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World's largest farm tractor coming to Kalispell

by JEREMY WEBER
Daily Inter Lake | June 19, 2021 12:00 AM

It stands 14 feet tall, holds 1,000 gallons of fuel and can work close to an acre-and-a-half a minute.

At 36,000 pounds, its eight 8-foot-tall tires alone weigh as much as a conventional farm tractor. The Big Bud 747 is the largest farm tractor ever built and it is coming to Kalispell.

Owned by Robert and Randy Williams of Big Sandy, the Guiness World Record holder as the largest farm tractor will be on display at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Trade Center Building July 2-5 from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day.

“My daughters Lisa and Mandy, who live in Kalispell, wanted to try to do something for their community while also representing their roots in the eastern part of Montana,” Robert Williams said. “They think that it is great that Big Bud was built in Montana and is part of the history of farming here and they want to share that with everyone.”

The 100,000-pound behemoth built by Ron Harmon and the crew of the Northern Manufacturing Co. of Havre in 1977, Big Bud originally was produced with a price tag of $300,000 for the cotton-farming Rossi brothers in Bakersfield, California.

After a stint with Willowbrook Farms in Indlantic, Florida, the Williams brothers brought Big Bud home to work their large farm in Choteau County in 1997, less than 40 miles from where it originally was manufactured.

After a slight rebuild, including a new paint job, chrome stacks, and a whopping new 900-plus horsepower engine, the Williams brothers put Big Bud to work.

“We just kind of spiffed it up and took it out and farmed with it,” Robert Williams said. “This tractor has never just sat around. It has worked its whole life.”

PULLING AN 80-foot tiller at speeds up to 8 miles per hour, Big Bud can work approximately 1.4 acres of ground per minute with a fuel economy of three-quarters of a gallon per acre.

While the large tractor was purchased to help cut down the manpower needed to operate the family’s large farm, the Williamses soon found all kinds of unexpected visitors showing up at their door.

“After a few years, people started coming out just to see the tractor,” Robert Williams said. “We entertained a lot of people from all over the world and wound up having one or two hundred people a year coming all the way out to Montana just to see Big Bud. It was a bit disruptive, but we were able to handle it.”

Big Bud was the workhorse of the Williamses’ farm for years until a unique issue finally brought it to a halt. The United Tire Co. of Canada, which had built Big Bud’s one-of-a-kind set of massive tires in 1977, went out of business in 2000.

“Big Bud actually has a very simple design, just like all of the company’s tractors. Just about anyone with any farming experience can work on it and keep it running. The components are easy to find and rebuild. Our largest problem was finding replacement tires,” Robert Williams said.

With its original set of tires degrading, the Williams brothers had no choice but to retire Big Bud and elected to put the tractor on display at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.

BIG BUD was down, but not out. The Williams brothers set to work producing new wheels, spacers and, with the help of Goodyear, Big Bud is now the owner of eight Goodyear LSW1400/30r46, the world’s largest agricultural tires.

The tractor returned to the fields of the Williams brothers’ farm this summer.

After its trip to Kalispell, Big Bud will return to the Farm Progress Show in Illinois, but according to Robert Williams, even with the new tires, the family plans to retire Big Bud soon and are hoping to make Kalispell its new home. He said the family is looking for a facility that could possibly put Big Bud on display here permanently.

“If you look at the tractor, it has an engine that was built in Detroit. The tractor was built in Havre and the tires were made in Iowa. This tractor is 100% American-made, which is pretty rare these days,” Robert Williams said. “We want people to be able to share in that by putting Big Bud on display for everyone to see.”

Reporter Jeremy Weber may be reached at 758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com.

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Built in Havre in 1977, the Big Bud 747 is the largest farm tractor ever built. Big Bud will be on display at the Flathead County Fairground July 2-5. (photo provided)

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Built in Havre in 1977, the Big Bud 747 is the largest farm tractor ever built. Big Bud will be on display at the Flathead County Fairground July 2-5. (photo provided)