RETURN OF THE LEGENDARY BIG BUD TRACTOR
Big Bud 747 is a giant, 1,100-horsepower tractor built by the Northern Manufacturing Company in Havre, Montana, in 1977. The tractor’s massive Canadian connection is that is was outfitted with eight-foot-tall tires manufactured by the now-defunct United Tire of Ontario. Pulling cultivators in California and Florida, it became something of a celebrity farm implement. Following a stint as a museum piece in Clarion, Indiana’s Heartland Museum, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of tractors now works on the Williams Brothers Farm near Big Sandy, Montana.
Additional 550 Big Bud tractors were manufactured in the 1980s. Havre’s Big Equipment Company, the successor of its original manufacturer, in association with Rome Plow Company, has resumed production. In March, Big Bud’s reissue was celebrated with a launch at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG farm show in Las Vegas.
Sheer muscle and field coverage remain selling features, but it now also offers a workaround to embedded software that limits the ability of farmers to access and repair big-brand tractors. “You the farmer can access any part of the tractor yourself or have any mechanic fix it,” said Ron Harmon, owner of Big Equipment. “We’re not trying to control the parts service business.” The company manufactures, customizes and repairs Big Bud tractors in the 300 to 700 horsepower range. With the rise of no-till, these tractors now typically pull big air drills.
Though it’s a large machine, it’s production run is small. Big Equipment will manufacture just eight new tractors this year, but Harmon hopes to triple production annually. The Big Bud re-release has generated much buzz, and he is confident farmers across North America will purchase the tractor.
The current version retains most of its original boxy, no-frills appearance, with a more aerodynamic cab. Its parts, including axles, engine and transmission, are heavy duty, widely available components used in mining and construction and generic autosteer systems can be installed. “They’re an infinitely rebuildable, upgradable tractor. You can keep it running for many, many years,” said Harmon.