Keeping old wheels turning his passion

Kate MatthewsCountryman

When Dick Garnett asked if I wanted to go ‘topless’ in the middle of July, I politely declined.

I’m now kicking myself because topless meant travelling with the roof down in his beautiful 1917 Tin Lizzie.

The Model T Ford, produced from 1908 to 1927, is the car famous for making motoring popular and affordable for families.

It’s Mr Garnett’s personal favourite from a collection that includes a Ford Model A built in 1928, a Ford Thunderbird from 1955 and several Chamberlain tractors.

The Tin Lizzie has three foot pedals including one for the gears, the accelerator is on the steering wheel and the single windscreen wiper is manually operated.

There are no side mirrors, instead, that’s where the kerosene lamps for night driving are. And to start the car, you need to swing a crank handle.

For the past 20 years, Mr Garnett has been a member of Tracmach and the Chamberlain 9G club.

Next month, he will be in his element when the Machinery Preservation Club of WA, the Old Machinery Club of WA Inc and the Vintage Tractor and Machinery Association of WA jointly host the 13th National Historical Machinery Association’s National Rally at Fairbridge.

Mr Garnett is planning on taking at least three of his tractors — a Chamberlain 9G, a Chamberlain 45KA and a Ford Ferguson built in 1946 — to the three-day event from September 2–4.

“We were never Chamberlain people when my old man was running the show, we were Ford people and didn’t have any Chamberlains anywhere, ” Mr Garnett said.

“But I’ve become very passionate about Chamberlains in later life and nearly have the full orange range.”

The retired Gnowangerup farmer’s collection includes a 40K serial number 33, a 40KA, 55KA, 55DA, 60DA, three 70DAs, a Super Ninety, a Meadows conversion and a Perkins conversion, a Countryman Six, a V6GM, and various 9Gs, including a Canelander and a Crusader.

Owning and restoring farm machinery is important to Mr Garnett and others for the heritage value.

“Chamberlains in particular because they are West Australian, ” he said.

“They are our own tractor and that’s why I am so passionate about it. They are not imported, they aren’t from the eastern states — they were built here in WA.”

The three models he’s planning to take to Fairbridge in Pinjarra each has a story to tell.

Mr Garnett made the 9G using parts from four tractors, has driven across Australia in it with wife Barbara as well as from one side of the US to the other in 2009.

The 45KA was restored by friend Max Thorton and the Ford Ferguson is one of only two in WA and was built by Mr Garnett after seeing a friend’s in Toowoomba. Most of his tractors have been rebuilt with help from son Collyn and friends on the family farm, Willemenup.

The affinity with Chamberlains started in 1970 with a second-hand Super Seventy that was bought and used to put in the crop on a farm north of town.

It used to pull a 24 rung combine, a 25 tine scarifier and a 22 disc plough.

There is plenty hard work, sweat and tears put into restoring old tractors and machinery, and the costs more often than not can never be recouped.

But Mr Garnett said the reward was far more fulfilling — companionship and friendship.

“The group we go travelling with and driving around Australia with, we are very close friends, ” he said. “We get the companionship, the travelling, campfires — you know the story.

“We are at that age in life where we enjoy those sorts of things.

“I’m looking forward to being at the National Rally and seeing what others are doing and for the fellowship.

“But more than anything, its showing those over that side (pointing east) what WA can do.”

Mr Garnett said there would be about 15 9Gs from the 9G club at the rally and all were planning to arrive in unison.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails