New business The Vintage Garden Tractor Company restores classic tractors back to their former glory

Wilf Robinson of The Vintage Garden Tractor Company

Wilf Robinson of The Vintage Garden Tractor Company - Credit: Archant

Farmers have a special relationship with their tractors. They rely on these wonderful vehicles to carry out a multitude of tasks from ploughing and raking, to pulling trailers and generally getting about the place. It’s true to say that they would be lost without them.

Wilf Robinson of The Vintage Garden Tractor Company

Wilf Robinson of The Vintage Garden Tractor Company - Credit: Archant

It’s no surprise, then, that the tractor holds a unique place in the hearts of those in the region’s agricultural community.

It is this high regard and the nostalgia many people feel for the older models that has spurred one Essex businessman to start a new venture restoring them.

Launched in June and located near Maldon, The Vintage Garden Tractor Company is run by Wilf Robinson who, together with a small team, sources and restores classic vintage tractors, creating bespoke, one-off machines for work and play. Once brought back to life, Wilf sells these historic machines to clients who might want them to do small jobs around the yard or to just enjoy as a working heritage piece.

He also believes there is a market in hiring out the tractors for special occasions, such as weddings or corporate events.

Family connection

Talking to Wilf, it becomes clear very quickly that he has a deep passion for classic tractors and in particular the much-loved Ferguson and Massey Ferguson models. It is a fascination that runs through Wilf’s blood and is embedded in his family history.

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“My grandfather, Dr Dick Robinson, was one of the most distinguished gardeners of the 20th Century,” explained Wilf.

Wilf Robinson of The Vintage Garden Tractor Company

Wilf Robinson of The Vintage Garden Tractor Company - Credit: Archant

“I grew up watching him use vintage tractors to help cultivate the beautiful gardens at our family home of Hyde Hall. This was where I developed my love of these classic machines.”

Years later in the 1990s, Hyde Hall, which is located near Chelmsford, was gifted to the Royal Horticultural Society by his family and today the gardens are renowned for their vast collection of plants and flowers.

Wilf has also drawn inspiration from his father-in-law, who grew up on a farm in the 1950s. Throughout his childhood, he spent many days on a Ferguson tractor and the vehicle evokes many happy memories for him.

Wilf said: “The Ferguson tractors are special to us because Harry Ferguson who developed the company and the tractors in the 1940s was a real innovator.

Wilf Robinson, Vintage Garden Tractor Company

Wilf Robinson, Vintage Garden Tractor Company - Credit: Archant

“Not only did he design the tractors, he also designed a lot of implements to go behind them. He changed the whole agricultural and tractor system at a time when the UK was dependent on growing its own food.”

Fast forward a few decades and Wilf’s father-in-law decided to reignite his boyhood love for Ferguson tractors when he retired. He and Wilf searched far and wide to find a vintage tractor but when it arrived it was in a sorry state of disrepair.

The duo took the restoration on as a project and the seeds of The Vintage Garden Tractor Company were sown.

“After completing my first restoration project, I realised that there was a gap in the market for lovingly restored tractors,” continued Wilf.

Disused and dilapidated

“There are so many disused and dilapidated machines up and down the country, so I decided that I wanted to bring these beautiful machines back to life. I believe that vintage tractors’ timeless style makes them a fun and quirky addition to any garden or estate.”

While the business was officially launched earlier this summer, Wilf and the team have restored around 10 tractors in the past year or so, as they worked to build up a brand for the business.

Not only is a good reputation healthy from a business point of view, it also helps when it comes to sourcing tractors.

“We hope to find the tractors mainly on farms,” said Wilf.

“As time has gone by, people have rung us up to say they have one of these tractors in the back of their barn. They tend to be in a sorry state and we lovingly restore them back to their former glory. We like the stories behind them - that’s a big part of the whole restoration.”

According to Wilf, a full restoration can take about four weeks depending on the condition of the tractor in question. If a complete engine rebuild is required, the job might take a few weeks more. Original working parts are saved where possible to retain the tractor’s vintage charm, before they are bead blasted and repainted.

Potential clients include people who have a few acres or equestrian businesses while there is also a growing interest in using vintage tractors for ploughing matches and on road runs.

The tractors can still be used practically for grass topping and similar tasks. Wilf uses one to maintain the tracks on the farm.

“The team and I are passionate about restoring these classic vehicles,” he added.

“It truly is a unique art. We work hard to preserve the historic charm and character of every tractor that comes to our workshop and we also want our clients to be part of the tractor’s journey too. As a result, we offer bespoke services enabling people to create a completely unique machine to their exact requirements.”