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By Tim Leeds 

Havre boasts second-largest tractor in world - as well as first

 

January 15, 2014

Lindsay Brown

Havre Daily News/Lindsay Brown Ron Harmon, owner of Big Equipment Co. of Havre, talks Tuesday about the Big Bud tractor his company has refurbished, making it the second-largest tractor in the world, just behind the Big Bud 747.

A Havre businessman who already holds a world record has almost one-upped himself - almost.

Ron Harmon's Big Equipment Co. just completed a seven-month job ugprading a Big Bud tractor. The refurbished Big Bud, now with a 950 horsepower engine and eight 3 ½ by 6 ½ foot tires, rolled out of the Big Equipment shop Tuesday, to be shipped to a farm in Lyelland, Texas.

"It, for sure, is the second-largest tractor that's ever been built. I'm quite certain of that," Harmon said Tuesday.

Harmon's Big Bud company built the largest tractor in the world, the Big Bud 747, in the 1970s.

Harmon's Big Equipment Co. focuses on rebuilding and upgrading tractors, with its main emphasis on the Big Bud tractors built right here in Havre between 1969 and 1984.

That company started when the Wagner company, which built the first articulated tractor that bent in the middle, sold its production to John Deere. Wilbur Hensler and Bud Nelson lost their Wagner dealership, and decided to build their own articulated tractors.

Harmon bought that business in 1974, he said, and continued to build Big Buds until 1984. At that point, with the shop full of partially built pre-sold tractors, a manufacturer was unable to deliver transmissions for the tractors. The shells of tractors sat for months on the Big Bud property, putting the business in serious difficulties.

After resolving those difficulties Harmon eventually started Big Equipment.

He said the 747 was built when a pair of brothers in Bakersfield, Calif., asked for a tractor that would allow them to deep rip all of their ground each year instead of doing a third each year. The 747 replaced three D-9 Caterpillar tractors the brothers had used previously.

After the brothers stopped using the 747, it was sold to a farmer in Florida where it helped turn a large ranch into one of the largest farms in that state, Harmon said.

On its 20th anniversary, Harmon said, his company repurchased the 747 and brought it back to Havre, where it was purchased by the Williams brothers out of Big Sandy. The brothers used the tractor on the farm until about 2008 or 2009, Harmon said - its 30th anniversary - when it started going on tour.

It has toured to states including Iowa and Illinois, and Harmon said it probably will travel to the East Coast and possibly out to the West Coast, where he would like to see it featured again in the well-known farm show in Tulare, Calif. - where it was first introduced.

The tractor, which still has its original tires and many of its original components, is still ready to work, with more than 13,000 hours on it, he said.

"So we're pretty proud of that, that it's ... not just something to talk about but a functional, working piece of equipment," he said.

He added that Robert Williams was at a farm show a few years ago and was asked to bring the 747 to a tractor pull - a video of that is available on YouTube, and it's pretty impressive, he said.

The second-largest tractor being shipped to Dan Patterson's Why More Farms Inc. in Texas, was a Big Bud production tractor. Harmon said Patterson wanted Big Equipment to build a tractor, but while he was up to Havre several times he kept seeing the 700-horsepower Big Bud, and asked if it could be upgraded.

The upgraded tractor is about 21 feet wide, weighs about 90,000 pounds and holds 700 gallons of fuel.

It also has "the latest and greatest" components - the Big Buds are designed to allow easy upgrades with new equipment including electronics and hydraulics.

The goal is to provide a tractor that will allow Patterson to do three jobs in one pass, increasing efficiency and reducing cost, Harmon said.

"It takes a special individual, it takes the right farm and so on, but it also takes a special individual to buy something like the Pattersons, that would say, you know, we're going to think outside the box here and instead of using multiple tractors to do a job we want to have one big tractor that will do several jobs at one time," he said.

 

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