COAL: 50 Years Of Vehicles From My Grandfather’s Life

Recently I had a look through some of my grandmother’s photos that included several of the cars, trucks, tractors and motorcycles from my grandfather’s life.  Many I remember but some, like the truck above, I can’t quite nail down.  The photo above is from 1947, and I think the truck is a 1938 Chevrolet – the grille has lost a few teeth!  I can only guess that getting down from the stack of hay on the truck involved climbing on the cab roof.

My grandfather grew up near Ravenswood, roughly 80 miles northwest of Melbourne, Australia and 10 miles south of Bendigo.  Another 1947 photo shows the team of horses on the family farm – never mind rare Curbside Classics, this is really something you don’t see much any more.

Here is my grandfather on a motorbike I can’t identify.  I remember a story he told about when the water bailiffs (who supervised irrigation usage) swapped from bicycles to motorbikes, the amount of water used by farmers declined significantly – they could hear them coming miles away and get rid of whatever was stopping the water wheels that measured water use.

My grandparents were married in 1951, after my grandfather had moved to Roslynmead, in the north of Victoria.  Here are my grandmother and my mother in front of their Standard Vanguard (1948-1952) – which is understandably not the focus of the photo!

I’m glad this wasn’t me.  This is 1952 and this Fordson Major tractor was bogged while digging a dam, and bogged hard – the back wheel closest to camera is deep enough, let alone the other one.  Not everything went completely uneventfully!  I don’t know how long it took to get it out, but there was plenty of time for someone to come with a camera.  I know that they still used horses at this time for jobs that didn’t need a tractor  (they would have been cheaper to run!) because Uncle Fred told me a story of another mishap involving one.

Also in 1952 is possibly the first load of wool from the new farm.  The description says the wool was headed for Melbourne, and the drums are to bring a load of petrol back.  I think it is an early postwar Ford truck, but I’m not completely sure.

Here is another photo from the new farm, the brothers on the Fordson tractor and a harvester (can’t remember the make sorry).  I don’t remember seeing either of these machines, but Grandpa did have another towed harvester in later years, an International 511.  The crop looks fairly light compared to modern times, but no doubt grain species have improved since then and it may just have been a poor year.  Average annual rainfall for the area is around 16″ (420mm).

On a more domestic front, here is my mother again in 1953 aged about 18 months, in front of a 1950 Ford.  The note on the back of the photo does not say who the other person was.

At the end of 1953 there is now one of the new FJ Holdens in shot, this time my mother is pictured with her grandmother and great-grandmother.

Now we are in 1954 and this time my mother with my grandfather’s sister Daisy and her son Alf in front of the new Ford truck – or at least I assume so.  Clearly not much rear suspension movement was expected!

The last photo from the 1950’s is a Nuffield tractor in 1956 and still on the original part of the farm, although by now my grandfather had bought another property about 10 miles away.  This shearing shed still exists (CC contributor Brad may remember it), although I doubt it has seen a sheep for decades.  It never had mains electricity, so the shearing plant was generator-powered and wool bales were compressed manually, at least before they were taken to the main shed.

As a change of pace here is a shot of the Renmark Hotel from a family holiday in 1961.  Renmark is on the bank of the Murray River in South Australia, 130 miles northeast of Adelaide, near where the Murray starts its run southwest to the sea.  How many of the cars can you identify?  The hotel is unusual too, being owned by the community since being opened in 1897 after it was recognised that the town being officially “dry” wasn’t working.  At the time of the photo it had the longest bar in the southern hemisphere, circling the bar room at a length of 62.4m or 205 feet!

Now we are in 1970 with my grandfather on what looks like a new Honda motorcycle, one of many he would own.  My mother and aunts were riding them too – rather more adventurously than he appreciated!  You can see the shovel mounted on the side, that he used when doing the rounds of the irrigation twice a day.  I have one of his old shovels that has about 4″ worn off the blade.

This photo wasn’t dated and the only identification was the cat Lucky and dog Spot.  It was pretty difficult to identify the ute here, as it looks older than the registration plate that was issued in about 1971.  Unfortunately some of these pictures are pretty poor quality because they are print-outs of scanned photos.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

After working my way through most of the Japanese manufacturers that were active in the 1960s, it turns out that this is a Daihatsu Compagno ute, which according to available information were built until 1969; the one above is a 1971, according to the NSW registration authority – so perhaps there was a delay in selling them in Australia or stocks lasted for a while?  They had a 1,000 cc engine with about 55 hp, a 2.22m (87.4″) wheelbase and overall length about 3.8m / 150″.  I dare say this is comparable to a side-by-side utility vehicle today, but with better weather protection and top speed.  Load capacity is 500kg or half a (long) ton.  It is interesting that Grandpa used small Japanese utes/pickups for so long; also lucky Grandpa was not that tall, around 5’6″.

Now we are on to the first picture of me near the end of the 1970s – just!  The crop looks too young to be Christmas time, but it is not an ordinary day as these aren’t Grandpa’s normal farming clothes.

Now we are in 1980 and my sister is on the scene too, and we are on an Ariens BM1030 ride-on mower.  The model number is fairly descriptive, as it has a 10hp engine and a 30” wide cutting deck.  I spent quite a few hours on this in later years.

This photo seems to be from 1983, with one of my cousins and our Pomeranian dog (caught mid-scratch) in my grandmother’s garden on the farm.  As is typical in these parts, there was a fenced yard around the house within the ‘home’ paddock, which kept the sheep out of her treasured garden and young children in.  Incidentally the tricycle is still around and being ridden, although it isn’t quite as shiny now.

This one wouldn’t be too much later, my sister again on a Honda CT110 ag bike which is a variation of the legendary Cub.  My grandpa had a sequence of these because they are very quiet and didn’t disturb his sheep, making it easier to herd them.  As far as I can remember I only crashed one once!  Behind is the garage my grandmother parked her 1980-ish Ford Fairlane in, and the water tanks (one up on the stand) – no mains water here, just electricity.

I was glad to find these next few photos, of Grandpa’s International Acco truck.  I don’t remember how old the truck was exactly, but I am guessing somewhere around the 1966-72 range.  It is powered by the 345 V8, and originally had an 18 foot tray which Grandpa extended to 20 feet.  He also had a quite versatile stock crate which had two decks for transporting sheep, with the upper deck folding up to the sides to cater for cattle.  I remember helping him lift it off the truck with a high-lift jack to suspend it from the roof trusses in the shed behind the truck in this photo, when he wanted to use the flat tray.

Here are a couple more bales being loaded with his International Superloader, which was a dedicated loader that was essentially a reversed AW6 tractor and built around the same time as the truck, late-’60s.   I think Grandpa had that for use in his sand pit – not a playground, but a commercial-type operation.  To use it as a forklift like this he cut two holes in the back of the bucket (just visible in the photo) and attached a couple of pieces of railway track with the bottom flange cut off the front section.  Mind you, a dedicated forklift-type attachment was available, but with its longer home-made tines I wonder if Grandpa’s version worked better for lifting wool bales or large round hay bales.

Here is the front of the truck with the loader on the back (I don’t think the loader was road-registered), at the front of the same shed.  The military origins of the Acco are evident; as in the cab has been ‘constructed’ rather than styled!  Behind the power pole at right an old truck can just be seen; I remember that and another one sitting in the yard that looked like a 1920s model with an old-style radiator that looked like it had been there for decades.

Here is Grandpa’s Fiat 1180 tractor, that would have been new in 1984, which had a 5.5L 115 hp 6-cyl diesel engine.  In an echo of the earlier photo, I remember this tractor got bogged when Grandpa decided to take a shortcut and drive through an irrigation channel.  Luckily a neighbour’s tractor (large 4×4 type) was available to pull it out.  Perhaps he should have bought the 4WD aka front-wheel-assist version!

This picture was found on the internet

This tractor had an unusual transmission with 3 groups of 4 gears that were selected using two levers that were like column-shifts, sprouting from either side of the steering wheel.  He had a few other tractors that I can remember, a Massey Ferguson 135, some variety of “grey Fergie” (aka Ferguson TE20) and a Fiat that looked pretty similar.

This photo is from 1986 and shows the interior of the red Acco truck, very much function over form.  I remember the seats having dozens of holes eaten into the foam by mice.  My youngest sister is sitting on the engine cover between the two seats and it looks like one of the kelpie dogs is in there too, probably ready to take a load of sheep to the sale yards.

This is that truck’s replacement, photographed in about 1988–a newer (secondhand) International Acco, with Grandpa and my cousin.  I think it was a 1980 model – these trucks were built from 1972 and the same basic cab is still in production today.  It had a 14 tonne (almost 31,000 lb) GVM with the tare being about half that, a 20 foot hydraulically-tipping tray and was powered by a Neuss D358 6-cyl diesel engine of about 130 hp, 5-speed gearbox and 2-speed diff, which restricted top speed to 50 mph.

That wasn’t a huge issue when most trips would have taken place within a 20 mile radius; indeed, one of the reasons why he bought a secondhand truck in the first place.  This photo is likely before or after one of the longer trips, taking just a few sheep to or from my aunt’s small acreage just north of Melbourne with a few panels of his portable sheep yards in place of the usual stock crate.

I found this photo of a very similar truck; apart from a few details it could almost be the same one.  The main difference is that the tray is shorter, but the stock crate is similar with a folding upper deck.

Grandpa’s last vehicle was this Subaru Brumby ute, from 1994, bought after he found out that they were going out of production.  I can tell this photo was from when the ute was new because it doesn’t have Grandpa’s signature blue terry-cloth seat covers fitted yet!  He invariably got a new set for his birthday (or was it Christmas?) because that was about how long they took to wear out.  It does have the chrome strips removed from around the bed and lengths of angle steel fitted, which did a much better job of protecting things and had tie-down hooks welded on.  This was transferred from his previous Brumby ute and another example of how he adapted vehicles to better suit his needs.  He also had a set of pipe racks (as in made from heavy-gauge water pipe) and a stock crate for it.

This doesn’t represent all the vehicles in my grandfather’s life, even just within my memory span there have been a couple of Ford Fairlanes (arguably my grandmother’s cars), another Subaru Brumby and at least one Suzuki Sierra (aka Samurai) ute as well as the other tractors and motorbikes already mentioned.  I remember pointing out that there was some wheat growing a foot or two tall in the back of the Suzuki and promptly being given the job of cleaning it out!

I’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and I hope you have too.