Since retiring, third-generation Otorohanga dairy farmer Neville Davison has collected 24 tractors, 10 classic cars, and an impressive curation of antique collectibles and memorabilia, including beautiful quilts and painted china by his late wife, Janice.
The 78-year-old self-taught mechanic, handyman and restorer is fondly known as ‘Pop the Fix-it Man’ by his 11 grandchildren. “I’d worked with tractors and machinery all my life, so it seemed a natural progression to collect and restore them,” says Neville.
He favours Mercedes Benz vehicles, and one of his rarer and favourite tractors is a 1972 Mercedes Benz MB TRAC 700. This 70hp model was imported from Germany from new and only had two owners right up until Neville bought it in the late-2000s.
Features include 4WD, front and rear hydraulics, two-speed front and rear PTO, a 15-speed gear box, and three tonne hydraulic lifting capacity.
“It was ahead of its time and expensive, and only two of this model were imported into New Zealand,” says Neville.
A diff lock, independent hydraulic braking system, fully enclosed cab with heater, and a dicky seat, were certainly not what Kiwi farmers were used to.
Neville stripped the tractor down and repaired, restored or replaced parts, and repainted it in the original orange and white colour scheme.
Unusually, the MB TRAC has four wheels the same size, and is based on the WW2 Mercedes Unimog army vehicles. Unimogs are still produced today as off-road vehicles, so Neville was able to buy brand new replacement parts.
Neville’s other favourite tractor is a German-made 1952 Man 40hp 4WD diesel. “It was a prestigious machine to own, and usually owned by rural or road contractors, and beyond the budget of farmers.”
The Man was a general tractor, with a two-speed PTO, diff lock, rare 10-speed gearbox, and a 2 tonne self-supporting jack.
Neville bought it as part of a collection of five sold in Tirau during the late-2000s. It is believed it was used on the roads in the Bay of Plenty for towing rollers, as it has no hydraulics. It was in running condition, but Neville once again restored it to the order it is in today.
“This time I was able to source or make everything that I needed to restore it, from within NZ.”
A repaint back to the original Man green was important, as someone had painted it Fordson Blue. It now fondly has the nickname ‘Big Bull Frog’ painted on the bonnet.
Neville describes these cherished examples of German tractor technology as ‘Sunday drive tractors’ and they get a turn at being in the Otorohanga Christmas Parade.
Does your farm or boss have a pet tractor? Or a pet digger or bulldozer? If so, we’d love to hear about it! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo of it and a contact name and phone number. We might even throw a prize your way for a good yarn.