The passion for machines drives the man of Mukinbudin | Weekly farm


It’s a long-standing love affair with machines for John Smith, Mukinbudin, a member of the Vintage Tractor and Machinery Association of WA (Tracmach).

Mr. Smith is well known in machine circles for his ability to tinker and also his collection of vintage tractors and cars.

Originally from England, he and his wife Lesley arrived in Western Australia in 1967.

They made the trip halfway around the world after hearing that land was selling cheaply in the Esperance region at the time and that it was difficult for anyone wishing to own a farm in England to be able to find it. buy a.

Upon arrival, they bought a trailer and scoured the countryside in search of the right place to put down roots and settled on a farm west of Mukinbudin on Wren Road.

Mr. Smith started collecting vintage tractors in 1961, so when they made the decision to move they had to sell them and start over.

He began collecting and restoring Fordson tractors and built eight tractors from 1918 to 1948 in the United States, Ireland and England.

They are all under cover and in good condition.

Vintage and Machinery Association of WA (Tracmach) member John Smith, Mukinbudin, leaning on a 1945 green Fordson tractor which he said was the same model he first drove on the family farm in England at the age of 8.

His 1918 tractor sits in its own shed and has a plaque on the back stating that it was made by “Henry Ford & Son”.

Mr Smith said the history of the tractor was an interesting one, with Mr Ford wanting to mass produce the tractors, but the Ford Motor Co was not keen at the time.

It was at this point that Henry Ford started his own business, Fordson.

It was the first small, lightweight, mass-produced tractor the average farmer could afford.

The first Fordson tractors to be exported from the United States went to the United Kingdom in 1917 to help the British agricultural industry feed the people during the war.

It was then also made in Cork, Ireland until 1933 and Dagenham, Essex, England until 1964.

However, in 1920 the two Ford companies merged and the Fordson name was dropped.

Mr Smith said the story was summed up on the plaque.

He had also attached a battery to the tractor to help it start as it became more and more difficult for him to start.

Mr Smith recalls taking his first engine apart with his father when he was ‘up to the knees of a grasshopper’ and asking his father what the names of the parts were.

He started driving the family tractor – a 1945 Fordson – at the age of eight – even walking past a police officer once who didn’t say a look – knowing the workforce work after the war was so rare.

“I was just left to him all day,” Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith's new project in the early stages of restoration.

Mr. Smith’s new project in the early stages of restoration.

In the 1970s, when 4WD tractors first came out, he, along with six other people from Mukinbudin District, built their own versions because they were too expensive or difficult to obtain.

The 4WD tractor built by Mr. Smith is now on display behind a cage in Mukinbudin.

He said when he was building it he had no idea others were doing the same.

“If I had known I would have contacted them to exchange notes,” said Mr. Smith.

The tractor worked the farm for a good 10 years before retiring.

The display is a good reminder of the ingenuity of local farmers during this time and of the change that was taking place in the farm machinery industry.

While all of his vintage tractors are in working order, the one most used is the 1940s International W4 McCormick-Deering, which he uses to chop and collect firewood.

It’s painted red with yellow writing and is believed to be Lesley’s, but she finds it uncomfortable to drive.

As it became more and more difficult to run the engines of older tractors, Mr. Smith began to sell them.

He said that for a reasonable price he would be happy to see them go to a good house, but so far people have offered much less than they were worth – considering the time and effort he took. had devoted to the restoration of tractors.

Mr Smith said he was happy to answer calls from anyone interested in purchasing one.

Besides tractors, the Smiths also have a collection of Ford Model T cars ranging from 1911 to 1926, including the take of a black 1914 Ford Model T from Victoria.

Mr Smith’s latest project has just started after purchasing a Model T chassis from a farm near Mukinbudin.

It will take a few years to get it back to its original running condition, but it already has some of the most important parts – like wheels and an engine.

After getting a disappointing result by outsourcing the upholstery work, he plans to make the seats and upholstery from scratch – something he has already done for several of his other cars.

“I like the authentic look,” Mr. Smith said.

“How they were originally made, without too many changes.”

Despite this, he had to update the lights from the old oil lamps to bulbs – although he didn’t have a high beam option.

Being the handyman that he is, he specially built the metal wheels for his 1914 Model T – which has 60 spokes per rim.

He said vehicles with older wooden wheels weren’t allowed to be shown in events if they had any cracks, which encouraged him to build his own to avoid any issues when traveling interstate. .

What they value most about cars is the ability to travel and meet up with friends and car enthusiasts.

And they do it despite the weather.

Now that their children have taken over the farm chores, they have time to enjoy their hobby, even if it means getting wet on the journey.

The Smiths have a ute with an elongated flat deck that can carry one of the cars.

They drive this with a trailer attached through the Nullarbor when they can, as well as attending WA events like Lights on the Hill in Brunswick and the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days.

Last year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions they were unable to attend an event but in 2019 they traveled to Bundaberg, Queensland for a vintage car rally.

They plan to visit Swan Hill, Victoria in the coming months for a similar gathering.

Mr. Smith also built other things for the farm, including silos, fuel tanks, grain sheds, and even their large machine sheds that are still in use.

There were a number of vintage parts and even an old vintage truck in the hangar awaiting a facelift or to be part of a future project.

Some of the coins he gives away when people are looking for pieces for their restoration work because they would otherwise go unused in the shed.

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