based on information from Mark Bird and available literature; graphics and materials provided by Hans Ensing
The Farmobile was a simple, low-cost agricultural truck, originally designed by agricultural machinery maker Fahr. They used the BMW Isetta’s 697 cc engine (0.7 liters), and a Porsche-patented four-speed manual gearbox. Mark Bird wrote, “The Farmobile actually has more in common wtih BMW’s 700 car than any other vehicle, sharing its entire engine and transmission, brakes, wheels, and transmission shift lever mechanism, supplied to Fahr by BMW.”
The horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine, adapted from the BMW R67 motorcycle, generated a peak 35 SAE horsepower at 5,000 rpm with 37 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm, from its 42 cubic inches; it had a wet sump, pressure-feed lubrication system with air cooling and a single downdraft carburetor.
The gearbox was synchronized in all forward gears, using a single-disc dry plate clutch. Gear ratios were 3.54, 1.94, 1.27, and 0.84 (reverse was also 3.54:1); the rear axle ratio was 6.5:1. While the horsepower rating was not the stuff of sports cars, the light weight — 1,280 pounds sans doors and top — must have given it acceptable acceleration, along with a two-thirds ton capacity.
A ZF Gemmer-type steering system had divided tie bars and a 12.3:1 ratio. All four wheels had a hydraulic leading and trailing internal shoe system; a mechanical handbrake operated on rear wheels. An automatic differential lock was optional. Steel 3.5 x 12 inch wheels were used.
Windshield wipers were electrically driven, off the 12-volt system. Turn signals were included in front and rear; in the rear they were combined with brake lights. The fusebox and light switch were in the middle of the cab. The heating system included a windshield defroster.
The body was all steel and all welded; reinforced steel crossmembers were welded with the bottom part and frame. The doors were removeable with detachable side screens; the safety-glass windshield could fold down.
To keep costs low, the vehicle was designed with welded, ribbed flat panels, avoiding stamping, though the prototypes had a more curved body.
The Farmobil was also sold in Austria and Switzerland by Steyr, under their own name, and in Germany, Italy, and other markets by BMW, under their own name.
Fahr found it impractical to build the Farmobile themselves, as tractors were mainly made from castings; they put production rights out to tender and Peter Kondorgouris, who was making low volume vehicles in Greece, won manufacturing rights. Kondorgouris formed Farco to build the Farmobil.
Chrysler International purchased Farco; Mark Bird believes it was to use the Germany-based company as a wedge to sell Chrysler cars in Germany more easily. Shortly afterwards, however, Ford pulled out of France’s SIMCA, and Chrysler bought their share (later acquiring the full company); since SIMCA was already established in Germany, Chrysler switched to using them and had no need for Farmobil. For a time, Farmobils were sold through SIMCA in France.
Production took place in Thessalonika, Greece, from 1962 to 1966. While the Farmobile made the rounds of auto shows (including Paris), Greece was not part of the EEC, and import duty costs raised the price. The idea came up to build it at the Rotterdam plant, but it never happened despite a test program and spare parts organized in the Antwerp parts depot. Fewer than a thousand vehicles were produced.
Hans’ personal (not official) opinion is that the vehicle was too
expensive for volume sales with an BMW engine and Porsche-designed transmission. He said that there were
contacts in those days with Dutch car and truck manufacturer DAF to
buy their engine, but nothing materialized. One reason may be that International Trucks took a share of DAF in those days, and some years later the DAF Pony was introduced, seeking similar markets. The Pony was also not very successful. Regardless of the reason, the Farmobil was never built in Rotterdam,
and the Greece operation also disappeared.
From other sources
Chrysler advertised the vehicle as “a forest ranger, and a mountaineer. It’s a power plant, a crop sprayer, a mobile shop, a tractor, a safari wagon. It can deliver mail to isolated areas, or operate a milling machine in the fields.”
They also pointed to its low center of gravity, weight distribution, and low cargo floor.
After acquiring Farco in 1963 through its Hellas subsidiary, Chrysler made many changes to improve the engineering. Chrysler claimed the Farmobil could “handle hills, ravines, mountains, poor roads, no roads. In Greece, they call the Farmobil a motorized goat.”
Advertisements called attention to its versatility and its low cost. Chrysler claimed the Farmobil could handle front and rear slope angles of 30°, and a 25% grade while loaded — a 50% grade when unloaded.
The Farmobil had an independent suspension, with an efficient air-cooled engine easily accessible for maintenance. It could, the company claimed, easily be converted from farm truck to six-passenger car. It had a unit-body chassis, and high ground clearance. The engine sat in back and drove the rear wheels, its weight helping traction.
Rootes Group was apparently interested in the Farmobil for domestic production, and imported two of them in 1965, fitting them with Imp engines; but they were not satisfied and let it fall by the wayside. Critics were generally impressed, mainly with its versatility; it was not meant for high speeds, but apparently could handle anything it might come across in agriculture, including, despite the rear wheel drive, mud.
A full-torque power takeoff, positioned centrally or to the rear, allowed farmers or other workers to use the Farmobil as a stationary power plant, running saws, farm equipment, pumps, or other machinery.
(The Farmobil is also covered by the Imp Site and this Farmobil site. Images on this page were provided from Chrysler materials by Hans Ensing.)
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