Labour of love – the team behind the award-winning Super Dexta tractor
18th December 2023
After an antifreeze check at Ken Cook’s farm , a chance conversation over a cup of tea started a “labour of love” on a beautiful vintage tractor – and the restoration led to a string of victories at machinery shows throughout 2023.
Friends Ken Cook, David and Jenna Filby combined forces to restore a wrecked 1962 Fordson Super Dexta tractor to its former glory.
The tractor, originally found abandoned inside an outbuilding of Ken’s Suffolk farm, won four awards between May and November of 2023. The success was a complete surprise to the trio, inspiring more show visits next year and more restoration projects in the years to come.
A chance conversation
Ken, now in his ninth decade, met David 12 years ago during a machinery delivery to Ken’s workplace and they quickly became friends, with their common love of tractors building a strong foundation.
After a conversation with a cup of tea, Ken was asked if he knew anyone who had an old Super Dexta for sale. After revealing he might himself have one, David headed towards the outbuilding to take a look.
“David went out to look at the tractor, and when he came back, his eyes nearly popped out like organ stops! It was just what they were looking for!” said Ken.
David described how they stumbled across Ken’s tractor: “We had been looking about for Super Dexta tractors and had not made much progress. We popped in for a cup of tea at Ken’s and there just happened to be a Super Dexta in the shed, I couldn’t believe it! We’d been looking for ages and there it was. It all went from there really.” Jenna, David’s partner, had fuelled the hunt for a Super Dexta; she had her eye on this particular model.
“She’d been driving around for a little while in my Major tractor. After a little while she decided she wanted her own one, and got her heart set on a Super Dexta.”
“The blue ones!” exclaimed Jenna. “Oh my!” was her response when she first saw the tractor in Ken’s outbuilding. “A regular Dexta would have been lovely as well, but it was the fact it was a Super Dexta that made this such an amazing discovery for us.”
The Super Dexta restoration and reunion
The tractor arrived at David and Jenna’s place in early November and they worked solidly on the machine throughout the winter months.
The duo used the original parts wherever possible, only having to replace typical wear and tear items such as tyres. The panelling and large dent in the front of the tractor made life particularly difficult, leading to lots of long evenings toiling away. By March, the Super Dexta ‘Rose’, named after Ken’s late wife, was complete.
“We decided we’d surprise Ken,” David explained. “We unloaded the Super Dexta down the road and Jenna stayed with it. I thought he was going to smell a rat because of an empty trailer and Jenna was nowhere to be seen, but he didn’t cotton on straight away. As he popped outside his door, there was Jenna in the Super Dexta driving down his driveway.”
“I welled up, I was overcome, I couldn’t help it,” said Ken. “It took me completely by surprise to see such a transformation in such a short period of time.”
On how it was to drive, Jenna said: “It’s lovely, it whips along. It’s had lots of road runs and keeps up with other newer tractors. When it hits 25mph it can be a little scary when you are bouncing through potholes!”
Unexpected success at four shows
With all the hard work out of the way, David and Jenna were looking forward to showing the tractor at the upcoming local rallies. Ken joined them, of course. Winning was not necessarily on their minds. David regularly attends such events, sometimes with something to show for the love of being involved.
Events immediately altered their expectations after winning ‘best non-steam exhibit’ at the Strumpshaw show in May, closely followed by ‘best tractor in show’ at the Woolpit Steam Rally in early June and ‘best newcomer’ at Haddenham Steam Rally in early September to cap a brilliant spring and summer of tractor showing.
With the year’s end approaching, David and Jenna took the Super Dexta to one last show; the Newark Vintage Tractor Show.
Despite the show comfortably attracting 1,000 exhibits each year, Ken was quietly confident about the couple’s chances. “Something told me that they would be successful again. I asked David if there was a weigh bridge at the entrance to the show” with a glint in his eye. “He could weigh in upon arriving, weigh out upon leaving, and know the weight of the cup they’d won.”
Upon being awarded ‘best Ford and Fordson in show’ Jenna was overcome with emotion. “We spoke to the judge afterwards, he said he couldn’t find fault with it.
“David is incredible at what he does but to hear that from a judge intending to find a 1000 series, couldn’t find one he liked, then couldn’t find anything that stood out in unrestored, so went against all of his own expectations, to pick up our Dexta.”
The future is vintage
David and Jenna already have another tractor restoration project underway, although they kept its identity fully under wraps. Meanwhile, the Super Dexta is likely to make its next appearance at the World Tractor Show in Malvern early next year.
Whatever is in store for the future, Ken will never forget the experiences he has enjoyed with David, Jenna and Rose. “This last summer was the most enjoyable I can remember. And that’s purely because of David, Jenna and the Super Dexta.”
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