Machinery & Products

Another diamond in the rough

By John Droppert

AS REGULAR readers may know, there’s something of a restructure happening in both my thinking around machinery, and actual ownership.

I don’t want to over-sell this: I’m a hobby farmer.

But with a few projects nearing completion, a few mistakes to clean up, and my newfound appreciation of two wheel drive simplicity, some items are on the chopping block.

The upshot of course, is that makes room for others!

Grand plans aside, I’m also a fan of bargains. When a machine comes up for sale that’s sharply priced, and not too far out of the way, a business case often follows.

And so it came to be that I was recently half an hour from home checking out a 90 hp 2WD Case International 895 XL.

These machines are classics, with the guts going back to the 1970s, in a lineage that with gradual cosmetic updates, outlasted the merger of International and Case before being passed on to McCormick and hanging around until the early 2000s.

They were made in the UK at Doncaster, and due to their very compact size were popular utility and front end loader tractors.

One discussion thread on a popular online forum auspiciously begins with the question of whether these tractors are ‘as bad as everyone says’.

In part, it seems that being a basic, lighter machine sold at a budget price point attracted the wrong type of buyers, and many were put to jobs that the heavier German-built International models or later Maxxum tractors were better suited to.

Fortunately, I’m not that stupid, since I’ve got a Chinese wheel loader for my heavy work. Neither, it seems, were the previous owners of this tractor — since it doesn’t have a loader.

The history was hard to untangle, as the owner purchased it from a deceased estate, so much is unknown.

As best I can tell, it has spent most of its life mowing roadsides on a council contract, operated by someone who (if the bumper sticker is anything to go by) felt strongly about the development of Portsea by millionaires.

There is no interior trim to speak of, and what’s left of the radio and air conditioner is mainly a bundle of wires and plastic ducting hanging from the roof.

Most strikingly, it has at some stage been very thoroughly painted yellow then later badly repainted to some shade of red.

The result is more of a flecked orange hue, made all the classier by the mailbox stickers used to reproduce the model number on the hood.

No expense spared. Despite all the painting over the years, it also features the classic 1980s British tractor rust package, sporting a decent hole on top of the hood, and heavy corrosion of the cabin tinwork.

Priced accordingly, this machine is of course right up my alley. And while the digital dash shows random and meaningless numbers that might as well be V/line train performance data, the rest of the machine has so far been difficult to fault mechanically.

I have to check the oil every time I start it, as the lack of leaks freaks me out. It’s smooth to drive and turns on a ten cent piece.

The gearbox is a bit sensitive and I haven’t worked out the shift pattern yet (or located a manual), but for work where you can find a gear and stick to it, this is fine.

Compared to my Ford 7700, it’s like going from a Landcruiser to a Falcon; I can’t believe people drive tractors so close to the ground, let alone put loaders on them.

But for the money, if this is the tractor nobody wants, I’m happy to be nobody.

• John Droppert has no mechanical qualifications whatsoever, but has been passionate about tractors since before he could talk and has operated many different makes and models in a variety of roles for both profit and fun.