In 1955, the first Chamberlain Champion Model Tractor rolled off the production line at the Chamberlain factory in Welshpool, WA. It was a special Tractor however, as the final drive gearing had been modified to enable a top speed of some 60 mph to be attainable. The purpose of the higher speed was for promotional activities, the first of which was to follow the cars competing in the 1955 Redex Reliability Trial, on the Darwin to Perth section. Many competitors were assisted by the Tractor, particularly through the sandy sections around Pardoo.
The Tractor was then engaged in promoting the model to the farming community and taking part in various field demonstrations throughout the State.
Along came the 1956 Redex Reliability Trial and the Chamberlain Tractor repeated its previous role with similar success. Then back to the field demonstrations, country shows and working trials on various farming properties.
In 1957, the Mobilgas Round Australia Rally was the target for the Tractor’s next venture. An application for the Tractor to enter as a competitor was not accepted by the organizers; however their invitation to participate as the official sweep vehicle was accepted by Chamberlains.
August 22nd 1957 saw the Tractor, together with a Ford Custom support vehicle and a crew of six, ready to tackle the course around Australia. As the sweep vehicle, all other competitors’ cars had to leave the checkpoint before the Tractor was allowed to commence the next section.
There were many occasions where the arrival of the Tractor enabled a competitor to be towed into a check point or town for repairs, thus enabling them to continue in the Rally. There were other occasions where the tow simply meant the car and crew was in a town rather than stranded on some remote country road.
It wasn’t too long before the Tractor had gained an enviable reputation for assisting unfortunate competitors and earned the nickname of ‘Tail End Charlie’.
Rescue Scenes from the 1957 Mobilgas Rally
The Rally was officially 10,632 miles (17,000 klms), however with towing and other recovery trips, Tail End Charlie clocked 11,140 miles (18,000 klms), all in just 19 days.
Further demonstrations and promotional activities followed throughout Australia for TEC until such time as the model was discontinued in 1966. By that time in excess of 8,000 Champion model Tractors had been produced. The original ‘Tail End Charlie’ is currently enjoying a well earned rest at the Tractor Museum at Whiteman Park, Western Australia.
RE-ENACTMENT 2007 – (50th ANNIVERSARY)
But that was not the end of the story, rather the end of a chapter, as a replica tractor was used in 2007, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1957 event.
This event commenced in Melbourne in August 2007 and completed the journey around Australia in 38 days. This enabled traveling to be confined to daylight time and gave the crew the opportunity to meet the local people. A partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and the Breast Cancer Foundation of WA was most rewarding as we were able to communicate with the people we met and make them aware of the benefit of having regular health checks. Many cancer survivors made themselves known to the tractor team and an amount of $22,000 was raised from en-route collections.
2017 60th ANNIVERSARY RE-ENACTMENT
In July 2017, the 60th Anniversary of the event will be celebrated by a re-enactment involving the same replica tractor and most of the 2007 crew.
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