Last Updated: April 20, 2014

Weather: Canberra 3°C - 17°C . Mostly sunny.

The Shed

Collector Models stocks Chamberlain tractors and farm toys for boys at heart

Leigh Grigg

Nostalgic: Leigh Grigg with his replica Chamberlain Tractor. Source: Weekly Times Now

AT 63 years young, Leigh Grigg is not too proud to admit he's still a kid who enjoys playing with toys.

Peruse his Ballarat warehouse, where he runs his Collector Models business - selling more than 1000 models of tractors, as well as numerous farm, forestry and mining machines - and Leigh is like a kid in a lolly shop.

Alongside the mostly imported stock, there is his own handmade model Chamberlain tractors, as well as a display cabinet of Leigh's personal collection of model toys, Corgi, Matchbox cars, and Dinky models from the '50s and '60s.

"Our slogan is farm toys for kids from three to 103," Leigh says.

"There's no age limit to the kids who buy our toys. For a lot of our mature-age clients it's about the nostalgia, they tell me they used to have that model as a kid. But the young ones, up to early teens, flock to it as toys.

"Then when they're young adults, they buy toys on the pretext it's for their nippers."

Leigh grew up on a dairy farm in Bungaree, where the seeds were sown for Collector Models.

"When dad was on the farm I'd have a carpet farm or a sandpit farm where I'd have toys imitating what he was doing," he recalls.

He studied engineering at the then Ballarat School of Mines before working for Holden, then Munro's Engineers in Ballarat, making farm equipment.

It was 1990, while working as chief engineer for Ballarat Hospital, that he dabbled in models as a sideline business, which became full-time two years later.

As the biggest independent dealer of farm toys in Australia, Leigh is a regular at agricultural shows such as the Henty or Elmore field days, while most of his models are sold online and through his warehouse.

Most models are imported from China, with some sourced from Europe.

"I'm selective about what I choose from catalogues. I could increase the selection three-fold. Some, like a Lamborghini tractor, sold few in Australia so I don't get those.

"I'm aiming to bring out ones that people identify with. I try not to buy one-offs, but I do take requests and try to source them."

However, with a personal love of Australian Chamberlain tractors, Leigh hand manufacturers Chamberlain Champion 9Gs, which were made between 1957-65.

So far he's produced 377, each priced at $396, with a cap at 500 to ensure the market is not saturated and they remain collectable.

The 9Gs have about 60 components, which Leigh creates from aluminium master patterns to produce castings.

"Toy makers around the world only make models in big production to sell around the globe.

"The market for the Chamberlain by comparison is negligible. But people in Australia have an affection for them. They were loved by farmers in the '50s and '60s. I had a lot of requests so I started making them. Once I've finished with this model I'll start making another Chamberlain tractor."

While Leigh is a devoted model man, he also tinkers with bigger machines, restoring a vast collection of tractors, motorbikes, cars and planes.

At his home he has McCormick-Deering tractors from the late 1930s and early '40s, vintage Ducati bikes, and more than 20 Chevrolet cars dating between 1925 to 1983.

"Why Chevrolets? Because they were technically-advanced in an engineering sense. My grandpa had one and I was even bought home from hospital in one as a baby."

Leigh works with his son Matthew, a pilot, Leigh restoring a World War II Wirraway, and flies in a restored Winjeel and Auster.

Leigh says while he would collect more, "it does destroy the profit margin".

"I don't collect for investment. I collect for joy. People buy models and say they won't take them out of the box, but I can't understand that. You buy them because they make you feel good."

  • Collector Models, Ballarat, (03) 5332 1618 or collector models.com.au

Have your say

Skip to:
Read comments
Add comments

Add your comment on this story

Comments Form

1200 characters left

Your details
Post Options

Gaining control of sprays to cut costs

VIC_WT_MACHINE_WIMMERA_DAY 2_12FEB14(2)

VICTORIAN farmers are trialling new nozzle control technology retrofitted to self-propelled boom sprayers.

Transmission revolution makes Case

VIC_WT_MACHINE_WIMMERA_DAY 2_12FEB14(2)

THE new Constant Variable Transmission tractor was on show at Wimmera Field Days last month.

Chaser bin no Smale feat

Chaser bin no Smale feat

SMALE Farm Equipment showed a prototype chaser bin at the Wimmera Machinery Field Days recently.

Secondhand sales gain traction

Secondhand sales gain traction

VICTORIAN tractor dealers are gaining a solid reputation nationally for secondhand ag machinery.

Slashers given a big boost

Slashers given a big boost

TOW’N’Mow has released a new higher-end slasher in its trailing slasher range.

More from our partners

Leaping lamb exports continue

LAMB export values in February jumped 40 per cent compared to last year.

Gaining control of sprays to cut costs

VIC_WT_MACHINE_WIMMERA_DAY 2_12FEB14(2)

VICTORIAN farmers are trialling new nozzle control technology retrofitted to self-propelled boom sprayers.

Going for gold

 Cut Daffodils in the cool room. David and Robin Jackson of Jacksons Daffodils in Surges Bay on their farm.

FEW growers have won the top daffodil award in the UK or the US. Yet one Australian has taken out both. Meet David Jackson.