The Marvelous Diesel Mini-Tractors!

Mini-tractors can handle most of the same jobs performed by full-sized tractors, but at about half the cost.

| March/April 1979

A tractor is one of the most important investments that any homesteader can make. One of these sturdy, reliable "mechanical mules" will handle any job from tilling a field to yanking a fencepost, and can really ease the newcomer's transition from urban to rural life (or help the established farmer raise the productivity of his or her acreage).

Unfortunately, such vehicles cost money, often a good deal more than most folks (especially those who've just made their move back to the land) are able to afford. Even a medium-sized machine, for example, can easily set its buyer back $10,000 or more. And that price doesn't even include the optional (but often necessary) equipment!

A few years back, however, several farsighted manufacturers realized that a different tractor market was developing, one that demanded equipment that wasn't in line with what the established firms were offering. In short, while the "old guard" continued to design "bigger and better" machines (which had come to resemble construction equipment rather than tractors), the industrial innovators were busy producing mini-tractors: smaller work vehicles with diesel engines, big machine capabilities, and lower prices.

Time has, of course, proven that the "little guys" did, indeed, know what a large segment of the public wanted, and the number of manufacturers of smaller workhorses has increased to meet that demand. This year, in fact, there's a real "bumper crop" of "commonsense compacts" to choose from. There may never be a better time to give the thought of purchasing a new tractor some serious consideration.

Little Immigrants

As you may have guessed, these mini-machines are—for the most part—imported. In fact, tractors made in Japan alone are being sold (or will soon be available) in the U.S. under no less than 10 different company names! According to a recent issue of Implement and Tractor (the agricultural equipment dealers' official handbook), Ford—in the past few months—has signed a marketing deal with Shibaura, while John Deere has teamed up with Yanmar, International Harvester with Kumatsu, White with Iseki, and Massey Ferguson and Allis Chalmers with Toyosha! These arrangements will really "fill out" the small tractor field already represented in North America by Kubota, Satoh, Bolens, Suzue, and Hinomoto.

Even the tiniest of the Japanese diesels (which vary in size from 12 to 17 horsepower) are in no way similar to the gasoline-driven, American-made garden and lawn units so common in suburbia today. Instead, the imports are faithfully miniaturized versions of standard-sized farm machines. They have no pretense of beauty, and their outsized drag rods, links, and lifts could even be called grotesque. But pound for pound, the Oriental vehicles are outstanding performers. Most are available in either two- or four-wheel drive, with six forward and two reverse speeds, hydraulic lifts, standard (1 3/8") power take-off, Category 1 three-point hitches, and many other features previously available only on bigger machines. The small diesels can—with little or no modification—even accept a good number of the implements manufactured in the U.S. for the commercial farmer!

9/30/2008 11:47:12 AM

Hi- while a thourough and infomative article, I feel that the author left out an important newer sector of the mini tractor market that now exists. That being the importsfrom china. These little gems are every bit as versitle as the imports from Japan. and at a slightly lower price.I myself have a shenniu bison that at 25 horsepower and 4 weel drive is, it seems, a bit more powerful and wheighing quite a bit more(2000 lbs) will take and be able to use even the full size tractor implements. (still need some more weight in the front though)- I have been very satisfied with the performance of this little tractor and price too!-about $5000 new with a rototiller. And some are available used with a much smaller price tag. Thanks for reading my comment. I would be very interested in a comparison of the japanese verses chinese tractor market.- willyo.

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