Tail-End Charlie trek ends

20 Nov, 2007 09:00 PM
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THE restored Chamberlain tractor and its crew which commemorated a 1950s trans-Australia car rally have finished a long, arduous journey around Australia after more than a month on the nation’s highways.

The weary group pulled into Melbourne on September 26 after 38 days on the road.

The re-enactment of the 1957 Mobilgas Round Australia Rally was successful because the Chamberlain Champion-model tractor — nick-named Tail End Charlie — made it around the country iin time and raised awareness and funds for breast and prostate cancer research.

Ron Bywaters, who was involved in the original 1957 rally, said the trip went smoothly once a few of the early problems were sorted out.

“The reception we got was just incredible and the tractor did not miss a beat,” Mr Bywaters said.

The drivers and crew just could not believe the number of people who came to see them on their journey, he said.

“The media coverage we received was just amazing,” Mr Bywaters said.

“All the way around the country we were giving interviews and people were coming out to see us in their vintage cars and tractors.

“I was humbled to think people would go to such an effort to come out and meet us.”

The re-enactment began at the Bunnings Store in Cranbourne, Melbourne, with a crew of 12 and five support vehicles.

Everything went to plan until the fifth day when the crew decided to change tractors as a safety precaution after a tyre air pressure problem with the tractor could not be solved.

The journey continued with South Australian Smoky Bay crew member George Baldwin’s 9G tractor.

However, the pace dropped considerably to 45kmh after the switch to the other machine which resulted in a few extra hours of driving each day.

The second hurdle came the next day when Mr Bywaters’ bus broke down in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain.

Fortunately, a passing road-train driver was able to radio their support crew who towed them to Norseman.

On the eighth day the tractors were swapped again when Albany crew member Cedar Armstrong arrived in Norseman with driver Dick Garnett’s newly restored 9G.

This tractor was immaculately prepared and performed beyond the crew’s highest expectations.

After storing Mr Baldwin’s tractor, they were able to pick up the pace to 70-75 kmh.

The crews were met in Jerramungup by 9G Club members from Albany and Ravensthorpe who escorted them to Ongerup.

On day 12 the crew arrived at Northampton only to discover rows of purple bras where the local motoring and machinery group had turned up to show their support for the re-enactment and the causes for which the trip was raising awareness.

People across the country now associated the famous orange tractor with the breast and prostate cancer foundations, Mr Bywaters said.

“I hope to continue our association with these foundations and perhaps send tractors to their fund raising events,” he said.

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