No museum piece, ‘Bulldog’ has power to spare
AS ENTRIES for the 2017 Killarney Motor Show on October 15 continue to flood organisers’ desks, the 58 hectares of motorsport real estate seems certain to house the biggest exhibition of its kind in the Cape.
The Lanz tractor factory in Mannheim, Germany, began production of its “Bulldog” in the 1920s. It acquired such a reputation that a farmer on the West Coast in 1935 bought two crawlers to assist with the harvesting of his crops.
One was sold to a dealer in Lambert’s Bay, who eventually exported it, while the other remains the property of the farmer’s grandsons, the Koegelenberg brothers, in Clanwilliam.
Believed to be the only Lanz crawler in South Africa still in working condition, the siblings’ vehicle will be on show at Killarney next month, where it has been entered into the tractor tugof-war competition.
So, what is the difference between the Bulldog and more conventional tractors that perform the same type of work? Well, the Lanz Bulldog is powered by a huge single cylinder, horizontal, two-stroke motor.
The original engine was a 6.3 litre, 12-horsepower unit but as the Bulldog evolved and gained in popularity, its engine was gradually increased to an awesome 10.3 litres and 55 horsepower.
Imagine the size and weight of that single, giant cast-iron piston. But then it only revs to 750 rpm, and has a maximum speed of just 7km/h.
But those are not the most unusual features of the unit. The motor starts by means of a hot bulb that is heated with a blow lamp. Once the temperature is hot enough, the steering wheel and its rod are removed and the latter is inserted into the central cavity of the large external flywheel.
The driver – who is usually also the starter – then cranks the steering wheel until the engine fires. This could sometimes take quite... a long while.
However, the starter/driver must be sufficiently experienced before he is entrusted with the job, because the motor can be started to revolve clockwise or in the opposite direction of rotation.
In other words, giving it the same speed backwards as it has going forwards. The problem is that the oil pump is not operational in reverse. Which, obviously, is terminal if not attended to very quickly.
While the hot-bulb engines were crude, they were easy to maintain and could burn a wide variety of low grade fuels and lubricants.
This proved a huge benefit to the farming communities. The story goes that the Koegelenbergs have already been offered R20 million by a foreign buyer for their unit. They politely refused.
Don’t miss seeing this Bulldog in action at the Killarney Motor Show.
VISIONARY: Dexter Davis, the chief executive of D Street Media
RELIC: A 1935 Lanz Bulldog crawler tractor will be in action during the tractor tug-of-war competition at the 2017 Killarney Motor Show.