She may be 59, but Miss Ferguson is one of those classic beauties who still manages to stop traffic, or at least bring it to a crawl.
For 30 odd years Whitianga man Graham Murrell has dreamt of the day he could drive off into the sunset with Miss Ferguson – now he’ll be getting his wish this month.
Whitianga man Graham Murrell will be driving Miss Ferguson – his restored 1956 Massey Ferguson tractor – from Whitianga to Bluff in March.
The lady in red is in fact a 1956 Massey Ferguson tractor the 53-year-old man has been lovingly and painstakingly restoring since November of 2012.
His plan is to drive Miss Ferguson all the way from Whitianga to Bluff – a massive 1700km or thereabouts journey – in a bid to raise funds for the Whitianga Community Services Trust.
“I’ve wanted to do this for 30 years but never had the time, so now I’m making the time,” says Graham.
“I’ve spent years driving tractors on other people’s farms; I’d often dream of jumping on one and driving off into the sunset.
“So now I’ve decided to do something for myself and get to help the trust out at the same time, which is bloody brilliant.”
Graham adds: “A lot of people walk, run and bike the length of this country, so I’m going to take my vintage tractor and go for a drive”.
Not being mechanically-minded and with a wallet that’s seen better days, Graham has used that good ol’ Kiwi number 8 wire ingenuity to transform Miss Ferguson into the beauty you see today.
Many people in the Whitianga community have also chipped in with advice, expertise and help, which has been hugely appreciated by Graham.
Much of the project is about recycling, says Graham, like the tray on the back of the trailer which was made from recycled steel.
“It’s been cut up with a hacksaw because I couldn’t afford an angle grinder and I swapped my push bike for some someone to weld it up.
“I also had to re-wire the whole tractor, which I couldn’t afford. So I used old extension cords from the dump and from friends, sat down, pulled them all apart and just about re-wired the whole thing.
“I’m on a bit of tight budget,” says Graham.
The back of the tray also features stickers from a number of local businesses sponsoring Graham’s massive journey, which is he’s very grateful and appreciative of.
Miss Ferguson is road-registered, being given the big tick of approval from Police, and she now features new brakes, head and tail lights, and indicators.
She goes a whopping 20km/h and Graham took her on a road test recently, driving from Whitianga to Tairua, Kopu and Coromandel, with the roughly 200km journey taking 10 hours.
What you won’t find on Miss Ferguson is a windscreen or a canopy, says Graham.
“People ask me about bad weather and I’m of the opinion that you just harden up and get on with it.
“Once I start I’m not stopping, I don’t care if its snow or a hail storm, I need to do this.”
Graham hit the road early morning on March 1 and is aiming to complete the 1700km journey by March 21.
While he’s on track, Graham says there are a couple of loose ends that need to be tied up, like sourcing some hi-vis gear and ear muffs.
He’s also hoping to avoid hotels and backpackers, wishing to find places at people’s homes to stay at along the way.
“I’ve been there, done that. I want to make this a journey rather than make it just a trip and would love to meet people along the way.
“I’m also really needing a support person who can make it for either the whole journey of for parts of it, but I don’t have the funds for petrol yet. But watch this space.”
When asked her first thought when she learned of Graham’s efforts, Whitianga Community Services Trust social services manager Jenny Wolf says she “thought he was nuts”.
“The more we got to know Graham that definitely changed,” says Jenny. “He is such a loveable character and he just lives and breathes his passion. I have total confidence he’ll get there.”
Jenny says any funds raised by Graham will go directly to the trust’s elderly services division and is immensely grateful for his support.
The trust receives 45 per cent government funding, with the rest they have to source themselves.
It can be a struggle, for example, in 2014 the trust closed its doors for one day a week during a six-month period.
This allowed them to continue providing services to their elderly clients but meant staff lost a day’s pay for six months.
“Supporting the elderly role is something we traditionally do well, we keep people out of hospital through our support officer.
“In our community we have about 80 people constantly on our books, and at least three-quarters have no family in this area, so they’re very much reliant on our services.
Jenny adds: “We just try to meet the community’s need, then find the funds to support that need”.
For more information and updates about Graham and Miss Ferguson’s epic journey see: www.facebook.com/ridingmissferguson.murrell
For more information about the Whitianga Community Services Trust see: www.whitiangasocialservices.co.nz