The Big Bud 16V 747 Tractor

An Excerpt from The Big Bud Tractor Story by Peter D. Simpson
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The following is an excerpt from the book, Big Bud, by Peter D. Simpson. Set against the backdrop of the Great Plains of Montana, The Big Bud Tractor Story chronicles the evolution of what would become the world's largest agricultural tractor, from its birth in 1969 to present day usage. 

Big Bud can also be found in our upcoming book, TRACTOR, by Lee Klancher. 

It is in north west Montana where you will find the largest agricultural tractor in the world hard at work. Here there is an area of prairie countryside known as the Golden Triangle. Starting at Great Falls head north west to Shelby then east to Havre and back south to Great Falls and this is Big Bud country where rainfall is usually 11 inches per annum and near dust bowl conditions often prevail. About half way back down to Great Falls on Highway 87 you come across a small town called Big Sandy, head east and this is home to the Big Bud 16V 747. After Big Sandy good luck because the dirt roads just go on for mile after mile with nothing to see but beautiful scenery, dust, wheat and if you are lucky enough, monster tractors.

Big Sandy lies in the shadow of the Bear Paw Mountains, where you will find the Williams Brothers, Robert and Randy farming in the region of 8,000 acres of wheat and garbanzo beans. The original Williams family first moved to this isolated but majestically scenic area, home to the Bear Paw Indians, back in 1913. The grandparents arrived as settlers in the area with nothing of their own, they were given a piece of land neighbouring their present spread where they set up ranching.

By 1944 Robert and Randy’s parents had acquired the present homestead where they farmed in the region of 700 acres of cereals and livestock. As the farm grew in size and the brothers became old enough to work and manage the land themselves, the machinery on the farm started to become more modern and more powerful. These two young men were power, tractor, car and motorbike mad, all the time wanting bigger and more powerful machines.

By the late 1970s the biggest tractor they had on their farm was a Case 1200, the first tractor built by J I Case to incorporate four-wheel steer, 4WD and with its six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine rated at 120hp work rates increased at such an alarming rate that the brothers were in a position to acquire and farm more land.

It was in 1977 whilst out motorbike riding with their good friend Ron Harmon, owner of the Northern Manufacturing Company which was building Big Bud tractors at that time, when they heard of the plans to design a big tractor, probably the biggest agricultural tractor ever to be built. 
Looking at tractor owner operator Robert Williams in the cab of the 747 gives some idea of the scale of the world’s largest agricultural tractor. An impressive sight at 20 foot wide and 13 foot 6 inch to the top of the cab.

When the Flexi-Coil cultivator for the 747 was built it measured 100 foot wide which proved too big so it was cut down to 80 foot, yet in a working day it can keep two 60 foot seeders busy. 

Left: There was no production line when building the 747, the shell sat on the floor while everyone worked around it. 
Right: The 747 was designed as a production model but only one was every built, build started in 1977 and was finished in January 1978, a mammoth task in its own right. 

The tractor on the right is a Big Bud 600/50 rated at 600hp weighing in at 60,000 lbs – 27.6 ton is a big powerful machine, but compared to the 116,480 lbs – 52 ton rated up to 900hp, the 600/50 is quite small. 

Access to the massive Detroit Diesel 16V92T 16-cylinder engine in V configuration with dual turbochargers is relatively simple.