Restoring this rare Newman WD2 trike wasn’t easy for Derek Hiscock, but was certainly well worth all the effort, as Peter Henshaw discovers.
This rare Newman WD2 trike is the only tractor Derek Hiscock has ever owned with a single-cylinder engine. “But it took the longest to do,” he said. “Sometimes it’s been a labour of hate rather than of love, but it’s all been worth it.”
He started with more conventional tractors; an Allis-Chalmers B, then followed that with a Nuffield which he had for 30 years. A David Brown came and went, too. “I had to sell it because the guy offered me such a ridiculous price,” he added, “but I do like European tractors as well, like Hanomags and Vendeuvres.”
As for the Newman, it seems to have found Derek, rather than the other way around. He was at a ploughing match at Rowde one day, where he met a chap who’d heard that Derek collected unusual tractors, and mentioned that had one he might be interested in. What surprised him was that Derek actually knew what the Newman was – a British tricycle tractor from the late 1940s and early ‘50s, of which few have survived.
The owner had bought it from a market garden in Radstock, where it had been abandoned outdoors, having long since stopped working. He and a mate took it home, stripped it down, all enthusiastic as people often are at that stage of a project. They apparently resprayed some of it, but then left it in pieces. This pile of parts was what confronted Derek when he went to see the Newman, at which point he understood why the seller had laughed when he’d been asked whether it still ran!
“It was a pile of bits in the barn. I didn’t even know if everything was there, so I made an offer and, after a bit of haggling, we agreed on £1,000.” Derek and a friend, Steve Poole, went to collect the tractor, and transferred the remains to a shed where they then sat for almost three years before the restoration actually began.
A lucky find!
Derek decided on a ‘dry build’ first, which was just as well as the process revealed that a lot of parts were missing. Things like the wheel clamps, which position and bolt the wheel securely to the splined axle, weren’t there. The originals were cast alloy, but someone had overtightened them, cracking the soft material and, all that was left was half of one. To cast new ones would have cost a fortune, but Derek found a machine shop in Salisbury which produced some out of solid steel – stronger than the originals – and, once painted, they looked no different from standard.
The Newman was powered by a Coventry Victor diesel engine, which was included in the pile of bits. But, unfortunately, it was in a bad state and, when tow-started, blew oil out of every orifice! Unfortunately, no spares were available, and things looked so hopeless that Derek almost gave up with the entire project.
Thankfully, though, Steve came to the rescue. He happened to have a 10hp Lister ST1 engine going spare which looked promising, but would it fit? Also, did it run anti-clockwise, like the Victor? The answer was yes to both questions, which was just as well, as an engine driving clockwise through the Newman transmission would have delivered three reverse speeds (one of them unnervingly fast) and just one forward. As for the original engine, that wasn’t thrown away. The alloy was polished beautifully by a friend in the village, and is now used as a static exhibit.
With a bit of thought, the Lister fitted fine, as it bolted straight to the chassis rails, just needing a cover to be made up for the flywheel. It had originally come out of an old road sweeper; the sort designed to be towed behind a tractor. It needed a new barrel and piston but, fortunately, Lister spares are easier to come by. At one point, Derek found another Coventry Victor single being displayed as a stationary engine at the Welland Show, which he bought. “I thought ‘wonderful’, I’ve got an original engine and can return it to standard, but when I started it, I found it ran clockwise!”
The Lister works fine, though, and certainly seems to suit the Newman. Soon after restoring the trike, Derek took it to the working section of the Ore Show at Pewsey, in Wiltshire. He said: “I put the tool bar in and, with the machine pointing up a slope, selected first gear and the tractor pulled it with no problem whatsoever. It was doing so well that I kept on lowering the bar until it was set at its full depth, and the tractor still pulled it.”
The toolbar certainly works, with its height adjustable on the move (though not easily, according to Derek). The only problem is the effort needed to raise it, as there are no hydraulics. Instead, a very long operating arm is supposed to give the leverage needed. “Oh, you’ve got to be a muscle-man to use it – I need two hands,” he says. “It’s heavy as hell, needs two blokes to lift it, but we do know that it actually works. And when it’s working, it’s balanced beautifully. You can look right down at it and see what you’re doing; none of this twisting behind to see a towed tool.”
The toolbar came with the tractor, as did all the tool attachments, which apparently was quite a find. Jim Van Heusen, who used to hold the UK Newman Register, thinks it might be the only genuine Newman toolbar to have survived. Working a trailed tool could be difficult in any case, as the trike is big by horticultural standards, and the driver sits high, so it might be tricky to reach back and make adjustments.
As for the tractor, the single-wheel steering is light, and it pulls well with the 10hp Lister running through a basic, three-speed ‘box, albeit not very fast on the road. “If you show it a hill, you have to go down into second gear,” says Derek, “and the only trouble is there’s a big gap between second and third.”
Patience was key
So, the Newman was running fine, but the tinwork needed a lot of attention. The bonnet’s original frame was OK, but the skin was too frayed to be welded. “I could push my finger straight through in places,” says Derek, adding that, “the tractor had been left out in the open for 30 years. Even the bottoms of the rims were rotted through.”
Where do you find new Newman rims? Fortunately, some research revealed that David Brown Cropmaster rims would fit, and had the same profile. Steve did the work, cutting the lugs off the DB rims and welding on new ones to suit the Newman centres. “There were times when I nearly abandoned the whole thing because there were problems like that, and it all took so long. It was almost like everything you looked at was a problem. Fortunately, my wife – Rosie – kept encouraging me, so we got it finished.”
“But I do like the challenge posed by the more unusual tractors.” To illustrate the point, Derek recalls how the wing edges were moth-eaten by rust and, of course, this isn’t a Fergie, and you can’t just go and buy new ones off the shelf. A friend with an English Wheel had already made up a new bonnet for him, but fixing the wings was more difficult as the originals had rolled edges, and there wasn’t the equipment to do it.
However, there’s often a solution if you think out of the box. In this case, a friend of Derek’s is a fencing contractor, and he had a good supply of very thick wire. This was carefully welded along the edges of the wings, and the result ground-down until it looked like a properly rolled edge – it certainly fooled me!
“That took weeks of playing around with,” said Derek, “and it was the same with the brake covers, which were half rotted away. I spent ages chopping out bits of metal, getting new pieces to fit properly and then welding them into place. I was chuffed when it was all finished, though, because I’d never really done much welding before.” Patience, and a determination to work with what he had, eventually did the trick. Compared to that, the footplates were more straightforward, just flat plates with two, 90° bends, for which the vice was enough.
Derek painted the tractor himself, except for the bonnet which was done professionally as a birthday present. “I usually hand-paint everything, but my friend Keith took the bonnet away without my knowing and sprayed it beautifully in grey. It was a lovely surprise.” Derek added the script himself, and hand-painted all the blue parts. Apparently, according to Jim Van Huesen, some Newmans left the factory in red with yellow wheels. In fact, so few were made that Newman would paint them any colour you wanted. “I don’t think there’s actually a standard colour for them, apart from rust,” added Rosie.
It’s thought that about 200 Newman trikes were built, some of which were fitted with a flat-twin petrol engine, instead of the diesel-powered single. A few have been discovered in Australia, but Jim has only been able to trace a dozen Newmans surviving across the world. So, this machine is very different from the norm, certainly rare and, for Derek Hiscock, it was a restoration that’s proved to have been well worth all the effort.
With thanks to Steve Poole, Kym Phelps and Keith Stone.
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