As we have already shown, the 900 only ran three years, and rather than completely replacing the DB25’S and 30’s it was produced alongside them until they also finished in 1958. Meanwhile the 950 started production in that year; so the company concurrently had three main models running together, a rather chaotic situation for both the production and sales teams. Production of the 950 began on Monday 28th October 1958, but it was decided to wait for the turn of the year to announce the launch and, for marketing reasons, not to do it at the Smithfield Show.
Accordingly, with the awkwardness of the 900 behind them, and having seen what other manufacturers had already done with their ‘tractors for the 1960s’ it was David Brown’s turn for a two venue launch. These launch celebrations were carried out on opposite sides of the world, with David Brown senior performing his launch at the Canadian Farm & Industrial Trade Fair in Toronto, and his son presiding over a DB function in Harrogate. This launch took place on 28th January 1959, and it presented what was apparently a completely new design. In reality it was the Mk.II 900, and it embodied all the features which David Brown had intended to put into that model had it not had such a disastrous start in life!
The 950’s principle features, and all of them standard, were: An exceptionally easy steering unit with a very small turning circle; high ground clearance; full road and field lighting (with a rear-mounted floodlight); screw-type lift rod and geared levelling lever; adjustable front and rear wheel widths (from 52” to 76” in 4” steps); fully adjustable drawbar; universal linkage for category one or two implements; new type gear pump; large 11.00 x 32 rear tyres; power take-off and belt pulley; simplified TCU to prevent wheel-spin; independent foot brakes; adjustable overload release; steering column throttle control; and (at last!) the ‘Super Comfortable Driving Seat’. Its 3 5/8” bore engine produced 42.5BHP, but extensive field tests had already proved its economy in operation. In addition there was also a 950 Livedrive model, with ‘live’ power take-off and a ‘live’ hydraulic system. Optional extras were power steering; three-way isolator valve providing instant selection of the main or two auxiliary services and a linkage drawbar for light towing duties.
It was a marvellous tractor, presented on a marvellous stand that had been based on the award winning display that the company had used at Smithfield the preceding month. At the official opening of the Toronto stand, Mr. David Brown was accompanied by his wife and four full-blooded Indian Chiefs and two Indian Princesses. After the ceremonies, these natives made David a full Chief of the Iroquois tribe, an honour which had been bestowed upon few English visitors indeed, the previous personality to receive this accolade was Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret.
At the British launch, Mr. J. B. Townley, managing director of DB distributors Barton Motors (Preston) Ltd. Said ‘We have seen today what I call a thundering good tractor, which represents a tremendous endeavour on the part of the David Brown company to present us with a fine product at a very competitive price. With this tractor we have really got something.’ The farming press were just as enthusiastic about it, and one of the Canadian papers said ‘The 950 is a triumph for David Brown. This little company from England have taken on the American giants and beaten them. The result is a new tractor that has come about because the company has been listening closely to its customers on farms all over the world. The result is a machine to suit all markets.’
Tom Lazenby remembers the introduction of the 950 with a great deal of pride, saying: ‘The problems of the fuel pump and steering on the 900 gave us no end of trouble, and we lost a lot of customer confidence because of that. In the end it made us bring forward the 950 which was really the 900 with a bigger set of wheels which went up from 28s to 32s. It was a sort of Mark II 900, but it had a little bit more filling here and there. But, because it was the same tractor really, we had to make a lot of changes in how it looked and performed. Messrs Ashfield & Co in the Engineering Department had solved the problems of how the tractor worked, but we had the job of selling it, and we had all on to overcome the problems of customer confidence which the 900 had given us.
We had to make a tractor which had instant sales appeal and get away from the blue colour which David Brown junior had chosen for the 900’s wheels and radiator grill; so one Saturday morning five of us assembled at the works including the Managing Director Jack Thomson, George Shannon, Alan Walker and somebody from production. When we got there they had got a series of tractors lined up with different coloured wheels, including the yellow ones. After some consultation and debate we decided that the yellow ones best complimented the red livery, and Jack Thomson said ‘Aye that’ll do, we’ll never pick that *#++!@ awful blue again!’
Herbert Ashfield recalls what happened next: ‘Because of the problems with the 900 we went straight on to the 950, and this tractor incorporated all the improvements that we were going to put in the 900. The 950 was a cracker right from the word go, and it sold ever so well, in the end we made 5,574 of the 950 T & U Series, but it was the Implematic version which really did well. In all we sold 18,125 of the V and W, and A and B versions of the 950.’ In December 1959 the company brought out a revolutionary development of the standard tractor, in the shape of the Implematic.’
The Implematic was, in many ways, a remarkable innovation, as it set about addressing a problem which farmers had been facing since the principle of mounting equipment on tractor linkages was first developed in the 1930s. For a long time manufacturers were divided on how the working depth of an implement should be controlled, some used a depth wheel whilst others employed a form of automatic draught control. Generally tractors were designed to operate one type of equipment or the other, but not both. This resulted in the poor farmer having his choice of equipment restricted, and it was a situation that remained deadlocked until David Brown introduced the Implematic. At the 1959 Smithfield Show the 950 Implematic (V and W versions) went on display, featuring an ingenious modification to the hydraulic system which permitted the operation of dual implement types, plus differential lock – and all at no extra cost!
Simplicity was the keynote of the new system, with a single lever controlling both the choice of implement type and the Traction Control Unit. To cater for implements without a depth wheel, Brown’s introduced Traction Depth Control, an arrangement in which the top link was spring-loaded and, in work, was under compression from the draft forces acting on the implement. This compression of the top link actuated, via Bowden cable, the movement of a hydraulic valve. For any given control lever setting, the implement goes into work until the set draft is achieved.
When the ground conditions varied, the draft automatically increased or decreased, as did the pressure on the top link. In turn this caused the hydraulic valve to move; for example when the draft increased it allowed more oil to be pumped into the lift cylinder which raised the implement and then restored the draft to the pre-set level but when the draft decreased, oil was released from the cylinder thus allowing the implement to go deeper. This automatic regulation of the implement was occurring all the time it was in work, and thus saved considerable re-setting time and a lot of man hours. When the tractor was using implements with a depth wheel, the hydraulic system operated in exactly the manner as before. With this feature the 950 became even more popular, and it soon erased the painful memories which the 900 had bestowed and all concerned were hared pressed to cope with the demand.
Indeed 1960 turned out to be a record year for Meltham Mills works, and as David Brown junior said ‘We are going to build more tractors at the Meltham factory than we have ever built before.’ Yet this may have seemed an overly optimistic hope, especially in view of the fact that there was an overall 16% decrease in the sale of tractors in Britain that year. However, whilst other manufacturers were tightening their belts, David Brown went on to achieve his record output, and by February the despatch of tractors was a remarkable 50% up on the same period the previous year.
Salesman could not keep up with the demand, and all over the world farmers were having to wait for their new machines. Extra labour was recruited for Meltham and Leigh works, and by May the production had been dramatically increased. By September output had reached an all-time record, and 80% of production was going for export.
In the midst of this success, the 850 was launched and David Brown also entered into an agreement with the Oliver Corporation of America to make two types of tractors on their behalf. The final improvements to the 950 appeared as the A and B versions in October 1960 (in time for Smithfield) and these included additional refinements to what was already a ‘world-beating tractor’.