Massive tractor auction<br>attracts worldwide interest

Laura White
Laura White

If you’re a farmer, smallholder or simply an enthusiast of vintage vehicles, Middlecott Farm in Ashwater is the place to be on Saturday, 4th September, when a collection of 83 Ford tractors and miscellaneous farm machinery goes under the hammer in 188 lots and what is anticipated to be the biggest dispersal of Ford tractors from one single vendor in the whole of the UK so far this year.

The collection, which has been amassed over the last 30 years, is the pride and joy of Devon farmer Philip Warren who, after a heart attack in March this year that resulted in him having seven stents fitted, persuaded the 77-year-old to make a life changing decision.

“I was in Barnstaple Hospital for several weeks following my heart attack and did a lot of thinking while I was there,” said Philip, who continues to manage 70 head of beef cattle over 180 acres.

“I decided that I needed to sort the tractors out, because it wouldn’t be fair to leave the collection to my three daughters should the worst happen to me.”

Originally from Monkton Combe near Bath before moving to Middlecott Farm in 1976, Philip explained how his passionate obsession with Ford tractors began.

“The collection started by chance in 1989 when I purchased my first Ford 5000 Select-O-Speed from a Kivells sale in Pyworthy. From that date on I became interested in Ford tractors having been so pleased with my purchase.

Philip Warren

In 1991 Andrew, the son of Philip and his wife Kath, tragically took his own life on the farm aged just 22. Philip sought a distraction from the domestic sadness and so bought a second tractor, the collection then ‘snowballed’, and the rest is history.

Each of the 83 vehicles has a story to tell, but one tractor particularly closest to Philip’s heart is lot 110, a Ford 4000 which bears the registration ‘KAF 294E’, a nod to his wife Kath. In November 2019, after almost 54 years of marriage, Kath sadly passed away after suffering a series of mini strokes five years earlier.

“I’m not saying the sale won’t be an emotional day,” acknowledged Philip recalling his wife’s sad passing, “but I’m 110% sure that I’m doing the right thing. Life will go on without the tractors.
I have enormously enjoyed collecting, restoring and tinkering with them all and hope the buyers at the sale will benefit in the same way I have for so many years. They still carry plenty of scope for improvement and further restoration.”

With Philip’s collection starting at a Kivells auction in 1989, it seems only fitting that 32 years later, the same firm has been tasked with closing the final chapter on this fascinating story.Reputed to be one of, or if not the largest, single manufacturer private collections to come to the market for several decades, the completely unique sale will include 35 Ford 4000’s, 31 Ford 3000’s and 10 Ford 5000’s, plus four Ford 5000’s in kit form, a Ford 655 Special and what Philip believes to be his ‘star lot’, a Ford 7810 4WD with only 4,500 hours on the clock.

There’s probably enough spares to build a few more tractors too together with two intriguing lots numbered 35 and 41 respectively – ‘A pile of scrap’ and ‘Eight buckets of nuts and bolts!

Kivells director, David Kivell ,who along with colleague and fellow auctioneer James Morrish, will be conducting the on-site auction at Middlecott Farm for the West Country firm recalled: “I have known Philip all my working career, being some 35 years.” said David.

“He often reminds me of my first day selling cattle in Holsworthy Market with my father (Peter) standing over my shoulder and me apparently ‘looking terrified’!

‘In Phil I have had the honour of serving one of the most loyal customers who has stuck with me through thick and thin, good and bad trades and for that I will be eternally grateful as I was when he asked me to carry out the dispersal of his collection of Ford tractors and associated parts.

‘When preparing for the sale back in June I attended Middlecott Farm to photograph the individual tractors when his grandson turned up from London and made the observation, ‘Grandpa, I knew you had a passion for tractors but didn’t realise it was an obsession’!”

Philip attended so many of Kivell’s machinery sales over the years that those who know him accepted that it’s not an ‘obsession’ but an ‘extreme hobby gone out of control’! Nevertheless, Phil’s passion for his ‘hobby’ has made him extremely knowledgeable on this particular range of tractors. The dispersal has already attracted huge local, national and overseas interest from fellow enthusiasts wishing to bid in person, over the telephone or online via the live-streaming service MartEye.

Viewing ahead of Saturday’s sale is on Friday, 3rd September, from 10am until 4pm.

Depending on the weather, the tractors will be sold as they stand outside or undercover in a drive-through style auction, with seating arranged for up to 300 people. Catering will be provided throughout the day and there is plenty of level car parking.

The sale will be held at Middlecott Farm, Ashwater, Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5DX. For further information or to download the catalogue, please visit or call Kivells Holsworthy office on 01409 253275.

Local Life