On tractor for world record as mighty machine turns 100

Stephanie Gardiner |

A bid to break the world record for most Farmalls in a parade is a 100-year event, says Tom Horwood.
A bid to break the world record for most Farmalls in a parade is a 100-year event, says Tom Horwood.

There’s no use flogging a dead horse when a tractor lives forever.

That was the advice from a straight-talking Texan to Australian farmers in 1929, when the revolutionary American Farmall tractor was first advertised down under.

“If a horse is hurt in any one of a dozen ways, he is out for good and you cannot buy repairs – if he is dead, he is dead all over,” quipped the unnamed US farmer, quoted in Melbourne’s Australasian newspaper 94 years ago.

“But you can hardly injure this machine so that you cannot … buy a part, put it in place and go on.”

A century after it was developed in the US, the Farmall still goes.

The early feat of farming technology – adopted by generations of Australian growers to help plough, plant, mow and bale hay – will mark its centenary in country NSW this weekend.

Collectors from Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria are expected to fill the streets of Inverell in the state’s northwest for two days of celebrations on Friday and Saturday.

Tom Horwood, who runs a local rural wrecking business, keeps hundreds of vintage international tractors in an acre shed.

He is getting his 40 Farmalls spick and span for the milestone event.

“It’s like a nursing home looking after all these old tractors,” Mr Horwood told AAP.

“You’ve got to turn the engines over, drain the fuel, keep the tyres pumped up.”

His love for the grand old machines began as a teenager, when he worked as an apprentice mechanic at Inverell Harvester, a local dealer for International Harvester products like the Farmall.

Mr Horwood has become part of a tight-knit national community of collectors, with a keen interest in the tractor’s role in establishing market gardens and orchards after World War II.

“Retired farmers love them because they’re the old tractors they used to use, their fathers used, their grandfathers used,” he said.

“Some people collect teaspoons, some collect cars, some collect motorbikes – we collect tractors.”

The machine’s modern manufacturer, Case IH, chose to hold its Australian celebrations in the town of 12,000 because of its devoted local following.

As many as 150 tractors will line the showground in an attempt to break the world record for the most Farmalls in a single parade.

“It’s a 100-year event, so we only get one go,” Mr Harwood said.

“Not many get two goes at that.”