Farmer thrust into spotlight after Henty win in 1978

Tony Lehmann, aged 16, tests the Super Six on the family farm at Talgarno before it goes on to win the 1978 Henty Machine of the Year Award.

One of the earliest winners of the Henty Machine of the Year Award was a local farmer who ingeniously designed an innovative scraper in his home workshop.

A self-taught mechanical engineer, Alan Lehmann was running an earthmoving business and farming at Talgarno in 1978 when he won the Award for the Lehmann “Super Six’’ scraper.

The six-yard capacity scraper had been debuted at Henty that year, with the paint barely dry.

The inspiration behind the Super Six had been the limitations of the equipment on the market at the time.

Alan Lehmann was working a 4WD 140 horsepower tractor with a five-yard scoop but found it lacking versatility, according to his son Tony.

“We needed a machine which could load itself with minimum horsepower,’’ Tony said.

“We began thinking about developing a self-loading machine able to work in all conditions.

“The Super Six was a bigger machine able to work on half the horsepower – at the time we were building a lot of dams, roads, doing land levelling and sporting ovals.

“It was revolutionary and there has been nothing built quite like it since.’’

It was hand built in a shed on the family farm by Alan and Tony, and was pulled by a Ford 7000 90hp 2wd tractor.

HMFD Co-operative member Kerry Pietsch helped with fabrication work on the Super Six and convinced Alan to enter it in the Henty Machine of the Year Award.

“At the time it was unproven as we had only worked it for half an hour,’’ Tony said.

“At Henty we demonstrated it before a fairly big crowd down on the creek near the dog trials arena.’’

The Super Six was awarded the 1978 Machine of the Year by the judges.

“At the time there was a lot of public interest in the machine but we made the decision to prove that original machine over 8000-9000 hours,’’ Tony said.

“Over the following two years, we received orders to manufacture five, four-yard scrapers, which were made in the shed at the family farm and went out as test machines.

“We never considered ourselves to be manufacturers, but earthmovers.’’

The Super Six originally sported green and yellow livery but the family quickly recognised the colour was associated with agriculture by customers rather than heavy earthmoving equipment.

A colour change to gold was readily accepted by the earth moving industry.

By 1984, the scrapers had racked up 20,000 hours of testing and manufacturing was moved to Albury, enabling the design and workability of the machine to be perfected.

“We initially built three scraper sizes – four, six and nine yard. The nine yard scraper was the most popular,’’ Tony said.

In 1985, the Lehmann scraper was awarded the Australian Design Award by the Industrial Design Council of Australia and the National Energy Management Award.

“Over the next few years demand grew for bigger machines. Higher horsepower tractors were being brought onto the market, so we began manufacturing 12, 15 and 18 yard scrapers,’’ Tony said.

Alan’s son Doc, a qualified fitter and machinist, later managed the workshop and was instrumental in designing the machines.

Lehmann Scrapers were designed for use in earthmoving, land forming and land levelling by farmers, contractors, in the civil construction industry and government authorities.

The machines had a patented drawbar and hydraulic tilt steer axle, while high-speed elevators enable filling at speeds of up to 15km/hr, depending on conditions.

“We sold more than 150 scrapers around Australia and overseas – some of these machines have worked 30,000 plus hours and only been maintained by replacing component parts,’’ Tony said.

Manufacturing stopped in the early 2000s as Alan moved towards semi-retirement.

Today, Tony and his son Daniel base their business at Bonegilla, sourcing second-hand scrapers for refurbishing and on-selling.

The pair enjoys an occasional visit to the Henty field days to look over specific items and catch up with mates.