The story of Versatile tractors in Australia has as its backdrop the hard working pioneering spirit of agricultural development.
Powerful four wheel drive pulling power was required to cultivate new country, to haul heavy duty trash workers and to open landscapes to new opportunity.
The inspiring tale is one of legend, and thanks to the efforts of Versatile collectors Jack and Diane Barry from Warwick, the history of the Canadian-built machines was celebrated over the weekend at the Goondiwindi showgrounds.
Of course, the saga would not be here to tell had it not been for the pugnacious efforts of Colin Uebergang, the first importer who drove the trade from his family farm, Copperfield at Crooble via Croppa Creek in the state's north.
The Uebergang clan were the driving force behind mechanical agriculture with Colin's father Oscar buying the first tractor in the district in 1924 - a Minneapolis Moline Universal.
Before long the enterprise required four tractors and the elder Uebergang removed the back seat of an early model motor car to carry cans of kerosene to the paddock.
Colin recognised the need for more horsepower to cover greater landscapes and settled on the Versatile brand for its resilience and longevity - qualities that were apparent in the collection on display at Goondiwindi.
A tour of Canada and the US in the early 1970s revealed the tenacity of the powerful tractors with plenty of other models laid up in the wrecking yards but only one Versatile.
Committing to the project Mr Uebergang initially brought four tractors to Australia in 1974, kicking off a relationship that involved $18 million worth of imported machinery and eventual dealerships that covered the country. But there was a hitch - all warranty claims were to be dealt with by Mr Uebergang and unbeknownst to him the Eaton differentials, "matched" to Cummins horsepower were poorly suited to Australian conditions - and the heavy demand extracted from them by Australian farmers.
In Canada winter wheat is sown in the cold. Down under that task takes place in the heat and diff oil literally boiled in its housing, leading to bearing failure after 1500 hours.
Aussies tend to drove their machines at greater rates - 2000 hours a year was common, and something the executives at Versatile found hard to believe. Mr Uebergang serviced his fleet before they failed - at his own expense - but the continuation of such an undertaking was not sustainable and so he took his case to Canada, with his accountant and lawyer in tow.
The argument over the big boardroom table lasted five days with the company president refusing to acknowledge any problems. Mr Uebergang, meanwhile, discovered 14 lawsuits already before the courts and confronted the company president with a stiff forefinger, calling him a liar.
"A koala bit me on that finger as a kid and it has never had any feeling but when I pushed it into the president's nose I could feel his pulse," Mr Uebergang said.
Within hours a new deal was settled and in due course the Eaton differentials were modified and the Versatile legend went on to claim its place in history.
Mechanic at the Crooble enterprise Alan Humphreys worked for Mr Uebergang from 1972 and recalled how hard the Versatile tractors were hammered.
To get the best out of them they were balanced with water in the tyres - often a bit more in the rear wheels to take load off the front axle which carried the weight of the motor. But that depended on whether the tractor towed with a three point linkage or hitch bar and how big the implement was that towed behind.
Usually the differential oil temperature gauge told the story of which end was working hardest - front or back. The pyrometer measuring exhaust heat was a useful tool and by reading the signs correctly good balance would be achieved. The Versatile design included saddle fuel tanks amidships that made this job more predictable as fuel levels mattered little.
Sometimes, however, gear failures appeared out of nowhere. One client near Dubbo continued to peel back the front axle, snapping inch-thick bolts like they were made from clay and after several warranty claims Mr Humphreys was sent down to investigate.
At first he scratched his head until the farmer demonstrated his technique - lower the implement and select a gear, rev the engine to 2600 rpm and drop the clutch with a thud.
The ceramic differential plate survived that abuse as did the remainder of the drive train but in nature energy is not lost - and those bolts took the brunt of force.
The first mechanic for Penrose Machinery at Goondiwindi, Merv Danes, recalled how farmers more used to wool production than cropping turned their backs on routine maintenance. He remembers shovel-loads of dust being extracted from air filters.
Often they didn't drive their own machines, employing a bloke from town instead at great expense.
One tractor wouldn't go without belching black smoke and on investigation Mr Danes found paper and dirt from the air filter blocking the fuel inlet. A clean-out with a bit of bent fencing wire did the trick.
At one point a representative from Timken Australia delivered a talk to growers and explained that even the best bearings would fail given the chance. He advised farmers to reduce their load by 12 per cent to reduce fail rate by 35pc. Instead of towing a 50 foot bar in low gear a tractor could tow 35 footer in higher range and cover the same country in the same amount of time using less fuel.
"The best maintained Versatile tractor I ever saw was driven by a farmer's wife, at North Star," he recalled. "She hung potted plastic plants inside the cab and every time she drove it she swept it out with a brush and pan. It was like a doctor's surgery in there!"