Editor Vintage Farming Magazine, 78 Oxford Street Ashburton, New
1989 is the year of the tractor in New Zealand, and to prove it,
committees throughout the country are staging some of the biggest
shows ever seen there.
It all began about four years ago when the local vintage farm
machinery magazine, Vintage Farming, published a small note saying
that, according to most books on the subject, it would be one
hundred years in 1989 since the first machine to fit today’s
definition of a tractor was built.
The fact that this machine was built in America, and not in New
Zealand, didn’t seem to matter at all. Clubs and committees
throughout the country were soon hard at work planning for some
really special shows, or rallys as they are called here.
The New Zealand economy has depended heavily on farming ever
since the country was first settled about 150 years ago. Without
the invention of the tractor, the country’s agricultural
industry would not have been able to keep pace with the demands
made on it.
This was probably the major reason why so many people throughout
the country put so much effort into planning for the
At the time of writing (early May) six rallies have been held,
with the theme of the tractor centennial. About four more are to be
held throughout the remainder of the year.
Of the first six, three, all held in New Zealand’s South
Island, have brought together some of the largest collections of
tractors even seen on one site.
The first of these was held at Gore, a farming town at the south
of the South Island, on February 25 and 26. The display consisted
of 405 tractors of all ages, sizes and many makes. The oldest was a
1916 IHC Mogul (serial number SB 13650) owned by M. H. Rodger. The
newest was a 1989 215 HP John Deere.
The rally began on the Friday night with a street parade of 286
tractors through the streets of the town. This really woke the
local people up as to what was to take place in their town over the
next two days.
While the main focus of the event was on tractors, other vintage
machinery was not forgotten. There were well over 100 stationary
engines, many driving pumps, saws etc. There were traction engines,
vintage implements, several horse teams, and a bullock team.
Events held included chaff cutting and threshing displays, and
slow races for tractors throughout the weekend.
New Zealand has never had a tractor manufacturing industry, and
as a result, many makes of tractors have been imported from many
countries. There were 47 makes represented at the Gore Rally, among
them Lanz, Hanomag, M.A.N. and Mercedes Benz from Germany; McDonald
Imperial and Howard from Australia; Munktells from Sweden; Renault
from France; David Brown, Field Marshall and Leyland from Britain
as well as many John Deere, Case, Allis Chalmers, International
Harvester and other American makes.
Three weeks later, the second of the large tractor centennial
rallies was held at Christchurch, 320 miles north of Gore, and the
South Island’s largest city.
This rally also drew more than 400 tractors of all ages. The
rally was organised by The Case and Vintage Farm Machinery Club,
which was also celebrating its 21st anniversary the same weekend.
(The Gore Rally was organised by a committee representing six
vintage machinery clubs from the surrounding area.)
Once again, a wide range of makes and countries of manufacture
were represented. Putting in an appearance was one of the very few
New Zealand built tractors, an Andrews and Bea-van, powered by a
single cylinder Blackstone engine. This tractor is equipped with
very heavy wooden wheels. Another rare make was a four wheel drive
Fitch, built in 1926. A rare sight for New Zealand was two Avery
tractors together, a 1915 8-16 and a 1918 Atom.
As well as the usual makes on display, other rarer makes were
Sift, R&P (an unusual American tractor with flat steel pads
fitted to the rear wheels), Sheppard, Austin, Samson Sieve Grip,
Newman and Holder.
As with all the rallies, a Grand Parade was held each afternoon
when most of the tractors entered the ring and paraded in front of
the huge crowd; a really amazing sight.
There was a full programme of events such as trailer backing and
One week after the Christchurch Rally another huge event was
staged at Winchester, a small farming community some 85 miles south
of Christchurch. This was a three day event, organised by a
committee representing seven clubs from the surrounding region. It
differed from the other two events in two ways: tractors on display
were mainly vintage machines from before 1954, although there were
about 10 rare machines from after that date; and there was a
ploughing competition held for vintage tractors and ploughs. This
was in two sections, beginners and experienced, and attracted 49
With about 420 tractors from before 1954 on display, this must
count as one of the largest collections of vintage tractors the
country has seen.
There was a pulling sledge in operation, and a dynamometer for
tractors fitted with power take offs. In addition, a horsepower
tester for testing the power delivered from the belt pulley was in
operation. This machine was built locally in the 1930’s to test
the power of the German built Lanz Bulldog tractors. It uses a
variable pitch propellor, driven through a gearbox. It made a very
Special visitors were about 26 tractors from the Nelson region,
350 miles to the north, which had driven all the way, calling at
the Christ-church Rally the previous week. Their trip had taken
three years planning, and went almost without a hitch.
Tractor balancing was an interesting event. Many tractors tried
this, but the most successful was one of the oldest; a 1916 IHC
Another really big attraction for the crowd was a starting race
for Lanz Bulldog and McDonald Imperial tractors. Both these makes
have low compression diesel engines. The fuel is ignited by being
sprayed onto a hot surface, but this surface must be first heated
with a blow torch before the tractor can be started. They are both
single cylinder tractors, and neither is fitted with a self
starter. The Lanz is started by removing the steering wheel and
fitting it into the crankshaft, to turn the engine over.
The tractors were lined up and stopped some hours before the
event to allow them to cool. The drivers then lined up, raced to
their tractors, lit their blow torches, and heated the tractors up.
When started, they had to back them to a line, then return to the
start line. In their hurry, several drivers tried to start them too
cold and flooded them. A really fascinating event.
In common with all these rallies, there were rows of stalls
selling all manner of crafts, souvenirs and books. Each rally
produced a souvenir metal hat badge which sold very well, and the
Winchester committee also produced a stainless steel wall plaque
featuring what is reputed to be the world’s first tractor, the
An excellent hard cover book, packed with colour photos, on the
history of the tractor on New Zealand, was launched at the
Winchester Rally. It features contemporary advertising material,
early photos of tractors working, newspaper and magazine reports,
and many photos of restored tractors. The author’s aim was to
feature every make of tractor that has been in New Zealand, and he
certainly appears to have achieved this, with more than 120 makes
All this activity for the tractor centennial has done a lot to
raise the profile of the vintage machinery movement throughout the
country. A lot of tractors have been restored specially for it, and
a lot more people have become involved with old machinery. Some new
clubs have even been formed.
There were a number of overseas guests at all the rallies,
including Neale McDonald from Australia, whose father built the
McDonald Imperial tractors, and Helen Case Brigham (great-grand
daughter of J. I. Case) and her husband from Maryland, USA. They
both represented the J. I. Case Heritage Foundation, and appeared
to really enjoy the two rallies they attended.
While we are pleased with the success of the tractor centennial
rallies in New Zealand, and especially with the benefits they have
had for the hobby as a whole, it has been a little disappointing
that the theme doesn’t appear to have been taken up on a large
scale elsewhere in the world. It has been mentioned in some
Australian magazines, and also in England, and we have heard of a
few tentative plans from the United States, but nothing on a large
scale appears to have been organised anywhere but New Zealand.
MORE INFORMATION FROM NEW ZEALAND
G.E.M. has received numerous stories about the tractor
centennial celebration in New Zealand, and we find we cannot use
all of them in their entirety. On the next two pages, you will find
photographs in color taken by Philip Wyndham and Michael Hanrahan,
which show some very interesting and rare tractors we hope our
readers will enjoy seeing. Philip Wyndham, of 1 Parian Place,
Rossmoyne, West Australia, 6155 is another reader who sent us a
story on the rallies; some curious facts he included in his story
‘From records available in New Zealand, they know that there
were 136 tractors there before 1919, and 44 of these tractors have
Arthur P. ‘Brig’ and Helen Case Brigham also sent us a
story about the rallies which they enjoyed and documented with
numerous photos. We regret that we could not use all of this
material in its entirety, and we applaud Michael Hanrahan for his
suggestion which led to such great efforts on the part of so many