The day I nearly died at the wheel

Although this story is all about driving, it doesn’t involve a bus.


This photo shows a Ford 6600 tractor when fairly new. In fact I was the one that collected it from the dealer. At the time I was working at Moortown Farm near Chulmleigh, mid-Devon during the summer holidays when I was a student at Art College. That summer’s exploits could be the subject of several blog posts!

Anyway, the farm had four tractors at the time and my duties included spraying pig slurry on the fields (which was what I was doing when I took this picture), taking grain down the road to the corn mill and, later on, ploughing and cultivating the fields once the crops had been harvested.

One of the tractors, another Ford with four-wheel-drive, was still in use but was due to be replaced by the one shown above. It had a reputation for being a gutless wonder and the farmer for whom I worked often used to say that “it couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding!” and I can say from experience that he was right! However, it got the job done eventually. You just had to take your time.

Theoretically it had brakes too, but they were nearly as ineffective at making the machine stop as the engine was at making it go. The brakes only worked on the rear wheels and were purely mechanical, no power assistance. I had to press really hard with my booted feet to arrest its progress!

Using the gears, on all the tractors, was not easy. As an 18 year old student who had only recently learned to drive, I found that I could change up reasonably well but not down. He didn’t explain it very well, but the farmer told me that tractors don’t have gearboxes like cars and that, if you wanted a lower gear, you had to stop to select it. If I had known then what I know now, I would have realised that double de-clutching would have been the key to downchanges on the move.

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