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40 years old and going strong

Published on 09 December 2015

40 years old and going strong

LIVERPOOL Plains grain growers, Don and Todd Finlay, reckon they have a fail-safe plan if their harvesting contractor fails to show up on time this season. Proud owners of two of the oldest working CLAAS DOMINATOR 106 combine harvesters in Australia, both men say they would have no hesitation in putting the mint-condition machines to work.

Despite being more than 40 years old, one of the machines is ready to go at a moment’s notice and the other could be recommissioned within a matter of hours. “We’ve been using a contractor for the past five years so we haven’t used them for a while, but mine is always ready to go, just in case,” Todd Finlay says. “We charged the battery this morning and it started first pop. I could have this in the paddock and harvesting 20 tonnes/hour within an hour. Now that it’s out, we might rip into the wheat for a bit of fun. As for Dad’s machine, it would probably take more time to get it out of the shed than to service it. Seriously, we’d only have to charge the battery, check the oil, water and hydraulics and clean the radiator.”

Don and Todd Finlay plant about 2000 ha of sorghum and 800 ha of wheat each year on their properties, ‘Gli-Don’ and ‘Marlo’, just outside Mullaley in northern NSW. Don purchased his first CLAAS combine harvester, a MATADOR GIGANT, in 1963. 

One of the first large-scale combine harvesters, it boasted a 87 hp six-cylinder diesel engine, six-metre front, 4.2 square metre straw walker area and a 2700 L grain tank. Its modular design and adjustable threshing concave enabled it to be used in a wide range of crops, including cereals, canola, rice and corn.

Don upgraded it to a DOMINATOR 105 in 1977, which in turn, was replaced by DOMINATOR 106 in 1984. Launched in 1970, the DOMINATOR series helped to cement CLAAS as a global leader in grain harvesting technology. The series remained in production for more than 40 years and grew to include more than 30 variants, including the individually-named COMMANDER and MEGA series.

The DOMINATOR 106 boasted a 200 hp engine, hydrostatic drive, a 7.62 m (25’) front, six straw walkers and a 6200 L grain bin. Its 1.58 metre wide threshing drum set new benchmarks for harvesting performance.

Much of the technology found on today’s CLAAS LEXION 700 series, including accelerated pre-separation threshing, auto contour control and ‘3D’ cleaning, originated in the DOMINATOR. Importantly, it was one of the first combine harvesters to feature an air-conditioned factory-fitted cabin, complete with suspended seat, electronic controls and importantly, a wireless and cassette player. “Back in the 1980s, this was the best technology available,” Todd Finlay says. “You couldn’t buy a bigger or more productive combine harvester. “It doesn’t sound much, but it had an electronic control for ‘up’ and ‘down’ and a reverse button for the feeder house. Some modern machines still haven’t caught up.”

All told, Don and Todd have chalked up more than 35,000 harvesting hours on their four CLAAS combines. “We ran the MATADOR around the clock for nine months of the year and it never missed a beat,” Don Finlay says. “We did something like 17,000 hours in the MATADOR, 8000 hours in the 105 and 7000 in the 106 before we put it in the shed about 15 years ago. The only reason it was retired was because Todd purchased his own 106 and I was relegated to driving the truck.”

Todd is equally enthused about the reliability of his 106. “I got this at a clearing sale with only 3000 hours on the clock, so it was virtually brand new,” he says. “I’ve done another 2500 hours and the only thing we’ve done apart from routine maintenance is to fit a reconditioned engine. It would be interesting to see how many of the new harvesters from today will still be around in 40 years.”

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