each of the tractors up and back a grassy stretch of pasture. Afterward he had a chance to ask dealer representatives a few questions.

Short of driving these tractors yourself, you can learn from Bridenbaugh's test drive, as he shares his first thoughts.-Jodie Wehrspann

New Case IH MX 200 Magnum. I liked everything about this tractor. Its physical appearance is similar to the appearance of the Deere 8000 series that I liked so well. The visibility offered by the ultra-narrow hood brightened my whole attitude. It would be hard to buy a competitive tractor if it didn't have this feature. I was disappointed that the new AGCO Allis, AGCO White and AGCO Massey on display at the show did not have this feature.

The Magnum cab is 13% larger than Deere's and has 10% more glass. I'm stunned that a machine with a cab this big can straddle two 30-in. rows. I like the available training seat. The optional heated driver's seat is not just for winter; it can be used year-round to soothe what my chiropractor calls "tractor back."

All the instrumentation is located on the right-hand corner post. It is far enough off to the side that you can ignore it if you want to, but it is close enough that you can easily read it if you want to. The thumb shifter is simple and doesn't require any eye contact to shift it; you simply look over at the corner post to read what gear you are in.

The transmission shifts notably smoother than the transmission of its predecessor. The 24-valve engine has electronic fuel injection on the two largest models, a feature that over-the-road semis have had for two or three years to give them better emission control and better fuel economy. It also does away with all the injection lines, making for a cleaner looking engine.

Case IH 9330 Steiger. The 9330 Steiger's turning radius impressed me. It turns much tighter than the Allis 4-wd tractor that our farm owned. I've read that the entire Steiger line will be updated soon. I can almost picture the machines already with a cab like the one on the new Magnums.

Case IH Quadtrac 4-wd. The tracks on the Quadtrac 4-wd pivot 10 up and down. Front and rear units oscillate 26 for constant soil contact, less compaction, superior traction and the best ride in the industry. This ability to ride smoothly over rough terrain has even made the machine popular with earth-moving contractors.

If you could cross a semitrailer truck and a tractor, the result might be something like the JCB Fastrac.

Made in Great Britain, this tractor has more than 10% market share in its power class in the entire European continent. (No wonder an American tractor company is testing its own similar design now.)

When driving the Fastrac at 20 mph in a rough sod field, it literally floated along with a ride nicer than the ride in a new half-ton pickup truck. All this is thanks to a coil spring and damper front suspension, a hydraulic rear suspension and the sweetest air seat that I've ever sat on.

The 36 forward gear transmission has a 6-speed Eaton syncromesh stick with a two-button power-shift gear splitter on the hand grip, plus an exclusive low-, medium-, and high-range Selectronic shift that can be programmed to automatically shift up or down depending on engine load. Top speed is 40+ mph, vs. the 20 to 25 mph of other tractors. The air brakes stop the tractor quickly and smoothly.

The axles look small by comparison to American 4-wds, but company personnel say the tractor can take the strain of heavy tillage work.

Farmers and custom applicators are using this tractor for spraying (mounting the sprayers over its rear axle). I've also been told that some airports have bought the tractors as baggage handlers and also as mowers and snow removers.

The cab, more than 6 ft. wide, dwarfs even that of the new Case IH Magnum. However, unlike the Magnum, the Fastrac will not straddle two 30-in. rows. It must straddle three rows when spraying, etc.

It is now available with a 161-hp PTO Cummins 5.9 engine, and the two smaller versions have Perkins diesels.

I also liked the plastic body panels saturated with nonfading paint.For more information, contact JCB Inc., 10939 Philadelphia Rd., White Marsh, MD 21162, 888/742-5522.

Case IH 67-, 74- and 83-hp PTO MX Maxxums. The new "baby" Maxxums really impressed me. A compact, 4-cyl. Perkins engine powers all the MX80 C, MX90 C and MX100 C tractors. They have short, steeply sloped hoods for excellent visibility in tight quarters.

This machine was designed to work in or around barns. It has the tightest turning radius in the industry. Its cab and transmission are virtually identical to those of its full-featured bigger brothers.

Case IH MX Maxxum. The MX Maxxum series tractors mimic the Deere 7000 series in appearance. They have the Cummins 5.9 engine, which has an excellent reputation. It is a favorite of mine. Hydraulic flow is up 47% over that of the previous Maxxums, making these tractors very serious loaders.

For more information about any of the Case tractors, contact Case Corp., 700 State St., Racine, WI 53404, 888/227-3237.

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