THE TRACTOR FACTOR

From innovation to expedition

A TRAILBLAZER HEADS HOME

An internal combustion tractor built in 1912 by the first Australian tractor makers, A.H McDonald, sold in the US at auction in June  2020 for $US 283,500 ($A 400,000) and may be returning home.

 
The McDonald EB 140 Imperial, then and now

The tractor, An EB Imperial, probably should not have been in the US at all, thought by some to have been shipped there in breach of the Moveable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

The tractor was sold at auction on 13 June by Aumann Auctions of Illinois. The buyer was not identified but confirmed by the auctioneers to be Australian which would be good news for those who campaigned for its return, including pleas for intervention by the Australian Government.

This is how Aumann Auctions listed the tractor:

“A. H. McDonald & Co. built this tractor and was Australia’s first tractor manufacturer. The company was founded in 1903 after Alfred Henry McDonald went into partnership with his brother, Ernest, to make electrical appliances in a small workshop in Melbourne. In 1905 they introduced a line of “Imperial” gasoline/kerosene stationary engines. In 1908 the company fitted its D-Type twin-cylinder engine into a four-wheel chassis, and the first McDonald “Imperial Oil Tractor” was born. Two years later, McDonald relocated to a new factory at Burnley, near Melbourne, which gave the company the space to increase production and continue experimenting with tractors. McDonald’s early tractors were inspired by British and American designs, particularly those produced by Saunderson, Hart-Parr and Big Four. Its second design of tractor, the Model EB of 1910, was influenced by the British Saunderson and was again powered by the “Imperial” D-Type twin-cylinder engine mounted transversely in the center of the frame. This tractor is an “Imperial” Model EB, one of just four known survivors. It was supplied new in 1912 to a farmer from Phillip Island (sic – actually Flinders Island), off Australia’s southern coast. This 1912 tractor has a two-cylinder vertical gasoline/kerosene engine with a 6.25 inch bore rated at 20 horsepower. It has 3 forward speeds and one reverse speed, weighing in at 10,080 pounds.”

There were more than 130 tractors and engines in the sale that was billed as a “Pre ’30 Auction of Tractors and Implements”.

The price paid for the Australian tractor was the second highest of the sale; the top price of $US 309,750 was for  an International Harvester  12 hp Type A tractor (pictured below), believed to be the only one surviving.

The auction was held on-line under coronovirus guidelines.

There were 61 bids for the Australian tractor. Including 16 from the eventual successful buyer whose opening bid was $US 76,000.

It remains unclear exactly how the EB Imperial found its way to the US.

Fewer than 20 EB tractors were made in Australia and the one sold in the US in June 2020, was built for the Chilcot family on French Island in Bass Strait off Victoria.

It was the first tractor made in Australia with an internal combustion engine, said to be “very crude, very basic” and was sold new in 1912. It left Australia for England in 2008, and it isn’t clear how it got to the US.

The Federal Department of Communications and Arts which administers heritage issues, is said to have acknowledged to a collector in Australia that it should not have been sent to the US. An error was made when the tractor was included by accident in an inventory compiled for other agricultural machinery for export.

Replying to assertions by an Australian person interested in bidding for the tractor at the US auction, Kurt Aumann of the auctioneers said: “It comes with a valid export certificate from 2008 when it went to your friends in England. We have recently been shown a letter from your government’s Department for Heritage that contradicts your statements. That letter stated the export was legal and that there is no intent to repatriate the tractor now or in the future. We have made all information available at all times. Our contact information, as you know, was given to the Department for Heritage so they could contact us personally. The only parties that have been critical of the sale of this tractor are a few collectors like yourself that interpret the law and/or actions taken differently …  Your argument should be with the person that sold it in Australia or your government agency that approved the export.”

A.H. McDonald was Australia’s first tractor manufacturer, starting production in 1908. The first tractor was powered by a McDonald D type twin cylinder petrol engine producing 20 HP. It had three forward gears and one reverse.

The original tractor was supplied in 1909 to J.H. Dardel, Batesford near Geelong. It was overhauled for him in McDonald’s workshop in 1912.

Another dozen models were produced to 1910.

Alfred Henry McDonald was born in 1883. His father was a baker and the family lived behind the shop in Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn.

  A. H. McDonald

He left school aged 14,  his father wanting him to work in the bakery. But Alf  wanted to be an engineer.

In 1898 he got an apprenticeship with Henri Galopin, “Scientific instrument maker to the Observatory,” in Chancery Lane, Melbourne, for a four year term.

He left Galopin to work for J.A. Newton, Electrical Engineers, for about a year where his spare time saw him at work in a shed behind his father’s bakery.

At first he made motors for dental drills, to replace the treadle.

A.H. McDonald & Co. was registered in 1903 and, he and younger brother Earnest set up a workshop in a rented room in Flinders St. Melbourne where they built their first petrol engine and generator set.

E. McDonald

Alf McDonald planned to go into production with a range of engines as soon as possible.

Just a year later, in July 1904,  the company  moved into a corrugated iron workshop at 221 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, and named it the Imperial Engine Works. A year later the first McDonald engine was built and was followed by about another 30  4 HP per engines by year’s end, including two, three and four cylinder versions.

In 1907, the D type 10 HP engine went into production. It  also was built in two, three and four cylinder versions.

A twin cylinder engine was chosen for the company’s first tractor in 1908. Tractors of various kinds were rolled out up to 1923.

In 1930 the larger models featured a new range of two-stroke engines from 10 HP to 75 HP.

In 1910 the company bought a large block of land in Stawell St, Richmond, and built a new, larger factory with a foundry capable of pouring castings weighing up to three tons.

Tractor production continued along with a line of road rollers for which the Company became famous.


An early McDonald road roller

The first “Super Diesel” horizontal engine appeared in 1918, and soon the range extended from 2 HP to 25 HP. They were successful for stationary use and road rollers, but too heavy to be suitable for tractors.

During the 1920’s, McDonalds imported tractors, firstly the Emmerson – Brantingham (E-B) from U.S.A,  later the Avance from Sweden. They starting building McDonald Imperial tractors again in 1930 with the TWB model, and from 1946 to 1955 the T6 series.

The company merged with Jaques Bros Ltd. (now Jaques Ltd, makers of quarry equipment) in 1969. Remaining McDonald products, mainly road rollers, continued to be made in their factory and sold by the McDonald Division.


The familiar McDonald three-point roller

The Division was later renamed Jaques McDonald and specialised in the distribution and hire of Road Construction Equipment, including McDonald road rollers.

FOOTNOTE: The first internal combustion tractors in Australia were English Ivels imported in 1903.

Big Lizzie

The McDonalds also were involving in creating the biggest Australian-made  tractor, contributing the massive gearing and bearing components.

Big Lizzie was going to be the first roadtrain when she was rolled out in 1916, destined to haul trailers laden with wool  from outlaying stations to Broken Hill in the far west of NSW, Australia. Instead, she became famous as the biggest tractor built in Australia, and probably the biggest in the world at that time.


Big Lizzie clearing land (above) and on display (below).

Lizzie was the brain-child of blacksmith Frank Bottrill. While working in the Broken Hill area he thought that something other than camels might be more adept at hauling the wool packs across sandhills, bogs and creek beds. Steam tractors couldn’t do the job; it needed a fresh approach. Big Lizzie was Bottrill’s answer, built over a year in the yards of A.H. McDonald & Co’s works in Melbourne.

She was a 34 ft (10.3 m) long, 11 ft (3.3 m) wide, weighed  45 tonnes and was powered by a 60 hp (44 kW) single cylinder crude oil engine. Lizzie would never set any speed records; 2 mph (3.2 km/h) was her best.

Bottrill set out for Broken Hill on a 550 km journey but never got there. Mechanical problems so delayed him that he reached Mildura in late 1917 only to find he couldn’t get across the Murray River and on to Broken Hill. So he set about carting wheat and other goods in the Mildura area.

Bottrill’s big break came in 1920 when he was awarded a contract to clear a large area of scrub near Redcliffs for a soldier settlement scheme.

According to Red Cliffs Historical Society notes, Lizzie arrived in July 1920 and went to work for World War 1 soldier settlers clearing new blocks.

Big Lizzie had a number of failings, including a maximum speed of one mile per hour, a huge turning circle and inadequate steering gear. Despite these problems, she was found to be very effective for the land clearing in the Mallee in the 1910s and 1920s. In 1920 the Victorian Government, through the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, contracted Bottrill to carry out a large scale clearing operation at Red Cliffs to create irrigation blocks for soldier settlement. Clearing in the area was previously largely carried out with small grubbing machines. Big Lizzie was equipped with a number of steel cables for pulling out trees and stumps, and a gang of up to sixteen men worked in a supporting role on the ground.

Lizzie’s operation was unique, laying her own track as she went about tearing out the bush to make way for the new farmers.

  Lizzie laid her own track

Lizzie was abandoned sometime after 1826. In 1969, former Mildura shire president and historian Ern Wolfe went looking for. He was tipped off that Lizzie was rusting away  on Glendenning Station in western Victoria.

Wolfe and some friends retrieved  Big Lizzie and took her back to Red Cliffs where she was restored in time for Red Cliffs Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1971.

Wolfe said: “I had to borrow $1250 from the Red Cliffs Club, that was the cost of the machine, which was a bargain.”

The Big Lizzie Preservation Committee settled her on display in Barclay Square, Red Cliffs, near Mildura.

She is the only preserved example of the innovative Dreadnaught wheel developed by Frank Bottrill and applied to tractors for land clearing and hauling. The caterpillar track eventually proved the most successful design, but the dreadnaught wheel was reliable and effective for its purpose and was used in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

 

Sources: ABC Rural,  Farmonline, Aumann Auctions, oldenegine.org, Trove digitised newspapers, Australian Manufacturing Forum, Heritage Victoria.

HYDROGEN INNOVATION

New Holland Agriculture introduced its first  hydrogen-powered tractor in 2011. The co-injection of hydrogen with diesel is in use in some agricultural machines, though this method is not considered as efficient as hydrogen fuel cells.

The National Institute of Agro-machinery Innovation and Creation (CHIAIC) in Luoyang in the central province of Henan launched  China’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric tractor in 2020.

Now, Australia is ready to join the hydrogen-power revolution in agriculture.

Limited availability of hydrogen fuel in Australia meant it had not been commercially viable, but developments in 2020 mean dreams can become reality.

Infinite Blue Energy’s Arrowsmith Hydrogen Project, planned for near Dongara in Western Australia, is expected to produce 25 tonnes of green hydrogen a day.

The first phase of construction at a cost of $300 million was likely to begin operations by 2023.

An Australian-made hydrogen-powered tractor was on the drawing board.

  The H2X vision

Australian company H2X said it planned to manufacture hydrogen-powered vehicles, including tractors, at Port Kembla New South Wales by 2025.

The company’s main line of production will be passenger vehicles and it already has produced prototypes of cars as well as a tractor.

H2X is also working on other hydrogen related projects in railways, the marine industry, and stationary energy storage systems. It is also developing a range of heavy electric vehicles for mining sectors.

H2X  aims to produce 20,000 hybrid vehicles from a plant at Port Kembla south of Sydney by 2025. The first car on the drawing board is a small SUV named the Snowy.

Company CEO Brendan Norman said the company planned to go into “aggressive production” from 2022 The venture was expected to create around 5,000 direct jobs.

Mr Norman has held executive positions with VW in Saudi Arabia, Shanghai and Singapore, Audi in Japan and South Korea, and has worked with Grove Hydrogen and Wales-based hydrogen car maker Riversimple.

IN THE BEGINNING…

Early tractors were known as traction engines,  steam powered machines adapted from trail on rails to use roads.

They were huge and heavy, impractical for working soft farmland. Initially they were stationary engines, towed to where they were needed to provide power. Belts linked them to  threshers and other stationary machines.

When used as moving machines, the traction engines were slow and inefficient. The name was derived from the Latin tractus, meaning ‘drawn’.

At the time of the steam engine, the traction engine took over the heavy work from draught horses.

From around 1850, self-propelled portable steam engines were developed for  agricultural use and production continued into the early 20th century.

An early hint to their life span came in 1892 when John Froelich invented and built the first petrol-powered tractor in Clayton County, Iowa, US.

  Froelich’s tractor

He mounted a single-cylinder petrol engine on a chassis, controlled and propelled by Froelich’s gear box.

He patented  his invention, but by 1895 he had lost all his capital and went out of business.

The first commercially successful light-weight petrol-powered general purpose tractor was built by British inventor Dan Albone, in 1901. He filed for a patent on 15 February 1902 for his tractor design and  formed Ivel Agricultural Motors Limited.

About 500 were built, and many were exported.

Development of petrol power continued in the US  and in 1904 Holt Manufacturing Co. produced its first petrol-powered tractor.

The first successful American tractor was built by Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr who developed a two-cylinder gasoline engine. They built 15 farm tractors in Iowa in 1903.The two-cylinder engine had a unique “hit-and-miss” firing cycle that produced 30 HP at the belt and 18 HP at the drawbar.

Innovation picked up pace in the US when in 1910 Holt registered Caterpillar as the trademark for its tractors and two years later, Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. made from 30 to 60 tractors for J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co. In 1914 Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co. made its first tractor.

By 1920 Henry Ford and John Deere also were making petrol-powered tractors.

In 1926, Briton  Harry Ferguson set the template for farm tractors that’s still used worldwide today when he  applied for a patent for his three-point hitch. This led to a boon in tractor use, particularly when a rear power shaft was added, allowing the power take-off from the tractor to drive other machinery.

The Ferguson-Brown Company produced the Model A Ferguson-Brown tractor with a Ferguson-designed hydraulic hitch. In 1938 Ferguson joined h Henry Ford to produce the Ford-Ferguson 9N tractor.

In the US International Harvester and Massey Harris entered the tractor market.

More than a century later these names remain at the forefront of tractor manufacturing, particularly in the US, though with some variations to brands.

BIG UNITS AND BIG NAMES

Big Bud

Still credited as the biggest farm tractor ever built, the custom-made Big Bud 747 was a one-off order filled in Havre, Montana, US, in 1977 by Ron Harmon’s Northern Manufacturing Company  for the Rossi Brothers , cotton farmers, of Old River, California, at a cost of $US300,000 and boasting 760 HP later boosted to 1100 HP.

It was used for 11 years for ripping fields and changed hands a few times before going on display at the Heartland Acres Agribition Center in Independence, Iowa.

Big Bud was a powered by a  massive Detroit Diesel engine  and in its working life made a meal of hauling a  350,000 lbs (158,757kg) 80 ft (24m) wide cultivator at 8 mph (12.8 kph).

It could be set up as an 8-wheel or 12-wheel unit.

With its 16-cylinder Detroit Diesel (16V92T) engine, Big Bud could keep up a fast pace, working more than one acre (half a hectare) per minute.

It was 27 ft (8.2 m) long, 20 ft (6.1 m) wide, 14 ft (4.3 m) tall and carried 1,000 litres (220 gallons) of fuel.

After ripping cotton fields in California for the Rossi brothers, followed by more ripping work in Florida, Big Bud returned to Montana after it was bought by the Williams brothers, and was put on display at the Heartland Museum.

In July 2020 Big Bud was on the move again, heading back to Montana in September for the Williams brothers.

But first, it was time for some new rubber;  Big Bud had not had new tyres since it was built in 1977 so 13,000 hours of work later it was time for new “boots.”

The original tyres, supplied by a Canada company were now out of stock. So the woners went for the Titan/Goodyear and the LSW 1400/30R46 model, the world’s largest ag tyres.

They were in stock but modifications would be needed: new wheels rims and spacers.

Each tyre weighed just over 680 kg and each wheel weighed just over 360 kgs.

The changeover operation took around four hours and Big Bud came up sparkling (below).

Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers which special in heavy equipment, rate Big Bud as the biggest of all time, with Versatile’s Big Roy 8-WD Model 1080 second, ahead of the AGCO Challenger MT975B, Case IH Steiger Quadtrac 62 and Upton HT14/350 2WD.

A web site has been dedicated to Big Bud, featuring videos of the massive machine in action.

Big Roy

At about the same time Big Bud went to work, Versatile Manufacturing Ltd was working on a massive tractor of its own; an 8WD Model 1080 tractor named “Big Roy” after Versatile company president Roy Robinson.

Big Roy was built in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, apparently with broadcare farming in Australia in mind. Unfortunately Big Roy never made it Down Under.

The unit was  30 ft (9.1 m) long, 22 ft (6.7 m) wide, 11 ft (3.3 m) high and powered by a 600 hp (447.6 kW) V-12 Cummins engine.

A design fault meant rear-vision was obscured by the engine sitting behind the cabin, so a closed circuit television was installed with a 120-degree camera relaying images of the drawbar to the TV monitor on the cab’s dashboard.

Big Roy was put on display at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum.

Versatile was the first company to mass-produce articulated 4WD tractors from 1966 and in 1977 launched the world’s first bi-directional tractor, the Versatile 150. It made a range of 4WD tractors in the 1980s, some of which found their way to Australia.

Hard times belted the company in the 1980s and it stopped making tractors in 1986. Two years later it was taken over by Ford-New Holland. Buhler Industries acquired the Winnipeg factory and the rights to the Versatile name when Case IH and New Holland merged and from 2000 badged the tractors as Buhler Versatile. In 2008, Buhler decided to again badge the tractors as Versatile.

Big Blue

As with the motor car, American engineer and businessman Henry Ford saw market potential for a mass-produced tractor.

From 1917 to 1920 Henry Ford and Son (Edsel) made a range of mass-produced general purpose tractors at their Dearborn, Michigan, factory under the Fordson brand. The Fordson was merged into the Ford Motor Company but the brand name remained until 1963.

   
The Fordson F and Fordson N

The Model F tractor, which succeeded the Model B, did for the country what the Model T car had done – made a machine affordable to ordinary people; in this case, farmers.

Fordson tractors were exported to Britain and Canada and progressively turned up in other countries. By 1925 Ford had built 500,000 Fordsons.

Fordson production in America ended 1928, replaced on the market by imported Irish and English models. The Fordson name was dropped altogether after 1964 and all the company’s tractors were simply branded Fords, still in predominantly blue livery. The Major and the Dexta were among the biggest selling Fordson models. In 1991 Ford sold its tractor business to Fiat and the Ford name disappeared, the blue tractors re-badged as New Holland.

Big Red

Farmall was the brand name used by International Harvester (formed by Cyrus McCormick in 1902) for its tractor range.

The first MorCormick Farmall tractor appeared in 1919. By 1936 Farmall tractors were painted red for safety reasons, replacing grey and marking the beginning of the “Big Red” era. Farmall was initially a specialist row-crop tractor, its wheels arranged in a triangular pattern allowing the front wheels to pass between the rows of crops.

 
1927 Farmall and the McCormack Farmall

The Farmall name was later dropped in favour of McCormick International.

The demise of the Big Red Internationals began in the 1960s when the drive lines on their new powerful 60 series tractors failed because they weren’t strong enough for the new engines. The competition heated up around this time with John Deere’s Power Farming line gaining great traction in the market.

Through the 70s and into the 80s IH increased the power through a variety of new lines, including the 50 Series that included the 136 hp (101 kW) 5088, the 162 hp (121 kW) 5288 and the 187 hp (139 kW) 5488. IH was among the first manufacturers to add a computer to a tractor.

The last IH tractor was produced in 1985. IH also sold other farm equipment, including balers, cultivators, combines, corn shellers, cotton pickers, manure spreaders, hay rakes, crop dusters, disk harrows, disc and ploughs.

By 1991 the IH farming business had passed into the hands of J.I. Case, and branded Case International .

The Case IH range today includes Steiger, Magnum, Puma, Maxxum, JXU, Quantum, Farmall and JX Straddle.

Going Green

John Deere remains a name synonymous with tractors and harvesters in their distinctive green livery.

John Deere, blacksmith and inventor, began his foray into farming in 1837 with a polished-steel plough produced at his Grand Detour, Illinois, workshop.

By 1848 the plough business was booming and John Deere moved operations to Moline, Illinois.

The company branched into tractors in 1948 with the takeover of Waterloo Boy tractors which were being outsold almost 70 to 1 by Fordsons.

 
The early John Deere look

Production of the R model, Deer’s first diesel tractor, began in 1947 starting a boom in tractor production to the point in 1963 when John Deere surpassed International Harvester as the world’s largest producer and seller of farm and industrial tractors and equipment.

By 2011 Deere was listed among the 50 most-admired companies by Fortune magazine and ranked as one of the 100 best global brands.

The company established factories for tractor and equipment production in India, Brazil, Argentina, Russia and China. Products also included excavation, road building and harvesting equipment.

In 2012 John Deere  released the  9R and 9RT Series tractors, its most powerful 4WD tractor and including 410 hp (261.5 kW) to 560 hp (411.7 kW) models.

The Deere name is also seen on other farming and earthmoving equipment.

Twin power

Before the development of the modern 4WD tractor, some manufacturers created massive tractors with two engines and two driving axles by joining two regular tractors together.

In the 1950s most farm tractors were in the 20-40 hp (14.7-29.4 kW) range, not strong enough for some applications, particularly on the larger farms of the United Kingdom.

Enter Essex farmer George Pryor with a solution. He bought two Fordson tractors, removing the front wheels and axles and linking the two by a turntable that provided the hydraulic steering action. The result: a double-engine 4WD tractor that could outperform the conventional tractors on the market.

  Double Fordsons

Essex Fordson dealers Ernest Doe & Sons built an improved version in 1958, calling it the Doe Dual Power, later changed to Doe Dual Drive. The unit produced 100 hp (73.5 kW) and a later project using two Ford 5000 tractors produced a unit of 130 hp (95.6 kW).

By the late 1960s mainstream tractor manufacturers had developed single-engine tractors capable of 100 hp (70 kW) and upwards, ending Doe production after more than 300 had been built.

Doubling up was also tried in Australia, using locally made Chamberlain tractors.

One innovator joined two Chamberlain Super 70 diesels similarly to the Fordson arrangement as a 4WD unit. Another was a heavily modified unit of 12 wheels (three axles with double wheels) powered by twin 671 Detroit engines that punched out 669 hp (492 kW).

Stating a case

Today, there are almost 200 production tractor brands world-wide. According to Ranker.com the top 10 makers are Deere, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Case IH, Claas, Deutz-Fahr, Caterpillar, Ford, Kubota and Mahindra.

And the most powerful farm tractors are likely to have tracks rather than wheels.

The Case IH Steiger Quadtrac when turbocharged can output 680 hp (500 kW). The Case IH 620 eight-wheel tractor also comes with 680 hp (500kW). Five Quadtrack models rate above 500 hp (367.8 kW).

  Case Quadtrac

Up there with the best of them over the 600 hp (441.3 kW) mark is the New Holland T9.670 with 608 hp (447.2 kW).

Big wheels monster

Laying claim to being the biggest production 4WD articulated tractor is AGCO’s Challenger MT975B from the Challenger 900 series. It weighs in at more than 26 tonnes and comes with a fuel tank that can hold 330 gallons (1,500 litres).

   Challenger MT975B

It was supplied with a choice of tyres, from single to duals, even triples (12 wheels in total). It is not as big as Big Bud or Big Roy and was in production until 2010. Challenger still produces 900 series tractors, including special application versions up to 600HP.

The articulated Challenger MT975B  by AGCO, boasted 585 hp (430 kW) power output that increases to 632 hp (474 kW)  from its Caterpillar engine.

AGCO was established in 1990 when executives at Deutz-Allis bought out Deutz-Allis North American operations from the parent corporation KHD which had purchased parts of the Allis-Chalmers agricultural equipment business five years earlier.

The company was first called Gleaner-Allis Corporation, then re-arranged to be Allis-Gleaner Corporation, or AGCO

AGCO today produces four core brands: Challenger, Fendt, Massey Ferguson and Valtra.

   Fendt trisix

These massive tractors can be operated 24 hours a day and just one of them could replace a fleet of smaller tractors (and operators) that would be needed to cover the same ground in the same time.

Poles Apart

Seven Ferguson TE 20s (four petrol, three diesel) were used on the 1955–58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Some were converted to half-tracks with front skis and others were converted to full tracks and taken to the South Pole by Sir Edmund Hillary, the first vehicles to be driven to the Pole.

Sir Edmund bound for the Pole

The  legendary Kiwi mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist, caught a lift back home by trading one of the tractors for a ride aboard an American airplane leaving a U.S. research station at the Pole.

Sixty years later, a new modern Ferguson followed suit, driven from Europe in a nine-year odyssey by Dutch actress and adventurer Manon Ossevoort (referred to in the media as Tractor Girl).

A far cry from the little grey Fergie, the intrepid tractor this time was a modified big red Massey Ferguson MF 5610 Dyna-4, MFs most powerful three-cylinder diesel tractor at the time.

Hillary’s expedition  travelled with Ferguson TE20s, outfitted with tractor treads, on a course south from New Zealand. The Oosevoort expedition (Antarctica2) set out from a point south of Africa, at the Russian Novo Airbase.

Ms Oosevoport, then a mother of a 10-month-old baby, said the 6-day, 2,500 km trip across the largest mass of ice on earth from Russia’s Novo base to the Pole had been tough.

Ms Ossevoort (above) began her trip in 2005, taking four years to drive from her home village in Holland to Cape Town at the southern tip of Africa.

She told Australia’s ABC Radio that she missed the boat that was due to take her to Antarctica. She spent the next four years back in Holland where she began writing a book, worked as a motivational speaker and desperately tried to get back on a tractor to resume her Antarctic mission.

Massey-Ferguson and other companies came to the party and she eventually made the trip. Special trucks were included in the expedition.

Ms Ossevoort travelled alone through Africa. French mechanic Nicolas Bachelet shared the driving in Antarctica as the tractor needed to creep forward day and night without stopping. The final leg across Antarctica was in temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees C.

In one eight-hour shift the tractor faced soft, sinking conditions every few hundred metres but the MF 5610 and its drivers proved they were up to the challenge. By engaging the lowest gear and the diff lock, the tractor would climb out slowly and resume its progress, reaching the Pole on 9 December  2014.

Unlike Hilary, the Antarctic2 crew returned the way they came and once home  Ms Ossevoort started writing a children’s book and planning a movie documenting her journey.

“I think this is the best adventure on a tractor that one can come up with,” she said.

A video summary of the expedition can be found on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9rhsG8V8zg

Massey Ferguson today is a worldwide brand of AGCO.

THE LITTLE GREY FERGIE story:

https://floggerblogger.com/2017/11/24/the-little-grey-fergie/

 

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