Operation 880/Commer transplant with donor at the

Chas Quigg is restoring a David Brown 880 using a Commer truck engine and parts from another David Brown 880. Photo: Catherine Fry.

Diesel motor mechanic, Chas Quigg, was brought up on a dairy farm in Hikuai, Coromandel. He had an interest in machinery as a child and remembers that his father was one of the last in the area to get a tractor, using horses even into the 1960s.

“I left school early and dairy farmed for four years, because I wasn’t too great at school and that got me out of it!” says Chas.

Mechanical training

He was able to become a mechanic as an adult apprentice, completing his first two years as a petrol mechanic under guidance from an old school friend, Bill Prescott.

The second two years were finished at Modern Autos in Te Aroha, where Chas got to work with his preferred diesel engines and was introduced to Commer trucks and David Brown tractors.

He went on to have a career as a mobile mechanic looking after trucks, bulldozers, graders and tractors. At 75-years-old he is still working part time.

“There’s such a shortage of mechanics who do what I do, no one seems to want to train anymore.”

Chas has a home workshop with his “retirement” project set up inside.

“I’m restoring a David Brown 880 from the 1960s, but I’m going to put a Commer truck engine into it instead of the 45hp four cylinder engine that it was built with.”

The love of engines

He loves the old Commer truck engines and has a 150hp TS3 Commer engine at the ready.

“They are quite rare as they have twin opposed pistons. Each of the three cylinders has two pistons on each end.”

His first 880 was once a boat tractor and its engine blew up and it was easier for its old owner to just get another tractor that worked.

Chas acquired a second 880 which is mechanically good, but the body panels would need replacing at huge cost. That will be a donor vehicle for the 880/Commer project.

His garage is set up like an operating theatre with the donor and recipient tractors parked side by side, and the transplant heart (Commer engine) at the ready. The surgeon (Chas) has a plethora of tools and machinery at his fingertips.

Powerful project

“I’ve got lathes, milling machines and gas and electric welders from when I was working so I can do a lot myself. If I can’t, then I probably know someone who can help.”

Chas reckons it’s a two year project and then he’ll have a powerful tractor for trekking with Rotorua Tractor and Vintage Machinery Club.

He gets a bit of a boyish glint in his eye as he adds that “it’ll be noisy too and draw a bit of attention”!


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