From the age of seven, Mark Channell wanted a Massey Ferguson tractor. This year, he took delivery of a new MF 6614. What happened in between is worth hearing.
The young Mark was with his grandparents in the early 1970s when they visited a Massey Ferguson dealership “for a look round.” When he made it clear that he a wanted a tractor there and then, he was consoled with an armful of MF literature, which he took home and studied avidly.
The dealer visit ignited a passion for collecting all things Massey Ferguson, which continues more than four decades later. Mark believes it could now be one of the largest private collections in the country, if not Europe.
Mark’s obsession grew to such an extent by the time he was 12, his parents yielded and called MF’s Banner Lane factory in Coventry to ask if they could bring the lad for a tour of the works. The company welcomed his interest and a visit was arranged.
At 16, he became apprenticed to the Weatherheads MF dealership near Cambridge, working mainly on combines, but after three years he decided it wasn’t for him, and set out to work in the fruit and vegetable wholesale sector – where he now thrives.
Building a business – Histon Produce – that now supplies more than 1500 schools in the eastern counties with their fruit & veg needs from its base at Over, between Cambridge and Huntingdon, Mark soon identified the demand for disposal of waste. By 2008, it had become clear that the business could justify commercially the purchase of a tractor – an MF 5445, no less – to which was added a three-point-linkage-mounted mill-size baler.
To the disposal of waste fruit & veg was added cardboard and, subsequently, plastic containers collected from farms – all for recycling.
Mark takes up the story: “We then bought a loader and a trailer, so that we could grade and sell top-soil to builders and local gardeners.”
The following year saw another of Mark’s ambitions fulfilled – a visit to the Massey Ferguson factory at Beauvais. “As we approached the main entrance there was a 5480 parked outside and I immediately thought ‘I’m going to have one of those.’ There were lots of reasons for buying and the 5480 ticked all the boxes.
“It clocked up 4500 hours during the six years we had it – we would have changed it sooner, but there was nothing wrong it. After picking up more work – grass cutting (buying a flail mower to do so) and carting the product of mucking out from a number of equestrian establishments – we were asked by a substantial local farmer to work on carting corn.
“At this point – into 2015 by now – a pro-active salesman at Weatherheads had arranged a demo for the MF 6614. I was convinced. The cab was a strong selling point – sophisticated, greater comfort, and the Dyna-6 transmission with power boost is fantastic. Altogether, a very well thought-out machine.
“I couldn’t really fault the 5480. It didn’t miss a beat all the time that we had it. It was excellent around the yard and for bucket work. But the 6614 is a lot more fuel efficient and the ability to turn over at 750rpm with the handbrake on is a real bonus.
“Corn-carting used to be a bit of a chore – now it’s turned into a pleasure. And the air-conditioning is little short of perfect.
“However, the only thing I have upgraded to is air braking, which affords me added safety and comfort when slowing with the trailer. I reckon I’ll save the marginal cost of doing so in reduced tyre wear and general stress that hydraulic brakes exert on both the tractor and the trailer itself.”
Mark’s overall enthusiasm extends to the service and back-up he gets from Weatherheads. “I can’t fault them – they’re superb, as is the parts system. They knock spots off the Green and the Blue!”