Currently reading: My other Lamborghini's a tractor: supercar makers' unlikely origins
You may know that some tractors are Lamborghinis, but others have close links to Porsche and Aston. We swap track day for tractor day and drive them

Ciro Ciampi owns two Lamborghinis. One is yellow and powered by a V10 that screams like an excited child. The other is orange and propelled by a two-cylinder diesel that chunters like an old man. 

More than five decades of engineering and company evolution separate Ciro’s yellow Gallardo from his orange DC25 tractor. They sit awkwardly together on the gravel drive at his smart hotel, the tractor looking a bit like company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini regarding a spoilt grandchild. Nevertheless, their different personalities aside, these two generations of Lamborghini still have a few things in common. 

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Their shocking colours, obviously, but also the quality of their designs; the Gallardo’s full of drama but the tractor’s, despite its humble purpose, beautifully proportioned. 

I didn’t have me down as a tractor fancier, either, but that’s what a day at Tractor Fest does for you. It was held in June, some weeks prior to my meeting with Ciro and his Lamborghinis, in the grounds of Newby Hall, near Ripon. Around 750 tractors plus 70 more “two-cylinder, odd balls and orphan tractors” (the exhibitor’s description) turned out. 

They were interesting but I’d come to find some special car-related tractors: not your usual Fiat, Ford, Renault and Leyland fare, of which there were many, but more exotic; namely Porsche, Lamborghini, David Brown – and Ferrari

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Ferrari? Unfortunately, I’d got it into my head that Ferrari once made tractors; a bit like Enzo getting his own back on Ferruccio by walking into his office and telling him he could build a better muck spreader. 

It didn’t help that there was a Ferrari tractor at the show; what turned out to be a small horticultural model enticingly called the 95RS. It even had a prancing horse logo on its bonnet. 

Excitedly, I asked the owners of the David Brown and Porsche tractors I’d just met (although a Lamborghini tractor was listed in the show guide, I never found it) to drive their machines to the Ferrari, where we’d do our best to manoeuvre them as close to the 95RS as possible for a portrait. 

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When Eddy Kirk, owner of the David Brown tractor, and Andrew Mearns, the Porsche, arrived, they struggled to suppress a laugh. Although there is an Italian company called Ferrari that has been making tractors since 1957, it has no links with Ferrari the sports car company. The little 95R was about as far removed from a 488 Italia as it’s possible to get. 

The history of cars and tractors is a fascinating one and goes right back to the origins of the internal combustion engine. In 1864, Nikolaus Otto and Eugen Langen began producing Otto’s new patented atmospheric gas engine. With the factory’s expansion in 1872, they renamed their company Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz (GFD). Tractors were among the first vehicles it produced. 

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Eventually, in 1968, the company merged with Fahr, a leading German manufacturer of agricultural machinery, and Deutz-Fahr came into being. This company still makes tractors today, its most expensive and powerful being the Deutz-Fahr 9340 TTV Warrior. This 11,800kg giant of the fields is powered by a 7.8-litre six-cylinder diesel engine producing 336hp and 1012lb ft torque, 90% of it from 1000rpm. 

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Coincidentally, just as the end of the Second World War gave a bomb-ravaged GFD the stimulus to rebuild, so 600 miles away in Cento, Italy, an entrepreneur called Ferruccio Lamborghini saw an opportunity to salvage the four- and six-cylinder Morris engines from abandoned military vehicles to power his company’s first tractors. 

Unfortunately, they were petrol engines. No problem: one of his engineers developed a fuel atomiser that enabled the engine to be started with petrol, before being switched to diesel. 

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By the early 1960s, Lamborghini Trattori was an extremely successful business. Eventually, it was sold to a rival group but not before Ferruccio branched out into car building, spurred on by an encounter with Enzo Ferrari, who had famously mocked his engineering talents. 

In 1947, at around the time that Lamborghini was converting Morris engines for his new tractors, David Brown, a member of a successful British engineering family and boss of its tractors division, was reading the classified section of The Times when he spotted a ‘for sale’ ad for Aston Martin. He promptly bought the car maker, founded in 1913, for £20,500. 

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Both companies, Aston Martin and David Brown Tractors, flourished side by side but a global recession forced their sale in 1972. The David Brown name continued to be used by the tractor division’s new US owner, Tenneco, until the 1980s, when it was dropped. 

Back in Germany, the people’s car that Ferdinand Porsche designed in the 1930s, the one that went on to become the Volkswagen Beetle, had a sister model in the form of the people’s tractor. Prototypes were powered by a petrol engine, but behind scenes, Porsche was working on an air-cooled diesel unit. After the war, only companies that had been mass-producing tractors could resume production, so Porsche licenced its designs for one-, two-, three- and four-cylinder air-cooled models to two German and Austrian tractor manufacturers. 

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In 1956, Mannesmann, a German industrial conglomerate, acquired the licences and began building Porsche tractors in serious numbers. By 1963, when production ceased, it had built more than 125,000 of them. 

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Unsurprisingly, certain Porsche and Lamborghini tractors command high prices today. For example, earlier this year, a fully restored 1958 Porsche-Diesel 308 Super N made £19,833 at auction and a restored 1960 Junior 108 L, £13,200. Prices for collectable Lamborghinis vary widely. In 2016, a restored 1955 Lamborghini DL25 like Ciro’s (his was built in 1954) sold for £86,000 at auction in the US but another, equally pristine, example made just £9440 in the UK. 

Fortunately, you can still find bargains, such as the 1961 Lamborghini 2241R that made £2240. What counts against these younger Lamborghini models is the fact that Lamborghini Trattori is still active and producing tractors. 

Without a car brand directly associated with them, David Brown tractors are worth less. In November 2018, Eddie Thompson, a farmer based in Norfolk, auctioned his collection of 70 vintage tractors, including 55 David Brown models, for £100,000. A late-model Case David Brown 1412 sold for £8000, which wasn’t bad. 

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Thompson was persuaded to sell his collection after one of his tractors, a 1960s Fordson Major, sprang into life as he was tinkering with it, breaking his pelvis, ankles and legs.  “I’m happy to see the back of them,” he told his local paper. 

It’s not a sentiment that would find favour with many of his fellow tractor collectors but, in the circumstances, entirely understandable. 

1954 Lamborghini DL25

Owner: Ciro Ciampi

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Ciro Ciampi says: “As an Italian and a Lamborghini enthusiast [Ciro hosts club meets at his family’s hotel, the Sharnbrook, near Bedford], I had to have one of the earliest tractors. I bought it 12 months ago. Until three years ago, it was a working tractor. It’s powered by a 2.5-litre two-cylinder MWM diesel engine producing 25hp. I have four others I’ve sourced in Italy that I’m waiting to bring over. 

“No one paid attention to Lamborghini tractors until a few years ago, when they decided they’d make a good fit with their Lamborghini Aventador or whatever. I paid just £1300 for my first early tractor in 2013 but now an unrestored one can easily cost £9000.” 

Driving the DL25

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Ciro drives the DL25 like he drives his Gallardo – con brio! In fact, at one point, I thought it was going to pull a wheelie and tip him off the back. So as I settle behind the controls, I’m respectful of this potentially troublesome bull, and not a little terrified. 

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It has a high and heavy clutch but sheer adrenalin enables me to let it out slowly and we chunter away in second gear. (You don’t pull away in first.) As with the other tractors I’ve tried, torque is instant and prodigious. 

It has pretty much come straight off some idyllic Italian field, so the steering is vague and wobbly. It doesn’t help that I’m driving on loose gravel. The brakes are fairly positive, though, which is handy when you’re approaching £70,000 worth of yellow Gallardo Spyder.

1964 David Brown 770

Owner: Eddy Kirk

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Eddy Kirk says: “I’m a farmer, just like my dad. This was his tractor that he bought in 1964 and I’ve restored it. It’s powered by a water-cooled 2.7-litre three-cylinder diesel engine producing 35hp. It has 12 forward gears and four reverse, so you’ve always got the right gear for field work. The top speed is 18mph which is okay, since it just has rod brakes. The steering is unassisted so you have to pump the tyres up to 50psi to make it tolerable. 

“Its value lies in the fact that it has DB’s then new hydraulic linkage system called the Traction Control Unit (TCU). The firm only made 1800 red 770s, so it’s rare.” 

Driving the DB770

This is the first tractor I’ve driven since I was a lad mucking about on a friend’s farm (long before roll cages), so the DB is a bit intimidating at first. The challenge is second-guessing the clutch bite point so you aren’t flung off the back by a wallop of torque. 

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The engine fires up instantly and settles to a workmanlike clatter. There are no synchros, so you have to engage gears, not shove them in. As Eddy says, you don’t drive it: you persuade it. As we pick up speed, I’m aware I’m a driver, not an operator. This thing is alive. Without a cab around you, you can really tune into the engine and know when it’s struggling or when there’s wheel slip. 

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1956: Porsche-Diesel AP16

Owner: Andrew Means

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Andrew Means says: “I’ve always got one or two restored Porsche-Diesels for sale [Andrew owns Gmund Cars, a Porsche specialist] but have one of my own, fully restored, which I use to pull my boat out of the sea. The one I’ve brought to the show is an AP16 built in 1956 and powered by a 2.0-litre two-cylinder air-cooled diesel producing 16bhp. I’m selling it for £26,995.

“I reckon they’re the best-looking of all the car-related tractors. Porsche only licenced the design – it didn’t build them – but it chose good manufacturers. Because production stopped so many years ago, and because Porsches in general are so desirable, values are very strong.” 

Driving the AP16

The AP16 looks and feels top quality. The gearbox has five forward gears and one reverse. The clutch is hydraulic, enabling you to pre-select a gear before you move. You can’t select them under way. Having seen Andrew lurch away earlier, I’m cautious about balancing clutch and accelerator but it’s surprisingly progressive and we pull away smoothly, with me still in the driving seat and not sprawled on the grass. 

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There’s some play in the steering (it’s unassisted) and the tyres follow their own path, but on a wide, open field, it’s not an issue and on a rough one would doubtless aid steering effort. 

The brakes are mechanical and internal and work on the rear wheels only, so as I return to base, I slow up early. To stop it, you just push the hand throttle shut to starve it of fuel.

This article was originally published on 22 December 2018. We're revisiting some of Autocar's most popular features to provide engaging content in these challenging times. 

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eseaton 24 December 2018

I love this in Autocar. It

I love this in Autocar. It has happiness and passion.

A wonderful break from the depressing autonomous/EV can't read it without your eyes glazing over stuff we usually have to skirt around.