Illingworth’s Three Springs vintage tractor sale breaks Australian record with 1904 model selling for $375K

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Sue Illingworth with the record breaking 1904 Ivel Agricultural Motors Tractor.
Camera IconSue Illingworth with the record breaking 1904 Ivel Agricultural Motors Tractor. Credit: Kristo Orma Photography/Supplied

The “crown jewel” of a historical vintage tractor and machinery collection tucked away neatly on a Mid West farm has fetched an eye-watering $375,000 at auction over the weekend.

As the gavel went down at Sue Illingworth’s Three Springs property on Sunday, the 1904 Ivel Agricultural Motors Tractor she and her late husband John restored made history, setting a new Australian record.

One of the first commercially produced tractors in the world — of which there are only eight left in existence — the vintage machine smashed the previous record set last year in Queensland, where a 1914 Marshall Colonial tractor sold for $215,000.

Donington Auctions’ Robert Richards said the relic — which was sold to an Australian buyer who wished to remain anonymous — dated back to before the word “tractor” was even coined, called an “agricultural motor” instead.

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Mr Richards said more than 600 buyers registered for the sale of the “very high calibre” collection, half of which attended in person, while interstate and overseas bidders tuned in over the phone and online.

“It’s rare to find something that’s got the this many rare tractors,” he said. “It’s something you would only see once every 10-20 years.”

As well as more than 150 tractors, each with their own story, there was also a 1928 Dennis Fire Engine and WWII Stuart M3 Fort Knox Military Tank, which sold for $86,000.

While running a mixed sheep and cropping enterprise in Arrino and raising their two daughters Sarah and Emma, the Illingworths spent what spare time they had looking for and digging up old tractors from paddocks and sheds and restoring them.

“It was great fun,” Mrs Illingworth said.

“We took two shovels and spades with us every time and there were some you just couldn’t pull out, you had to dig.

“Usually it was half to three quarters of the wheel underground and we didn’t even know if the rest would be there.”

Calling it a “labour of love,” Mrs Ilingworth said her late husband would be pleased to know the collection they put so much time and love into was going to people who loved vintage tractors as much as they did.

“He loved people who loved tractors and would talk about them and enjoy them every day,” she said.

“So he would be very happy — all the people I talked to, the tractors went to people who absolutely loved tractors.”

The collection grew and grew, with the pair travelling throughout the Mid West and Wheatbelt to find the machines and visit collectors, even tracking down rare parts from overseas to bring the machines back to their former glory.

She was joined on the day by her daughters, who grew up with the collection, learning the tricks of the restoration trade from their enthusiastic father and wanted to farewell the sentimental collection in person.

Mrs Illingworth said the tight-knit Trac Mac crew, who were good friends with John before he passed away five years ago at 92 had been “amazing help and support” getting the collection ready.

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