The Evolution of Australian Tractors

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    Australia was a place where it was hard for tractors to initially get a foothold in the economy, as there was not initially much economy of which to speak. With a penal colony of convicts brought by the British accounting for a wave of early settlers, there was not a lot of motivation and success to be had. In time that changed as more settlers appeared, hungry for gold and pursuing gold rushes around the 1850's. Only then, as the population grew quickly and food production was necessary, did the possibility of farming inch towards becoming a reality. Even then it was difficult to accommodate such a need thanks to the location of Australia and its distance from much of the world. Transporting items there was expensive and thus farmers began to improvise their own tools of the trade.

    Steam engines, previously imported, began being manufactured in Australia in the late 1800's. It was not until the 1900's that an imported internal combustion engine was used there. Australia's first tractor built at home became a reality in 1908 and was known as the Imperial Oil Tractor EA, which was followed by models such as the EB and EAA. Powered by kerosene, these models were knocked out of production just over a decade later until the 1930's when diesel tractors became a reality and went into production themselves.

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    Around the year 1906, four wheel drive tractors came onto the field followed by those with power steering in 1910. This lasted until 1916 when the company behind these advancements was taken over and tractor production ground to a halt. Also in 1916, "Big Lizzie" was built and outfitted by Frank Bottrill with the "Dreadnaugh Wheels" also of his creation; this machine was 40 tons and came in at an impressive 34 feet long. Soon thereafter, a tractor with stepped pistons was produced but it was only available until the middle of the 1920's. Around this same time, Ronaldson Bros. & Tippett introduced the Super Drive, which had one of the first internal combustion engines and touted larger radiators to enable working in the Australian heat. Also during this timeframe, Cliff Howard created and sold his own device, a combination tractor and rotary hoe that operated via walk behind but was given an Howard 22hp engine in 1930.

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    As brand names began to combine and companies merged, tractors built in Australia became available for export and were sold overseas at the hands of H V McKays. This company went on to become one of the largest manufacturers of agricultural machinery in Australia before becoming a part of Massey Ferguson in the 1950's. Meanwhile, Bob Chamberlain built and tested the prototype 40K which was released in 1949 before moving on to experiment with diesel and other agricultural machinery. Around this same time, International Harvester finally produced the AW-6 in 1949 despite having a factory in place for nearly 20 years by that time. Also released in 1949 was the 40hp version of the Bulldog built by Kelly & Lewis, the company that built the original KL Bulldog in the early 1900's.

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    As time passed, J Deere Co. took controlling interest in tractor companies such as Chamberlain and Lanz. Chamberlain is now known as Chamberlain John Deere and is accompanied by manufacturers such as Kubota, Massey Ferguson, Krone, and Deutz-Fahr who have dealerships located in Australia. Also available are a series of mowers through both Rover and Victa. While it may have been a slow struggle for the tractor industry in Australia, things are very much up to snuff and competitive now. Manufacturers with products currently for sale there are known around the world as are their products. The beginnings of the tractor may have been humble, but as far as modern times go, the tractor has very much arrived in Australia.

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