Story behind every part

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Story behind every part

Ready to rebuild: Allan Cook with a tractor engine he is re-building. His hobby/obsession takes painstaking attention to detail.

By Matt Dunn
TOORA’S Allan Cook is more than a mere collector of machinery.
He is an artist who transforms scrap metal into tractor gold.
A man who has always liked machines, Allan’s formative years were spent bulldozing, hay baling and tinkering with all types of motors.
He was in Toora 10 years or so ago when the first stages of his tractor obsession began. Like many aspects of his journey, it was a chance encounter.
“A chap that owned the paper shop said to me: ‘Oh, you wouldn’t be interested in a tractor, would you? I think it’s an International or something. I bought it with a boat,’” Allan explained.
The tractor came from Manns Beach and its insides were rusted from decades of being exposed to salty air.
It was not an International but one of those renowned names that make tractor enthusiasts go weak at the knees.
“When I saw it I knew what it was. It was an Allis and Chalmers,” Allan said.
The American company had diverse interest in manufacturing, but is best known for its range of bright orange farm tractors.
“We couldn’t get it out of there. Since the time it was parked there, a shed had been built. We finally plucked it out and got it to run, but it was in a shocking state of disrepair,” Allan said.
“It had no mudguards, the bottom was eaten right away. The nose cone was reasonable but the motor was in a shocking state.”
But to Allan it was a thing of potential beauty. He knew with enough time and elbow grease it could again be something special.
“At that stage I got mixed up with hay baling in Alberta, Canada, making hay for the Japanese. Anyway, I chased around for parts during a period of a couple of years,” he said.
“Then I started to rebuild it. It was a bit of effort but that’s what started the rot.”
He said it was “on a par with a heart problem, but not as bad as cancer”.
The 1942 Allis and Chalmers was “stripped down to the last nut and bolt and sand blasted out because it had salt water in it”.
It would eventually become something that “looks like it just came out of the workshop”.
In any typical week, Allan will spend several hours in his workshop. He now has about 20 tractors in various states of repair. The ones he has earnestly started work on are far different to the ones he has only just purchased.
They undergo a remarkable transformation that could easily be compared to magic if it weren’t so slow and painstaking.
Finding the parts is sometimes difficult, but Allan is aided by an international network of people who share the same mad obsession. Tractor collecting is a bug that has bitten many.
What can’t be bought, he makes.
Allan talks of other collectors, including a friend from up north whose relationships with women always seem doomed to failure.
“He gets himself in bother with women sometimes, that sort of thing. They’ve all cost him tractors,” he said, shaking his head.
The same fate is unlikely to befall Allan, whose wife Carol offers loving support to her man. Besides, Allan’s tractors have been promised to the couple’s many grandchildren.
Carol seems to have been bitten by the tractor collectors’ bug too, but perhaps not as hard.
She does not talk about Fordsons, Fergusons and Allis and Chalmers’ with the same kind of breathless excitement, but she is supportive of Allan’s obsession.
If nothing else, the search for tractors and tractor parts has taken the couple to many parts of Australia and overseas.
And Carol knows there’s no point in trying to talk Allan out of a tractor purchase, or anything else for that matter.
“After 43 years of marriage, you give up doing that,” she said with a laugh.
For Allan and Carol, life will always be about ploughing on, whatever comes their way – not mention keeping an eye out for those rarest of mechanical gems.

Short URL: http://www.thestar.com.au/?p=247

Posted by SiteAdmin on Sep 28 2010. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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