1920 Austin model R tractor in Fairlie, South Canterbury, N.Z.

The Austin automobile, "Austin Seven," the vehicle did for the English what the Model T did for Americans, brought motoring within reach of many.
Messrs Booth, Macdonald and Coy were the sole agent for the Austin tractor, sister product of the well-known car.

Herbert Austin, a British motorcar manufacturer, born in 1866 in Buckinghamshire, England, son of a farmer. In 1882 he travelled to Melbourne, Australia with an uncle on his mother's side who lived in north Melbourne and was manager of an engineering firm. Herbert served his apprenticeship at Langlands Foundry in Melbourne and returned to England in 1893 to manage the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company for the Australian company. From 1900 to 1905 Herbert managed the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company. In 1905 he founded the Austin Motor Car Company in Longbridge, Northfield, SW of Birmingham, England. In 1919 his company started to build tractors. In 1920 approximately 1,500 tractors were built that year at a selling price of £300 to £360. Austin was the top selling British tractor in the 1920s.

 Briefly stated, the "Austin" will plough an acre an hour—deep work —will haul a load of 4½ tons on average roads, will operate threshing mill, chaff cutter, or any other form of farm machinery, and is the lightest weight—b.h.p. being taken into account—on the market. Booth, Macdonald & Co., Ltd., are the local agents, from whom full particulars can be obtained.  Sun 28 July 1920 Page 3

At the Fairlie Heritage Museum in Fairlie N.Z. their second oldest tractor is this Austin model R built by the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge, Birmingham, England, between 1919 and 1927. This tractor (serial number 1070) was purchased in 2003 by Tom Sutherland of Albury from a Mr Bennett, an engineer at Parnassus, who had picked it up around Cheviot, but didn't know its origin. Mr Bennett had partially restored it. Murray Elliott of Ashburton finished the restoration in 2005. In 2020 it is owned by Jeremy Sutherland of Timaru and can be found in museum.

Austin decided to stop making the tractor in Britain to free up additional space for its cars. The colour schemes for British and French Austin’s were either pale or Royal blue, with red trim. British farmers were supplied with French built Austin tractors. Some French models had been painted dark green. Austin built an assembly plant in Liancourt, France in 1919, most of its production being sold in England, however in 1926 the French plant began production of its own designs (the French company was ‘Societe Anonyme Austin’). The French Austin’s were designated the ‘AM 26’ & ‘BO 28.’ A diesel version (45/55hp) was built in the 1933. French production ceased in 1939 when invading German forces captured it, the factory being taken over by arms manufacturer Krupp.

Some calculations.
The Model ‘R’ is powered by an Austin four cylinder ‘Heavy 20’ car engine, modified to run on paraffin. Bore & stroke 95x127mm, producing 27 hp at 1,500 rpm, and runs a two speed gear box. The Austin Tractor is small in size, weighs but a ton and & quarter, but exerts a drawbar pull of 300lb, and will haul a load of 4 tons on fair average roads at a speed of 5 miles per hour.

In 1922 an Austin tractor went to Culverden
and another to the Ellesmere farming district.
Culverden to Cheviot 68kms (42miles), a short distance.
Cheviot to Parnassus, N. Canterbury 11.4kms (7 miles).
So where did this Austin R. start her working life?

The Austin at home in South Canterbury, N.Z. in 2019. Information and photos courtesy of Jeremy Sutherland.

 All Austin tractors of that era had the same steel wheels. I have never seen pneumatic tyres on an Austin. Magnetos 'fire' the electrics when the crank handle is turned, in some circles they are known as 'hot boxes' no battery, so no lights etc.


Beautifully restored and in running order. Good sign writing on the engine cover.


The Austin R in good company. Tool box and draw bar.


The two hand brakes (used for turning if necessary) the clutch pedal on left (no foot brakes) gear lever in centre, transverse gear box (runs cross ways) two forward, one reverse.


Four cylinder head, unusual exhaust set up, petrol tank to the right.


Magneto switch and oil pressure gauge.


When turning the crank, the magneto (on left) fires via the shaft which runs to the front gear housing.

Austin tractors first arrived at the Booth Macdonald agency at Cain’s Terrace, Timaru in August of 1920. The building on left is Booth-Macdonald (Booth-Mac) that building is still there Cain’s Terrace. South Canterbury's Austin tractors were distributed from their 1920-22. The first wheel tractor in Albury was this type, purchased by David Irving of ‘Brown Hill’. It arrived in crates off the ‘Fairlie Flyer’ in 1922, then assembled at ‘Brown Hill’. 

Booth, Macdonald & Co. (Ltd.) Farm Implements manufacturers and Engineers, Carlyle, St., Sydenham, CHCH. ph 3707 in 1922. Ten branches throughout N.Z.  Timaru, Ashburton, Oamaru, Palmerston North, Hastings, ....
The Model R tractor probably was sold from Booth-Macdonald in Christchurch, but we don't know for sure. George Thomas Booth (1858 - 1942) born in Sunderland the s/o George & Jane Booth, came out with his parents and six other siblings on the Zealandia in second class arriving at Lyttelton 12 Nov. 1859. G.T. Booth and R.M. Macdonald went into partnership, which dissolved in Nov. 1896. Mr Booth was associated for many years with the firm of Booth, Macdonald and Co., and was managing director from 1890 to 1925.  G.T. Booth lived at 242 Papanui Rd in 1922 ph. A 6201

"Mr George Booth is a man of high standing, and one engaged in carrying on one of the most important industries in the Dominion." The Hon. Sir Joseph Ward, Wellington, July 1908.

Temuka Leader 12 August 1920 Page 2
On Tuesday last, on the farm of Mr J. Mahoney, Seadown, Messrs Booth, Macdonald, and Co., Ltd, gave a demonstration of the capabilities of the Austin Tractor, a British manufacture. Messrs Tromp, and Briggs represented the firm, and Mr Stephen Statham manipulated the tractor. The demonstration was largely attended by farmers and others interested. The tractor drew a three-furrow Carlyle plough, with a Kingsbury patent lifter attached, up and down the paddock, turning over seven inches of earth in perfect style.

Ellesmere Guardian 13 November 1920 Page 3 The "Austin." HIGH-CLASS BRITISH TRACTOR
We have pleasure in directing the attention of ''progressives" amongst our farmer readers to an announcement of Booth, Macdonald and Co., Ltd. The Austin" tractor is made by the same company that makes the Austin car, which concern is the biggest motor works in the British Empire. We understand that at least one Austin is coming into our district from a shipment arriving, and another is going to Culverden to do the work of another "progressive" until recently one of "our ain folk" [sic] but who has yielded to the call of the north. The fact that Booth Macdonald and Co., Ltd are standing behind the Austin is a sufficient assurance that those who link up with the line will receive a square deal and we heartily endorse the advertiser's request that the Guardian be mentioned when enquiry is made. This does the enquirer no harm, and, incidentally, this journal some good.

Poverty Bay Herald 17 June 1921 Page 2
Farmers will be interested to note the arrival of the "Austin" farm tractor in Gisborne. This efficient and economical farm unit has been capturing first place in field trials all over the world, and although weighing only some 26cwt, yet is thoroughly, in keeping with the high standard article the Austin Motor Co., Ltd., of Birmingham (England) turn out. The sole New Zealand agents are Booth, Macdonald and Co., Ltd., and the "Austin" can be inspected at their Gisborne branch depot, Grey St.

Austin was the top selling British tractor in the 1920s.

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