Bunce of Ashbury, near Swindon, delivers the SEP 1700 Special to us. Well known as a manufacturer of snow clearance equipment and road gritters, Bunce has been marketing Italian-made SEP tractors for more than 20 years and sells the machines to professional gardeners, organic growers, landscapers and local authorities.
The unit arrives on a small trailer. One of the testers studies the controls and inspects the construction. “It looks robust and well put together. It’s nice and compact, and it is easy to find your way around the controls — that’s always useful when you are using a new bit of kit,” he confirms. Holding down the red lever that is clearly the operator presence control (OPC), he gives the 1700 a little throttle and pulls the recoil. The 11hp Acme petrol engine fires into life.
This two-wheeler has four forward gears and one reverse, with neutral between each gear. With the Berta rotary plough fitted, our tester works his way up the plot. Then he selects reverse gear and manoeuvres the unit backwards before ploughing a second strip. An extra safety device ensures that the tine rotation is halted before allowing reverse gear to be engaged.
“There’s a lot of power here and it certainly ploughs at a nice pace,” says the tester. “The blades throw the soil up and it leaves a lovely finish. I am really impressed with the machine and what it does.”
Next he tries the 75cm rotary tiller. Swapping attachments does not involve tools — simply turn the quick-release handle, wheel the tractor unit away from one attachment, line it up with the next and re-lock the handle. “Easy as pie,” says the tester. Differential lock control lever and individual wheel brakes allow easy turns at the end of a run and give the unit a manoeuvrability that our tester likes.
One of the things that impresses our tester is the ease with which the handlebar height can be adjusted. By gripping a single lever, he is able to lift or lower the handlebars to attain a comfortable working position whatever the conditions. Sideways adjustment to left or right means the operator does not walk over the freshly cultivated soil. It also allows work along fences and obstacles with no fear of scraped knuckles.
Pleased with the results of the cultivation, the tester tries grass cutting. By rotating the handlebars through 180?, he places the PTO shaft at the front of the machine and fits the heavy-duty ESM 137cm sicklebar mower. At a good walking pace, the tester mows through tall nettles and thistles.
“This is a nice heavy-duty piece of kit and it’s got a smashing engine on it,” he says. “It’s ideal for conservation work or for anyone with a wide range of tasks to complete.”
The SEP 1700 Special can also be supplied with nine-horsepower Lombardini petrol engine or 7.7hp Yanmar, 10hp Lombardini, or 11hp Ruggerini diesel engines. The range of attachments includes tillers, ploughs, sicklebar mowers, rotary mowers, sweepers and snow throwers and blades.
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