Ted Kalvitis - Far Muse

Just the mention of the Long tractor (as in the story Gateway to Faquier, 12/28/11) brings forth a variety of commentary and opinions: “It was the worst tractor ever made — it was the best tractor ever made — it was part of a Communist plot to encourage collective farming — it was made in Italy by Fiat...” (this later assertion may be due to the letters in the name Fiat also being the first letters of the characteristically Italian/American phrase “Fix it again, Tony.”) Many Long owners may be unaware that the brand has it its origins in the first half of the last century with a tractor that resembled a Massey Harris.

Few specimens remain and the generally accepted image of the Long tractor is the Uzina Brasov or “Universal” tractor originally made in Romania under the devoutly Communist and almost comically idiotic Causescu regime. These tractors were painted blue, adorned with the Long logo and marketed in the United States.

Actually, the tractor is said to be made “under license”

from Fiat — whatever that means. I can’t recall ever seeing one of these tractors bearing the Fiat logo but a Canadian reader, writing in response to an article that I wrote in Antique Power, informed me that there are plenty of them up there.

I must confess that, at first, my attitude toward this “Russian”

tractor wasn’t the model of acceptance — I referred to them as “Khrushchev’s Revenge” after the shoe wielding Soviet leader. I had to drop this moniker, though, as each Long tractor on my mobile tractor repair route consistently proved itself worthy of my respect. Many folks willing to experiment with what was then considered an exotic tractor were rewarded with years of dependable service.

You don’t make fun of my tractor anymore, observed the late Glendwahr Davies, an outspoken Welsh stone mason and Long owner. “It looks like my tractor has outlasted your fun.”

And so it had as we entered the machine’s second decade in the construction business in addition to its regularly maintaining several properties.

The Long tractors’ de-tractors are quick to allege a few built-in defects in the machine.

“The parking brake doesn’t hold and the tractor runs away.” My answer is to suggest that the ratcheting lever clearly visible on the left side of the transmission is the power take-off clutch, not the parking brake as many have assumed. The parking brake is back and to the right. It tends to be hidden from view by the hydraulic controls — especially if there is a loader attached and possibly by (ahem) the operator’s mid-sectional evidence of good living and countless culinary triumphs. I can’t word it any more politely than that.

“The charging system never works.” Now there’s a legitimate beef. The British Lucas electric system is overly complicated and subject to failure.

Lucas refrigerators are said to be responsible for the British custom of drinking warm beer.

However, the Lucas electrical charging system could be nominated for sainthood when compared to the abysmal Ducellar system used on the Long.

Go ahead, ask a typical Long owner where the tractor’s front grille is at the moment — about half of them couldn’t tell you. The front grille houses the batteries. originally, these tractors had two 12-volt batteries, arranged + + - -, producing 12 volts but with extra capacity.

This is not to be confused with another tractor from that part of the world that arranges its two 12-volt batteries + - + - producing 24 volts.

Perhaps the idea behind dual batteries on the Uzina tractor is to enable a tractor driver stranded on the Siberian tundra, to, by the light of the Aurora Borealis, turn one battery around doubling the cranking voltage. He could then make it back to the dacha in time for morning vodka and the next revolution.

Anyway, in our relatively tropical climate, these tractors usually wind up being converted to a single battery. A fully charged battery will start one of these tractors for weeks without a functional charging system since no current is required to run the Diesel engine. This repeated charging and running down of the battery, known as “deep cycling”

eventually ruins the battery. In lieu of replacing the battery, the tractor owner then regularly jump-starts the machine.

The grille covering the batteries is often lost or run over.

The installation of a simple American or Japanese alternator will cure this problem — and produce about 5 pounds of scrap copper wire — if the owner would just make the investment.

Instead, to hedge the bet of the tractor starting, the owner may also park the tractor on a hill to roll-start should the wife leave with the jumping vehicle.

Thus, the typical Long posture is “up on a hill without a grille.” I guess there’s poetry in being cheap after all.

First published Jan. 11, 2012 o

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