It is now over 30 years since the launch of the Fiatagri F Series range of tractors, which were called the Winner range by the Italian tractor maker. This tractor range was launched to great acclaim at a huge event in Paris in June 1990, in an event that it is reputed to have cost the Fiat Group the equivalent of well over €1 million.
The Winner series of tractors included the F100, F110, F120 and F130 models with engine powers of 98, 110, 118 and 130hp, respectively. They were all powered by six-cylinder Fiat Iveco Series 8000 engines, the larger models which were turbo-charged.
These were tractors that were designed to be versatile and modern. The cabs and bodywork was designed by the renowned Italian design house of Pininfarina. The aim was to bring a machine with a rounded profile and no sharp edges. Fiatagri made a big point of the fact that galvanised sheet metal would be used, after significant rust issues with the previous models.
The engines were claimed to decrease fuel consumption, smokiness and noise while increasing performance. Fiat Iveco reduced the engine speed at which maximum tractor power would be achieved to 2300rpm, while peak torque was reached at 1300rpm.
The base gearbox on the these tractors was a 16 forward and 16 reverse speed unit with the option of a creeper unit to double the number of gears. The higher speed versions were rated at 40km/hr and an Eco-Speed option was claimed to be an ‘absolute novelty’ on the 40km/hr versions, giving a fifth forward gear in every range.
The tractors were fitted with oil-immersed disc brakes operated by separate hydraulic circuits. Fiatagri offered a hydraulic system for trailers, which the company claimed enabled the Winner tractors to pull trailers up to four times their own weight, which was up to 18 tonnes, in total safety.
This was among the first of the Fiatagri tractors to offer electronic lift control in place of mechanical control of the tractor hydraulic lift. They were also available with an on-board computer, which was designed to provide ‘clear, complete information for better utilization of the machine across nine functions, from engine speed and PTO to the real speed and slip percentage.
The Grand Moisson
The launch of these Fiatagri Winner tractors was special in that it coincided with one of the biggest French agricultural events ever held. This was called the ‘Grand Moisson’ or ‘Great Harvest’ and the Fiat Group used the occasion to launch the F Series Winner tractors along with a number of new combine harvesters which were then branded as Laverda.
The Grand Moisson consisted of the closing of the primary street in the French capital city, the well-known Champs-Élysées and converting it into a pattern of farmland on which growing crops of barley were carefully placed, interspersed with areas of roll-out grass. The French young farmers club, our equivalent of Macra na Feirme, organised the event harvest the crop with combines so as to make the French public aware of the values and challenges for farming as well as its importance in the French and European economy.
The tractor launch took place in the morning before the start of the Grand Moisson. As journalists we listened to the Fiatagri presentations and in typical Fiat form, there was limited scope for questions. We were unable to get access to the F-Series Winner display tractor’s cab and it was the only tractor on view for the full day.
The rumour then gathered, with some element of truth, that in fact the design and manufacture of the tractor was not complete, that it was to pushed into the Paris hotel for the launch event, without a working gearbox!
The Grand Moisson event itself was an incredible presentation by Fiatagri of its range of tractors, combine harvesters and balers by bringing the grain harvest into the heart of one of the world’s best-known cities. Almost 5 acres of plots of wheat were grown on special plastic pallets in nearby glasshouses and transferred over 10 hours on a Saturday night to form a patchwork along the 1.9km length of the Champs-Élysées in an incredible display of the best of French agriculture.
The French people turned out in huge numbers to view the event, it was estimated that one million people saw the event live from the footpaths on each side and from hotel, restaurant and apartment windows overlooking Europe’s best-know main street.
As journalists we had no access to the centre of the event which was fenced off. As the machines rolled through the Arc de Triomphe, starting with three combine harvesters, I was determined to get some photographs. I cleared the barrier fence with at least five cameras around my neck following pleading from other more obedient journalists. It was a most exciting and exhilarating event and one that I can never forget while the memory of that morning’s launch of the Fiatagri F Series tractors paled into insignificance.
My lasting regret today is that I have mislaid these photographs. I have searched for them and only hope that they have been preserved in the archives of the Irish Farmers Journal.