Bob Reynolds – A Grenfell motor industry pioneer honoured by national automotive body

VASA president Ian Stangroome presents Bob Reynolds with the VASA pioneer award.Grenfell motor industry pioneer honoured by national automotive body

An automotive expert from Grenfell, New South Wales, has been honoured for his pioneering work in agricultural air conditioning equipment.

Long time VASA member Bob Reynolds, well known for his diesel expertise in Henry Lawson country around Grenfell, west of Sydney, has hung up his overalls – well not quite.

But at 77 years of age, he’s trying to call it quits and enjoy what he calls his semi-retirement. He has closed down Reynolds Tractor & Diesel Service in the heart of Grenfell after 21 years and relocated to a shed on his home paddock on acreage at the edge of town.

Bob’s expertise in diesel repairs and farm machinery air conditioning has made him a popular figure in his district, and he could be said to be a true pioneer in cabin air conditioning in the big harvesters and tractors of this rich grain growing area.

He told VASA, “I enjoy the industry and its challenges. I was very involved with the agricultural machinery in the early stages of enclosed cabins and air conditioning and rest assured we were on our own. We had to sort out the manufacturer’s short comings. It was all good learning. Current technology leaves some of us oldies lacking. However, we still have common sense.”

Bob is an honorary life member of the Insitute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers, and has served as an examiner for the Institute for the past 40 years and is still called on today to test trade qualifications. He joined the Institute as a student member in 1953.

“Both the IAME and VASA I hold in high esteem. You have to belong to organisations like this to keep up your skills and stay connected. I am determined to participate in the trade for as long as possible.

“Many thanks for what VASA has given to me and I wish the organisation a very healthy future,” Bob added.

Bob did his apprenticeship as a diesel engineer with the old firm of Ferrier & Dickinson in Sydney, the home of Gardner diesel engines.

He was later to work as a motor mechanic at the Australian Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and then moved to underground mines around the district as a diesel engineer.

In 1965, he and his brother John started Reynolds Brothers Motors, a Ford tractor dealership and repairer at Forbes, which continued until 1982.

“The US tractors from John Deere were the earliest to put cabins on their tractors with air conditioning.

“Up till then the farmers drove their tractors all day in the open, covered in dust and dirt.

“Local manufacturers Ford and International went from tractors with no cabins at all in the early 70s to cabins with evaporative coolers by the late 70s,” Bob recalls.

“This technology didn’t suit all climatic conditions and when they moved into proper air conditioning, it was a lot of trial and error.

“Dust was the killer but even worse was how to get rid of the heat out of the condenser. Tractors don’t travel at any speed through the air. The air conditioners could cool down the cabin, but the heat would cook the daylights out of the system.

“We did a little bit of aircon installation, but mostly, our role was to keep the air conditioning systems alive and the farmers happy,” Bob said.

His proudest moment was being invited to be the plant mechanics judge in the New South Wales finals of the Work Skills Olympics in 1987.

VASA president Ian Stangroome said Bob was a real pioneer, and VASA would continue to send Bob his VASA newsletter for as long as he wants them and his membership fees will be suspended.

Bob, accompanied by his wife and business partner Gwen, were presented with the Pioneer Award at a ceremony at the historic Royal Automobile Club in Sydney, during the quarterly VASA Board meeting.

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