A love for all things rusty

Travelling around Australia for a decade didn’t stop Sean “Moose” Johnston from building an impressive collection of historic tractors, trucks and Victa lawnmowers. With The Tractor Restoration and Appreciation Club of Sunraysia (TRACS) “Australian Made” Day on this weekend, Moose showcased a couple of the pieces from his collection that will be on display to Caitlyn Morgan.
Pictures: Carmel Zaccone

WHEN driving up the driveway to Sean “Moose” Johnston’s house, you are treated to a glimpse of his collection, one that can be seen from quite a distance with his property situated on a hill in Red Cliffs.

There are tractors in the front yard, tractors in the backyard and various rusty but prized possessions in every other direction.

Moose lights up with his big cheeky grin when he speaks about how beautiful the sunset is over his tractors each night, he clearly loves the home he and his wife Dawn have built for themselves.

While Moose and Dawn have only been Sunraysia residents for less than a decade, their love for the region could make you believe they have lived here their whole lives.

“It’s a good area, there is so much going for it and there is always something going on,” Moose says.

“After 10 years travelling Australia, we wanted to find somewhere to settle down that was hot and with friends already here we thought, ‘why not settle in the hottest place in Victoria?’ So we stopped travelling Christmas 2010.”

Once settled in Red Cliffs, Moose says the first thing he needed to do was collect his “earthly belongings” that were scattered across Australia; on friends’ properties, at his parents’ and in shipping containers.

He had been a collector from a young age so to get everything back together was no easy task.

“I had things shipped from as far as Darwin and even Kangaroo Island,” he says.
“Initially I started off collecting as a kid; I would collect matchbox cars and Lego and then it progressively become more expensive things.

“As a teenager I collected Holden cars with my brother, then started collecting motorbikes.

“Our parents were happy that instead of being down the pub, we were working away out the back.”

Then came the collection of Victa lawn mowers.

“It almost became a fetish, at one point I had 72,” Moose admits. “It was just all by word of mouth, more and more people found out I collected them so I was then told about more available.

“When we began travelling I got it down to under 30 but now once again by word of mouth, I have started getting a few more.”

If you thought a prerequisite to make it in the collection was it must have rust, you would be incorrect with Moose and his wife Dawn, collectors of China.

“I have always loved the thrill of the hunt,” Moose says. “I use to always be going to swap meets but now it’s hard to find a bargain as people are there to make money.

“For me, I am not about making money from my hobby, that doesn’t interest me. I am interested in getting someone else into the same hobby or passing things on to someone who will use it.”

“For me, I am not about making money from my hobby, that doesn’t interest me. I am interested in getting someone else into the same hobby or passing things on to someone who will use it.”

Despite the increase in pricing for many items, it hasn’t stopped Moose from continuing to grow his collection.

“Even when we travelled Australia for 10 years, I was still collecting along the way, leaving everything in storage,” Moose says.

“It was while travelling in 2000 that I got my first tractor (now one of more than 20), it was that next step.

“Then in 2002 I was told about a KL Bulldog on a farm on Kangaroo Island. It was completely buried in the sand, the owner said if I was silly enough to get it out then I could have it for two boxes of beer. So I did it.”

With Moose not interested in a collection that doesn’t have a purpose, he can be found working in his shed each night, restoring one of his many vehicles back to working order.

“Some things are good to collect but it doesn’t do much for me if it just sits there,” he says.

“I like to restore things mechanically but not aesthetically, I like to leave all of the dints as they each tell a story. I like to look at them the way they are.
“I want to keep hold of them for the next generation to appreciate.”

Other items Moose is particularly fond of in his collection are a 1969 International CI840 Truck and 1936 saw bench.

“The bench was my grandfather’s, it was sold after he died and then I chased it and have brought it back to the family, I haven’t restored it but have plans to pass it down the generations,” Moose says.

“The 1969 International truck was my first truck, it’s a Mildura truck, first from Merbein. It’s one that I would like to keep local.”

When Moose isn’t tinkering away in his shed, he can be found crewing on Terry Kelly’s Sprintcar team or at the various Tractor Restoration and Appreciation Club of Sunraysia (TRACS) meetings and events.

This weekend, he will be supporting TRACS at the “All Australian Day”.
“It’s a lot of good fun, meeting lots of people is the really enjoyable part of it all,” he says.

Moose plans to have on display at least two of his tractors, two trucks and a few lawn mowers.

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