Written by Larry Gay
As 4-wheel-drive tractors became more popular during the 1970s, their power also increased.
In the early 1970s, engine horsepower was typically in the 175-225 range. By 1977, the Steiger Panther Series III was rated at 325 engine horsepower, the Versatile 950 Series 2 at 348 engine horsepower, and the Big Bud KT-525 at 525 engine horsepower.
In 1977 the Northern Manufacturing Company of Havre, Montana, started building a Big Bud articulated, 4-wheel-drive tractor with 760 engine horsepower for the Rossi Brothers of California. Named after the giant Boeing 747 jet passenger plane, the 16V-747 was completed in January 1978 and is considered to be the largest farm tractor built in North America. After it was exhibited in February at the California Farm Equipment Show in Tulare, California, the 747 went to work deep ripping cotton fields near Bakersfield, California.
The 16V-747 was over 28 feet long and 14 feet high to the top of its cab. The overall width with dual tires was almost 21 feet and the operating weight of the tractor was about 135,000 pounds. Each of the eight custom-built 35x38 tires was 8-feet tall and 40-inches wide. The 747 was powered with a 1,472-cubic-inch Detroit Diesel V-16, 2-cycle diesel engine which was equipped with dual turbochargers and intercoolers. The power train used a torque converter and a full powershift transmission with six forward speeds. The fuel tank capacity was 850 gallons. This giant tractor was painted white with a black hood top and black stacks.
After being in California for about nine years, the Big Bud 747 was sold to a vegetable farmer in Florida. Then eleven years later, it was purchased by the Williams Brothers of Big Sandy, Montana. Twenty years after it was built, the 747 was almost back to where it started. The Williams Brothers rebuilt the 747 during the winter of 1997-1998, increasing the power output to 900 horsepower, painting all of the hood white, and adding chrome mufflers and new graphics. Pulling an 80-foot field cultivator, the Big Bud 747 was able to till an acre a minute and 60-70 acres per hour.
Recently, the Williams Brothers changed to no-till operations and the Big Bud 16V-747 has been retired. It has been exhibited at Midwest shows and museums.
Larry Gay is the author of four farm tractor books and the ”Machinery Milestones” articles in Heritage Iron magazine. To learn more about this magazine which focuses on the 1960-1985 era, go to www.heritageiron.com or call 1-800-552-6085.