CAST 435L Tractor
When you think of products from Italy, tractors probably don’t immediately come to mind, yet over the years some of the most unusual and effective tractors have come from there.
The CAST vineyard tractor was a side product from Officine di Casaralta, more commonly known as Casaralta. The company started in 1919 and was best known for manufacturing railroad products; rail cars, locomotives and trams. According to most sources, they formed an offshoot company and began the design and manufacture of a small tractor around 1964. Called CAST S.p.A the tractor company name came from a combination of “CAS” from Casaralta and “T” for trattori, Italian for tractor. S.p.A. is an Italian abbreviation similar to “Inc.”
Available documentation is sparse, not helped by the fact that Casaralta changed hands several times in the ‘70s and ‘80s, was absorbed by another company in 1993 and completely shut down in 2001. It’s generally held that CAST tractors were built to around 1975 and many think the United States was it’s largest market. Again, the documentation is sparse but through the efforts of a Hoosier named Dale Mercer, a tractor collector who ran across a CAST in 2012, we know a bit more.
Mercer has turned up most of what’s known about CAST entering the U.S. market. Mercer’s theory is that CAST was having trouble selling in their own market and made a play in overseas markets. RECO Sales, a large lawn and garden power equipment retailer in Indianapolis, was approached to represent CAST here. They bought one tractor, tried it out, liked it, made suggestions for changes and when CAST agreed to make them, made a deal to buy more. The changes included a higher load rating (probably accounting for the suspension changes)., a U.S. Cat 1 rear lift system, more wheel clearance under the fenders for larger tires, swinging drawbar, hydraulic remotes, a tach and hour meter.
The CAST is seen in the U.S. in two models, the 430L, which was the first model imported in significant numbers perhaps as early as 1968, and the 435L, which came in 1970 or 1971. Mercer found evidence of an earlier model, the 420, which apparently was not imported, and it differed in many ways from the 430L and 435L, most notably in having the original torsion bar only rather than coil spring updated suspension, and those differences in the sheet metal.
The CAST was four-wheel drive and four-wheel steer, with a seat that pivoted around the steering station so the operator could face either direction. The other controls could be operated in either position. The CAST tractor’s original stated purpose was as a vineyard or orchard tractor and, as such, faced a lot of competition in the Italian market. Here, RECO advertised it as a multi-purpose utility tractor and offered a wide variety of attachments. These included a 9-foot backhoe, 8-foot forklift, loader, rotary tiller, 72-inch mower deck, 60 or 72-inch flail mowers, post hole digger, rotary tiller, rotary sweeper, trencher, grader blade, snow blower, tree shear and even a cab.
The CAST was powered by a Slanzi two-cylinder diesel. The Slanzi was a direct injected, air-cooled inline of 81 cubic inches (1447cc). The Slanzi was backed up by a three-speed transmission with a two-speed range box and a shuttle shift lever. It had four-wheel independent suspension. It came standard with a 540 rpm PTO and had an optional 9 GPM hydraulic pump. Hydrostatic power steering was optional, apparently added by RECO as an option.
The few reports we have seen tell us the CAST is a good utility tractor, suitable for many tasks on small farms or acreages, as well as for construction/industrial uses. It truly was a “universal” implement and Mercer reports having found the tractors in some unusual vocations, such as being operated inside gypsum mines. Another was use in high-rise construction in New York, where compact dimensions made it possible for them to be moved via elevator or crane and the versatility of the attachments made them useful for moving gear inside of a building under construction.
Though it’s a “collector” tractor, Mercer puts the one pictured to good use on his country homestead. He found it in 2012 buried under a pile of junk and it hadn’t run in a long while but had only 214 hours showing. He got it operational in 2014, after two years of work. It’s now showing over 800 hours, so it’s no hanger queen. He regularly uses a brush hog with it and when the emerald ash borer killed over 100 trees in his woods, he found the CAST could carry three 6-foot logs on the three point hitch, maneuver through the trees and cross a muddy creek with the load.
1970 CAST 435L
Engine: 2-cylinder, air-cooled, DI, Slanzi DVA1500T
Displacement: 81.16 ci (1447cc)
Bore & Stroke: 3.622 x 3.937 in.
Flywheel Power: 32 hp @ 2600 rpm
Compression Ratio: 17:1
Transmission: 6-speed (3×2)
Weight: 2,500 lbs. (base tractor)
Wheelbase: 45.6 in.
LxWxH: 103.9 x 48.6 x 40 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal.
Fuel Consumption: 0.75 gph @ full power
Top Speed: 13 mph