While the push is on to increase speed limits of some main regional roads across the state, members of the Harry Ferguson Tractor Club have spent almost a month travelling outback SA on their beloved "Fergies", content with an average speed of just 20 kilometres an hour.
Thirty-six club members from across the country, including four from SA, set off from Peterborough on August 27, driving 19 Ferguson and Massey Ferguson tractors and 13 support vehicles through the Mid North and pastoral regions of the state, travelling as far north as Farina and clocking up about 1400 kilometres before returning to Peterborough about three weeks later.
The trek members ranged from 26 to 84 years old, driving Ferguson and Massey Ferguson tractors from as early as 1951, to 1965.
It's a very different sensation to go into that country sitting on a tractor and only doing 20km/hr, you see so much, it's just beautiful.
Club president Bob Wilson, Bendigo, Vic, said a love for the tractors, first designed by British mechanic Harry Ferguson, was a common denominator in the group.
"You have to have a touch of madness to sit on a tractor through a dust storm in the north end of the Flinders Ranges," he said.
"It's a very different sensation to go into that country sitting on a tractor and only doing 20km/hr, you see so much, it's just beautiful."
Trek members were completely self-sufficient, and spent nights camping on outback stations.
"Occasionally (station owners) they would drag out one of their old Fergies and ask if we thought it'd ever go again, and so we'd have a tinker," he said.
Bob said the warmth shown by those from the outback towns was one of the highlights of the trip.
"Because of the farming backgrounds of a lot of club members, we have a lot in common with the people we're meeting," he said.
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"It's nice to go somewhere and be able to talk to someone as an old friend, particularly as you start talking about things you have in common, like farm machinery.
Bob said there were no major breakdowns on the trip.
"We only had very minor problems, and one tractor had to be trailered on the last day because the fuel tank leaked. We kept repairing it throughout the trip, but in the end it gave up," he said.
He said the Ferguson tractors had revolutionised farm machinery.
"We all have an understanding of how big of an impact their development had on agriculture right around the world, they absolutely transformed it," he said.
"You look at any tractor today, and there will be a variation of Harry Ferguson's three point linkage that he invented, it meant you could have light, nimble tractors that were very profitable."
The club has run biennial outback tractor treks since the early 1990s, including trips from Cooktown, Qld, to Cape York, Qld, Kalgoorlie, WA, to Alice Springs, NT, and Wentworth, NSW, to the Burke and Wills Dig Tree near Durham, Qld, with the recent outback SA trip planned by Mount Gambier's Ken and Judy Vorwerk.
"We were on the Dig Tree trip and people were talking about where the next trip should be, and being from SA, I said 'why not the Flinders Ranges?'" Ken said.
FASCINATION WITH MACHINERY LIVES ON IN STUDENTS
THE Harry Ferguson Tractor Club is helping ensure a love for the tractors is transferred to the next generation, by donating old tractors to schools across the country, for students to restore in a period of six to 12 months.
Club president Bob Wilson said while a tractor had been what most members of the club had first learnt to drive, today's youth did not have that experience.
"Someone in the club will donate a tractor to the project, and will get the kids going on the restoration," he said.
"We first did this last year with students from Alice Miller school owned by (author) John Marsden, in Macedon, (Vic). They had no experience with tractors, and did a fantastic job at restoring it and getting it up to show room quality."
Bob said the Ferguson tractors were simple, and students, improved their machinery knowledge quickly.
They'd never even picked up a spanner in their lives before they started on the project.
"The kids did all of the work and pulled the tractor completely to bits, cleaned all the parts, worked out what needed to be replaced, did all the panel beating and painting, and rebuilt the engine.
"They'd never even picked up a spanner in their lives before they started on the project."
Bob said the program had been well-supported.
"That first tractor, we had a lot of support from industry, donating parts, and we sold that tractor and got a fund going to help raise money for restorations with other tractors," he said.
Tractor restorations are presently happening at Warragul, Vic, and Goornong, Vic, with more projects being planned.
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