Machinery

by alan

1950s Chelsea Flower Show Exhibits

June 5, 2017 in Articles, Machinery


Showing new machinery and ideas to the public at shows has always been a great way to promote a company and the machinery too. Even back in the 1950’s the Chelsea Flower Show had many new machines on show, many of the machines have become firm favourites with collectors and of course the machines are still useable today.  

Since Chelsea 2017 has just finished, here are a few vintage images from the Chelsea shows in the 1950s.

1953: Exhibited by John Allen & Sons, Oxford, and showing some attachments including the carrier and also a mower on the right-hand machine.

1953 : Barford Atom. Note the attachments in the background.

1952: Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies Vibro Hoe and other exhibits. Was this before the Vibro Hoe was released and sold to the public?


1955: A well used image but shows the Tarpen battery powered lawn edger being demonstrated

1959: One of a series of well known images showing the Webb Radio-Controlled Lawnmower being demonstrated. Other images show the crowds watching the demonstration.

1957: Rapier Mower by Farmfitters Ltd. Available as a petrol or paraffin model from £42.10s. 

1956: Tarpen Tiller advert showing they will be at Stand No.9 at the Chelsea Flower Show 1956.

1953: Colwood exhibits for Stand No.6 at the Chelsea Flower Show 1953.

by alan

UK’s Oldest Bolens Tractor (and Australia too)

May 17, 2017 in Articles, Machinery

Bolens Ride-a-matic


This isn’t a trick question but does anyone want to guess when Bolens introduced their two-wheeled garden tractors to the UK?

We are all used to seeing the Bolens four-wheeled garden tractors, as in the image on the right, with the appealing Ride-a-matics being introduced in 1959, but the two-wheeled tractors were even earlier – in fact much earlier.

Newspaper research suggests that the very first Bolens were brought to the UK in September 1927, probably a couple of decades earlier than any of us would have guessed. Feedback from Bolens collectors suggest that it was originally thought that Bolens where not imported here before 1959, but newspaper adverts show the two-wheelers were here 32 years earlier.

Australia were four years earlier than us with a Bolens hitting their shores in 1923. Newspaper article at the bottom of this page.

In the UK, the book Seventy Years of Garden Machinery describes early American machines but not that they were imported here, it mentions that two-wheel machines were first imported into the UK in the early 1960s but nothing before. (Admittedly it’s not an easy thing to find out)

Shown below is the very first UK Bolens advert known. It is from the Western Daily Press in Bristol dated 10th September 1927. It is an invitation for everyone to attend a Demonstration of the Bolen’s Tractor at the Agricultural & Horticultural Research Station, Long Ashton, Bristol on the 15th September 1927 at 2pm. That’s 90 years ago this year.

Bolens 1927 Advert – Possibly a Model A power hoe made 1921-1926?

Conveniently this is followed the next day by a report of the tractor and how it performed at the previous days demonstration. 

Bolens Tractor 1927 Report from Long Ashton, Bristol.

The advert from 16th September 1927, image right, says:

“Ingenious Cultivating Machine. At the Long Ashton Research Station yesterday a representative of Joh. Hanson, Astor House, Aldwych, London W.C.2. (Note: Joh. Hansen also imported other machinery from the USA including the 1930s Little Wonder hedge trimmer) gave a demonstration of the Bolen tractor , an ingenious machine adaptable to many uses. It is especially designed for light cultivation by market gardeners, horticulturalists and fruit growers, and has labour saving qualities which should commend it to such. 

Easily and economically run, it is the production of the Gilson Manufacturing Co. Port Washington, Wisconsin, U.S.A. It is small and readily handled and a fine example of the adaptability of the tractor to garden uses. The simple way in which it can be converted to various uses especially commends it, and the construction is such that it can be worked over growing crops without damaging them. 

By it’s cultivators, light ploughing blades, seeders, spraying apparatus, pulverisers, lawn mowers may be quickly fitted for use. It is, therefore, a utility machine of great value. It is so constructed that it straddles and works both sides of two or three rows at a time. It gives 15 inches of plant clearance and ample working vision to the operator. A plank drag attachment is available for seed bed preparation, and it’s seeding attachment makes seeding speedy and easy. The many testimonials as to the efficiency of the machine and the satisfaction it has given to users go to justify the claims which are made for it. 

The demonstration was made under unfavourable conditions in heavy waterlogged soil, but the demonstrator was able to give a good idea of some of the capabilities of the machine, and to show what a valuable acquisition it is for garden users on a large scale, where labour saving expense is a material factor in profitable cultivation.”

And then…..nothing……absolutely nothing about Bolens until 14 years later when an advert appears in the Gloucestershire Echo on the 19th September 1941. Advertising a shipment of Bolen’s Market Garden Tractors complete with Ploughs, Potato raising ploughs and Cultivating Equipment. The distributors are B.S. Bird & Co. (Gloucester) Ltd. Does anyone know anything about B.S.Bird & Co. ?

1941 Bolens as sold by B.S. Bird & Co (Gloucester) Ltd, Stroud.

This is followed (image below) on the 6th November 1942 by a private advert in the Western Mail selling a 5hp Bolens Tractor with complete ploughing and cultivating tools and potato lift – as sold in the 1941 advert above! The address is Rose Tree Farm , Llanmartin, South Wales. Importantly the price of £180 is mentioned for the purchase earlier that year. 

1942 private advert for a 5hp Bolens Tractor

A couple of years later (image below) on the 16th February 1944, a Bolens tractor with implements appears in the Birmingham Mail. Advertised by Mason & Westcott, Pinvin, Pershore, Worcestershire for a price of £120 in as new condition.

1944 advert for a Bolens Tractor at Pershore, Worcs. Price £120.

Notice how these Bolens are so far all huddled around one corner of the UK and except for the advert below are within 60 miles radius of Long Ashton, Bristol?

On the 9th December 1948 an advert (image below) in The Cornishman newspaper advertises the sale of 2 Bolens tractors and implements. 

Selling at public auction on the 10th December  1948 at Godolphin Cross, Breage, Helston, ‘Two-wheeled Bolens tractor with forward and reverse gears, complete with plough, cultivator, bankers, hay cutter, potato lifter, harrow (new): Two-wheeled Bolens tractor with forward and reverse gears, this tractor has scarcely done any work, complete with implements. Both tractors are fitted with flywheel ignition.’

1948 Bolens advert for two tractors with plough, cultivator, hay cutter, potato lifter and harrows

And then once again….nothing……nothing until the Ride-a-matics of 1959. This is the complete opposite of Trusty Tractors and other makes where private adverts pop-up often and in different places too, perhaps Bolens didn’t make an early impact and there weren’t many about? Any ideas?

In Australia a newspaper article appears in Adelaide on the 15th March 1924 – image below. Mr Archie McLean of Victoria had imported a Bolens Power Hoe nine months earlier (making it about June 1923). Mr McLean states that the machine cost £60 and 2/6 per day pays for the petrol. 

Other Australian newspaper reports say that by May 1927 both the Bolens ‘D.J.” Power Hoe and the Bolens “Hi-Boy” tractor were available in Australia.

1924 Australian Bolens Power Hoe Article


Has anybody got, or seen, or heard of a 1920’s Bolens in the UK? Where did they go.

Thanks to Sandi & Roger for their help with identifying the 1927 Bolens picture in the first advert.

by alan

Machines and original engines

May 7, 2017 in Articles, Machinery


Villiers Engine Advert

Occasionally we see posts on the VHGMC forum asking if a certain machine had a particular engine fitted from new or is it a replacement engine.

A machine may get an engine transplant over it’s lifetime. Maybe the swap is because the engine has expired, maybe it was easier to put on another engine as it was cheaper than replacing worn parts or indeed the machine may have the correct engine type but swapped from a different machine and hence the colours or ID plates no longer match the receiving machine. There are many reasons. 

Coming across a 1965 Gaskets and Oil Seals catalogue the other week there is a list of vintage machines with their engines, list reproduced below. This isn’t an exhaustive list but nevertheless it is interesting to see the original specified engines with their machines listed alongside some popular manufacturers. 

There are a few interesting items within the pages such as a battery charger made by Dale with a Villiers Mk.20 engine. A Byron elevator with a JAP 2S engine (Probably the same as Byron who made the tractors). An Acre soil shredder with BSA 320cc engine, and Teles Chainsaws with various Villiers engines. 

Of note is an En-Tout-Cas (of the posh tennis courts) roller with a Villiers Mk.12 engine. An engine powered En-Tout-Cas roller to match the En-Tout-Cas tennis court is very upmarket indeed! I’ll make an assumption that the roller was possibly a re-badged machine, maybe a Stothert & Pitt as they used the same engines.

Below are the pages relevant to vintage horticultural machines – check to see which engines were fitted on each machine. Is your’s there?

The columns in bold were the recommended head gasket reference numbers.

Click on the images for slightly larger versions.

Walking Tractors Engine List

Sprayers (Liquid) Engine List

Sprayers (Dry) Engine List

Soil Mixers Engine List

Grass Cutters & Mowers Engine List

Soil Shredder Engine List

Chainsaw Engine List

Rollers Engine List

Trucks Engine List

Batter Charger Engine List

Flxible Drive Tools Engine List

Dumpers Engine List

Generators Engine List

by alan

Ryan and Horwool turf equipment

April 14, 2017 in Articles, Machinery

We probably all know the name of Horwool and their ride-on triplex mowers and the Landscaper 1200 tractor – see them in the Horwool gallery. In the 1960’s Horwool, based in  Romford, were also the agents for the American built Ryan turf equipment which was shipped over to the UK.

Ryan still make lawn care equipment ( http://www.ryanturf.com/about-ryan/ ). The most interesting piece of equipment from the 1960’s being the range of turf cutters that cut the rolls of turf that are laid for new lawns. These machines have knobs and levers and many moving parts and would probably make a fascinating horticultural exhibit at a show although I doubt we’d be allowed to strip the showfield at Newark Tractor Show as an attraction – but it’d draw the crowds.

1965 Ryan Turf Cutter sold by Horwool

The 1960’s machines seem to differ very little from their modern day equivalents. The turf cutters pictured right, from the 1965 brochure, were capable of cutting three acres of turf per day per machine, that’s just under 15,000 square yards. The machines automatically cut-off the turf at the correct length and had different types of blades for varying turf conditions. 

Powered by 7hp Wisconsin engines or 9hp Briggs and Stratton engines on the larger machines, they had a disc clutch and disc brake for the automatic turf cut-off. 

The only down-side I can see is that there still needed to be a man on his knees rolling up the turf behind the operator and stacking it on pallets. The brochure does show that the turf can be either rolled up or laid flat on pallets.

Has anyone got an old UK Ryan turf cutter? I’m sure that there will still be some in use today as they would be well looked after if they were heavily relied upon.

Ryan also produced the Motoraire, pictured belowwhich much like Sisis machines “removes cores of soil to open up the soil and let air, moisture and fertilizer down into the grass root zone” . Ryan add that “Aeration with a Ryan Motoraire should be used for maintaining healthy turf and for rebuilding and rejuvenating turf of poorer quality“. 

Powered by what appears to be a Briggs and Stratton engine rated at 3hp, Ryan recommend the Motoraire for “beautifying school playgrounds, athletic fields, hospitals and industrial plant grounds and home lawns, it is also highly recommended for…use by landscapers, lawn maintenance companies, rental companies and nurseries“.

1964 Ryan Motoraire as sold by Horwool in the UK


Ryan machines were not just limited to walk-behind machines, there’s also the tractor mounted Renovaire. This machine, image below from 1964, could do coring, slicing and renovating of turf and was “designed for fast, economical aerating of large turf areas” such as golf courses, sports pitches and parks. 

The operating speed when working is up to 10mph and when not working the 8′ wide machine can be transported on it’s 4.00 x 8″ pneumatic tyres behind a truck or car at reasonable driving speed on a field or site. 

1964 Ryan tractor-mounted Renovaire


Horwool also had some of their own turf equipment. There is the Powarake, and also the Powaroll, both great names

The Powarake, pictured below left, was a 3 1/2 hp, BSA powered lawn de-thatcher. With a centrifugal clutch it had 100 self-cleaning flexible steel tines and mechanically lifts thatch and debris from the lawn. Apparently tree roots, curbs and stones will not damage the tines which run at 1200 RPM. 

The  Powaroll, pictured below right, had a 3hp Briggs and Stratton engine and featured reverse for maneuvering in tight spaces. When the roller was filled with water it weighed in excess of a quarter of a ton which gave effective levelling and compaction of the ground.

Horwool Powarake and Powaroll

For reference and anyone researching Horwool, the address on the brochures is:

Horwool (Manufacturing ) LTD
Upper Bedfords
Lower Bedfords Road,
Romford,
Essex,
England.

by alan

David Brown & Bolens

January 31, 2017 in Articles, Machinery

Did Bolens inspire the David Brown colour scheme?

Did Bolens inspire the David Brown colour scheme?

Collecting and preserving a machine is often much more than just having the physical machine itself, although one machine is never enough and the collecting bug bites hard. Also accumulating brochures, leaflets and memorabilia about a certain manufacturer can add to the interest, sometimes it’s also vital to have the extra information when rebuilding or desperately trying to reconstruct a machine from a heap of parts and some rusty tinwork. It’s all about research and a worthwhile investment, or so we convince ourselves as we buy another vital brochure on the internet. 

There are some members who have an interest in David Brown (photos in the gallery) . Searching online there’s a terrific amount of David Brown related information including not only the typical brochures and literature but also factory photographs, films, and machine history. There’s even have a David Brown museum (I’ve visited) with tractor exhibits and there’s a museum visit video on Youtube. 
David Brown Colour Chart

David Brown Colour Chart – Orchid White, Metallic Chocolate Brown, Poppy Red. Inspired by Bolens?


However even some items escape being in a museum and a few years ago I acquired a 1960’s David Brown factory issued colour chart, shown on the right, it’s something no one seems to have seen before, it’s small and fragile and that may account for few surviving.

What’s more interesting, and more detailed information can be found on the internet about it, is that the David Brown orchid white colour scheme from around the mid 1960’s onwards was apparently inspired by the livery of Bolens garden tractors – namely the white and brown scheme similar to that of the photograph of the Bolens at the top of the page . This colour scheme is shown in the David Brown tractor photo above it.  A fascinating piece of history.

See more Bolens and their various colour schemes in the Bolens gallery

You never know what small pieces of history or documentation may turn up either on the internet, on a stall at a show or from another VHGMC member or a member of the public. If you haven’t already seen Charlie’s Rototiller on the forum then have a look to see what can turn up. 

A 1964 Bolens Husky Advert. £225.00. Mini Tractors, Chew Magna, Bristol.

A 1964 Bolens Husky Advert. £225.00. Mini Tractors, Chew Magna, Bristol.

by alan

Vintage Snow Blowers UK

January 11, 2017 in Articles, Machinery

Moving snow with a Toro Snowpup

Moving snow with a Toro Snow Pup – late 1960’s brochure image, American but from a UK brochure.

As it’s winter we have had a look to see what vintage snow-moving equipment exists in the UK.

There’s blade attachments for various machines such as the Allen scythe, Merry Tiller and Barford to name just three. But more specifically we looked to see if there are any vintage snow blowers or snow throwers in existence. 

We are all aware that in the USA there’s a big range of snow moving machines for residential use from the large manufacturers. A 1962 American issue of ‘Popular Science’ informs us that amongst the manufacturers were: Ariens, Bob-Cat, Bolens, Eska, Graveley, Jacobsen, Jari, Motor-Mower, Reo (of Wheelhorse), Sears and Roebuck, Simplicity, Snow Bird, Snow-Boy, Storm King and Toro. Most of these manufacturers are very well known to us and so it’s not hard to image that some of those 1960’s and 70’s machines may have made their way over to the UK.

Toro Snowblowers 1966

Toro Snow blowers 1966

These American specification machines varied in HP from 2.5Hp (Reo) up to 7.25HP (Simplicity) and their width of cut from 16″ (Jacobsen) to 36″ (Simplicity). The means of propulsion also varied between self-propelled or being pushed by hand. 

The only evidence we have  that describes snow blowers being marketed in the UK is a 1966 brochure by Toro although to be fair we don’t know how many were ever sold. The fold-out leaflet bears the address of Flymo Ltd, Penn Place, Rickmansworth, Herts in 1966. Image on the right.

The Toro models available were the Snow Pup and Snow Husky. The Snow Pup had a 14″ wide cut and 2.5HP engine and able to throw the snow 15′. The Snow Husky was larger with a 3HP engine, 21″ wide cut and a 20′ throw. The UK brochure image below shows a Toro snow blower in the bottom right corner of the dealerships lineup of various machines.

Toro

This 1967 UK catalogue photo shows a  Toro Snow Blower tucked away in the bottom right corner

Currently Toro are the only pedestrian snow blowers we can find evidence of although we do know that both Bolens and Snapper did market and sell later in the UK, their machines occasionally appearing on auction sites.

Do you have a vintage snow blower in the shed or know of any that were UK bought machines?

John deere 110 with Snow Blower UK

John Deere 110 with Snow Blower UK

Of course snow blowers are not just pedestrian machines and there are numerous manufacturers that made blowers to fit their garden tractors. 

John Deere made snow blowers for their range of 1960’s and 70’s garden tractors from the 110 models onwards and one appeared at Newark Tractor Show a couple of years ago. Image right.

Wheel Horse also manufactured snow blowers for their tractors, they sometimes appear again on internet auction sites. Interestingly a1967 wheel Horse advert view the advert here states that although a snow blade/plow is available (they are quite common second-hand) there is no mention of a snow blower – perhaps they were short of space in the advert. Although a few years later a 1975 brochure (by Mountfield, Maidenhead) and price list for Wheel Horse lists a 37″ snow blower for the Commando tractor at £195, a 42″ snow blower for the Charger and Raider tractors at £210 and a 48″ snow blower for the D series tractor at £240, all plus vat. 

Other tractor manufacturers listing snow blowers for UK sale (whether any were sold here or not is unknown) include Roper with their 1980’s tractors having 42″ snow blades and 40″ snow blowers, the tractors appear occasionally but never seen the blowers.

International Harvester with the 1960’s Cub Cadet tractors (brochures marked as Harvester House, City Road, London) produced a range of snow moving equipment to compliment their tractors although none has appeared in the UK yet.

jacobsen-chief-snow-blower

Jacobsen Chief in a UK brochure

It just shows that because something is in a UK brochure intended for the UK doesn’t mean the implements ever reached UK shores. Alternatively, perhaps they were in such small numbers that either none have yet surfaced or none have survived?

Jacobsen, marketed by Horwool from their Romford and Birmingham offices had the Snow-Auger in their brochure. The Jacobsen tractors appear with snow blades in the UK but has anyone got a Jacobsen Chief with a snow blower as in the image on the right? An image of the Jacobsen with a blade can be seen here in the gallery.

There’s nothing like a UK machine though and Westwood kitted out their garden tractors with optional snow plough and a wide vision canopy. Image at the foot of the page

Sure it’s no snow blower but the additions it does have gives the machine a little added versatility and would sure be a good reason to play out in winter. 

Finally, one question we came across, and a bit of a tongue twister is: “How much snow should a snow blower throw when a snow blower’s busy throwing snow?”.

Can anyone add to this UK snow themed article?

westwood-ready-for-winter

Westwood ready for winter duties

by alan

Atom Tractor – Switzerland

December 31, 2016 in Articles, Machinery

Barford Atom Single Wheeled

Barford Atom Single Wheeled at Tractor World, Newbury.

Researching the history of a machine can be fascinating and sometimes brings up how and where machines have been distributed throughout the world, often all it takes is a photograph or a nagging question and before we know it a whole shed load of information appears. This is very true of the Barford Atom Tractor as mentioned in the December 2016 issue of ‘The Cultivator’ magazine, members can download a copy here. A single-wheeled Atom was exhibited at Tractor World, Newbury in October, and Charlie photographed another at the Museum of English Rural life (MERL) also in October. Below is some more information about the single-wheeled Atom tractor.

Prototype

1945 Prototype by Mechanised Horticultural Implements of Hampshire.

According to the excellent reference book 70 Years of Garden Machinery, Mechanised Horticultural Implements of Hampshire demonstrated a prototype Atom tractor in 1945 with a planned name of Atom Major. The image on the right from the VHGMC archive is of the prototype which varies greatly from the final machine and had hardly any resemblance to what went into production. Click the image top-right from Newbury to see the machine.

We also have a 1947 photograph, below right, of the inventor, a Mr G.H.F. Knight along with the now production ready single wheeled Atom, this is the point where the tractors went into proper production when Barford Ltd became involved in the manufacturing and marketing. 

But there’s additional information which takes the Atom on a little known journey to Switzerland. I suppose this article could be called ‘Little Atom’s Big Swiss Adventure’ as they obviously had high hopes for their machine and must have gone to great lengths to set up numerous demonstrations.

April 1947. Mr G.H.P. Knight (left) inventor of the Atom Tractor, and the Earl of Portsmouth. They are both directors of Horticultural Implements LTD, which have entered into an agreement whereby Barford (Agricultural) LTD undertake the whole of the manufacture and selling of this miniature tractor. As of May 1947 less than 100 Atoms are in use.

April 1947. Mr G.H.P. Knight (left) inventor of the Atom Tractor, and the Earl of Portsmouth. They are both directors of Horticultural Implements LTD, which have entered into an agreement whereby Barford (Agricultural) LTD undertake the whole of the manufacture and selling of this miniature tractor. As of May 1947 less than 100 Atoms are in use.

In 1948 a newspaper article ran:  ‘Grantham’s Atom tractors, smallest in the world, and manufactured by Barford Ltd have gone to Switzerland this week, where, following demonstrations as from next Wednesday it is hoped to capture the Swiss market.’

The article continues with: ‘Three machines have been sent and a vine sprayer has been produced, this special machine being designed for operating on the very narrow terraces of the Swiss countryside to keep down disease among the vines by spraying them with insecticide’.

It would seem that transport issues and getting to Switzerland had to be resolved at the last minute as ‘In view of transport difficulties the company decided to convey the machines from Grantham to Geneva on their own lorry, but this vehicle supplied a few years ago by the Grantham Motor Company had already covered 30,000 miles. With time running short in which to make it suitable for the journey, it was sent to the Motor Company for whom the Ford Motor Company provided a new engine, which was installed within two days. New tyres were fitted, the lorry repainted and it left on Sunday.’ Mr Thatcher of sales staff left to make preparations in Switzerland, and today Mr Parsons, general manager goes by air to Geneva to take charge of the demonstrations which are to be given at many centres. Lord Portsmouth and Mr Knight (in the ‘Inventor of the Atom’ image above) join the party at Geneva. The Atom is already finding a good market in New Zealand, Kenya, South America, the Channel Islands and Eire.

The following year a UK newspaper article appeared describing the Atom as “The mechanical gardener of 1949”.  and that it had just been demonstrated for the first time at Belton Gardens, Grantham. Powered by a one-horsepower, four stroke engine, the tractor could be fitted with 16 different special implements for various purposes. (image below).

Barford Atom April 1949 - UK advert

Barford Atom April 1949 – UK advert

Click the images for larger versions.

Has anyone else got any more information? Let us know!


by alan

Suffolk Mower Factory – Then and Now

July 20, 2016 in Machinery, Uncategorized


Suffolk Punch Advert

Suffolk Super Punch Advert

Archive videos are always fascinating. The engaging monochrome films of days gone by and the lives of the people involved in various trades are of immense importance.

I’ve found a film online and captured in black and white is the Suffolk mower factory in Stowmarket, a site which eventually produced a huge number of engines and parts each year and exported mowers all around the world. Fast forward a few decades and in to the 21st century and the mower works now operated by Bosch are producing the next hi-tec generation of battery powered lawn mowers. 

It’s an interesting film of how lawn mower technology is changing to meet the potential future demands of the grass cutting public, just like the demand for Suffolk mowers did all those years ago. Will this technology be a collectable horticultural item of the future? I bet they never though people would restore and exhibit Suffolk mowers. 

This is a great video to see how the Suffolk factory operated only a few decades ago and the brilliant technological advances that are produced there now for horticultural use.

Click the link to watch the video:  https://youtu.be/p8n6HLjD0XU

You can also find more information about the Suffolk Mower Works at the National Archives.


by alan

Mini Ride on Mowers

June 28, 2016 in Machinery, Uncategorized

Mowing the lawn can sometimes seem like a bit of a chore but a ride-on-mower can add a dash of fun and a bit of one-upmanship too. What better way then for the average suburban gardener of the 1960’s 70’s and 80’s to justify getting their hands on an affordable ride-on mower than to buy one of the many mini ride-ons that were available? However diminutive the lawn there was probably a ride-on that could fit the space even if a pedestrian mower may have been a better alternative. The sole purpose of all these machines listed below was for mowing duties and at a push a little bit of pulling a small cart or pushing a snow blade about perhaps, these machines have either mid-mounted or front-mounted engines as opposed to something like the Mountfield 25 rider with a rear mounted engine.

Here is a list of the makes of mini ride-on mowers we know about in the UK:

Mowett Mustangs on Show

Mowett Mustangs on Show

One of the best known is probably the Mowett Mustang dating from the 1970’s onwards (image right). These are quite popular in the UK and there are many about. This is a machine of US origin that was sold mostly via mail order (see advert). With either 5, 7 or 8hp Briggs and Stratton engines this mower was also rebadged by Deckson and also Continental  with their own decals and livery. This is certainly a small mower with a fixed-in-place 25″ single bladed mower deck, the mowing height could be altered by putting extra spacers on the drive shaft so the blade was closer to the grass. Mustangs have a single speed forward/reverse gearbox by Foote and have one feature missing – they have no brakes. 

Following in a similar design are the Huffy mowers (image below), these are fairly common and again feature a single bladed deck of about 24″ and with a standard 5hp Briggs and Stratton engine one could be yours for £169.00 plus £3 carriage. These machines have a simple gearbox setup but thankfully these feature brakes and have height adjustable mower decks too so a massive leap forward on the Mustang. 

Huffy Mower Tractor Advert

Huffy Mower Tractor Advert


Gutbrod mini ride-on-mower

Gutbrod mini ride-on-mower

All these machines follow the same design with a steel channel chassis with a mid-mounted mower deck (sometimes bolted in place) with an engine directly above to drive the blade.They are all low machines too with mostly small solid 8″ – 10″ wheels and basic steering linkage. It’s no surprise then that many manufacturers followed the same overall easy, cheap and basic design when creating their mini machines. Even manufacturers such as Gutbrod (image right) produced a small ride-on.

The pressed light steel small ride-on-mower market must have been fairly lucrative as Dennis the manufacturers of quality cylinder mowers produced their own 1971 mower called the RotoRider at £140.00 (Image left below). The very scarce Dennis machine has origins to another rare mower called the Pacemaker (Image right below).

Dennis Roto-Rider (Left) and Pacemaker (Right)

Dennis RotoRider (Left) and Pacemaker (Right)

As machines get slightly larger (and potentially more expensive) they start to differ from the basic Huffy and the Mustangs, they start to get pneumatic tyres and pivoting front axles and a little bit more comfort and usability too.

There are some machines of Australian origin. This includes the Bartrop/Greenfield mowers which made their way over to the UK (Bartrop (GM) Ltd, Swindon) (Images below). Although this is a slightly more sophisticated machine with the pneumatic tyres, pivoting front axle and a few more levers to aid the user, it still has a 5 or 8hp Briggs and Stratton engine and a 25″ mower deck as per basic machines.


Bartrop/Greenfield Ride-on-mowers

Bartrop/Greenfield Ride-on-mowers


In the UK Landmaster had their own small ride-on, this is getting into the area of being a larger machine, but is still primarily a mowing machine. It again has a pivoting front axle and pneumatic rear tyres whereas Mustang, Huffy, Gutbrod, Dennis and Pacemaker do not. Note that it has the same solid front tyres though.

Landmaster Ride-on-mower

Landmaster Ride-on-mower.


There may be other makes of basic ride-on-mowers like the Mustangs that we have missed from the above list, do you know of any? 


Ride On Machines

March 25, 2013 in Machinery

Trusty-tractor

There are many ride-on machines and garden tractors available such as this Trusty Steed dating from around 1950

Popular with collectors, enthusiast and exhibiters are ride-on machines. The most common are the garden tractor or ride-on mower types but there are many others too such as tracked crawlers like the Bristol, the three wheeled Gunsmith and the Opperman Motocart.

Whether you are collecting a machine for preservation, restoring & showing or to use on the horticultural plot there are machines ranging from the 1920’s through to the 1990s.

Some of the more common garden tractors of the ride-on mower types which tend to date from the late 1970’s onwards are Atco, Westwood, Roper and Mountfield to name just a few. Many of these lower-spec machines were aimed at the weekend gardener with a large lawn to mow and occassional trailer work. These entry-level tractors often had ‘bigger brothers’ with more power and capabilities.

More robust garden tractors capable of serious work such as pulling a plough on an allotment, powering a rotavator and snow clearing work include well-known brands like the American Wheel Horse tractor range (1950’s -90’s) and the 1960’s UK Martin-Markham garden tractors. These tractors and others which are suitable for ploughing are also great for horticultural ploughing events which VHGMC members can take part in at various locations.

Ransomes Crawler & Bolens Ride-a-matic

Ransomes crawler and Bolens Ride-a-matic working the ground at a ploughing event

Through the decades demand and innovation has created many diverse machines tailored for specific jobs. Machines such as the David Brown 2D (1955-61) that can be used with numerous implements like cultivator tines, a row thinner and a reversible plough – an ideal machine for crop and open field work. Another machine is the 1950’s Scottish designed Rollo Croftmaster, created for working on Scottish small holdings up to 10 acres in size, this is a compact yet substantial four-wheeled tractor.

Bonser truck

Bonser truck from the 1960’s. In excellent restored condition at a show.

Out of the field and into the yard, still classified by the VHGMC as ride-on machines there are a varied range of trucks available. Some with timber bodied rear loading areas and some with tipping bodies too. The three-wheeled Wrigley motor truck (1930’s onwards) and the Bonser truck are two well known makes and always make a good exhibit at a show.

Popular with the tracked crawler users are the Ransomes MG2 and the later MG5. These can often be seen at shows and ploughing events. Also in the ride-on-machines category are the Bristol tracked crawlers.

Many enthusiast tend to collect one or two makes of specific machines and as well as the machines themselves they will collect literature, original brochures and price lists for their specific machines. This makes a collector a very valuable source of knowledge and very helpful advice.