The Truth About Cars » lawn mowers The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » lawn mowers Curbside Classic: 1964 Mongomery Wards 3hp Lawn Mower – Or Why I’ll Never Buy A New Mower Sat, 20 Mar 2010 19:18:37 +0000

After a record mild winter, the grass is calf-high, and its time to bring out my fine vintage mowers from the shed. I don’t know about you, but lawnmowers were a critical childhood gateway to satisfy my childhood lust for cars and internal combustion devices. My first mowing job came at the age of eight, when a neighbor inquired if anyone in our household was willing to make fifty cents. My mother had to start the Briggs and Stratton, and I was off on a long career of mowing, with an easy-to-push mower like this one.

But I hate the evolution of mowers; they parallel that of cars: they’re full of safety devices and cheaper materials that have made them heavy and inefficient. I gave up on my crappy new mower years ago, and have assembled a mini fleet of the finest, lightest aluminum and magnesium deck best-mowing mowers ever. These are the equivalent of old Porsches and Bugattis. And the price was right: I found them sitting at the curb with “Free” signs on them.

This old Montgomery Wards with the classic B&S 3hp engine may not be exactly a 1964 (I don’t read VIN numbers!), but it’s representative of the vintage. A featherweight aluminum deck with nice “vacuum action”, the unobstructed pathway for the mowed material means this puppy will rip through the tallest, thickest grass, weeds, brush and baby rabbits without ever slowing down or clogging a deck or bag.

Did someone say bag? The single most wretched invention in mowing since the safety handle and heavy steel decks! Leaving the clippings on the lawn is how grass naturally feeds itself! Why would anyone wan’t to go to all the effort to haul it off, and then have to spread fertilizer? This mower flays the grass so finely (and far), in a day or two, the cuttings aren’t visible. Or I long a go stopped caring.

The most pathetic thing I see constantly is people struggling to mow thick spring lawns without the bagger, and with the opening to the rear closed off; folks, it just doesn’t work! They end up mowing at a snail’s pace, and torturing the mower and themselves. I could whiz through their jungle in a fraction of the time with one of these babies. It’s another example of how what was common knowledge is now lost on so many.

These mowers are absolute featherweights; I can pick one up ever so easily, and toss it in the back of my truck of xBox. In the sixties, when people had the priorities straight, light weight was a primary selling point for mowers. You simply have no idea how effortless these mowers scoot along, even up hills. And don’t even mention self-propelled mowers: think of mowing as good exercise, not a chore. I speed walk with this one.

When I found this mower at the curbside, I was attracted by that lovely deck (I’ve become an aficionado of old alloy decks), but I pulled the starter to see if it would turn over. It was almost frozen up. The oil was totally empty. Good way to get a B&S to stop running. I brought it home for the deck anyway, put some fresh oil in it, and pulled a bit. It began to loosen up. Put in some fresh gas, and it sprang to life. That was eight years ago. And we (my younger son, mostly now) have about a dozen rental house to mow. It hasn’t shown any sign of petering out yet, except for a mild drop in compression. I know where to find plenty more of these engines, if the need arises. But the deck is a keeper.

The other mower in the fleet is a Sears (above), and it sports a genuine magnesium deck! It’s deck lacks the nice swirled chamber of the Monkey Ward, and the magnesium deck is having structural issues, such as holes appearing (from gravel?) and a big crack I had to mend with a steel plate. It probably won’t last as long as the other one, but it’s engine is still in the prime of its life, and has decades ahead of it. Well, instead of talking about them, it’s time to go put them to use. Which one shall it be today?

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The Best Of TTAC: Autobiography 4 – Life’s Intimate Mysteries Unveiled Sat, 20 Mar 2010 18:08:53 +0000

As a boy in the pre-internet early sixties, I became obsessed with unveiling the secrets of that inexplicably alluring object of male interest. I had a general notion of what transpired within: the rhythmic in and out motions, the frenzy of moving members, the rapid inhalations, the (hopefully) synchronized explosions, and in their wake, the murmur of exhalations. Yes, life’s most intimate mysteries sang their siren song, and I was powerless to resist.

And so, one fateful summer afternoon, I pulled my intended victim into a dark corner of the family garage, well out of sight of adults, and I furtively began removing the external coverings. In detaching the final gate-keeper of the mystery, I met unexpected resistance. My clumsiness and inexperience resulted in unnecessary pain. Blood flowed. The rite of passage had already exacted a price. Other sacrifices lay ahead. But for the moment, I savored the sweetness of success.

Crouching down, I gazed lovingly into the oily, shiny bore of the 3hp Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine, which had yielded its secrets (and cylinder head) so reluctantly. Oblivious to my bloodied knuckles, I spun the flywheel endlessly, watching the dance of the now exposed enginealia. The abstractions of the Otto cycle were at last manifestly concrete. I was entranced and smitten.

The air of fitful excitement during the disassembly process eventually gave way to the somber reality of having to reverse my experiment. In my excitement, I’d quite forgotten the details of the tear down. Despite leaving a pile of surplus parts on the floor, I finally managed to get the mower running– minus the linkage from the governor to the carburetor.

So I improvised an inelegant solution: a piece of twine tied from the spring-loaded throttle plate to the handlebar. Once this “fix” had been achieved, the mower required endless manual rev blipping, not unlike an attention-starved motorcyclist’s mount. My father and older brother conveniently (for them) refused to touch the nervous-tic afflicted machine ever again; I’d created an entirely unwelcome lawn mowing monopoly.

My mechanical shortcomings were at least partially due to a lack of mentoring. My father certainly couldn’t provide any guidance; a can opener taxed his abilities. So I sought out other males as surrogates. I found them in the house across the street, where the two teenaged-or-so resident sons had contracted a bad case of hot rod fever.

Their project was a sickly green 1952 Ford business coupe. It was a fundamentally curious beast; its body style traded off rear seat room for the kind of extended trunk only a Mafia hit-man could fully exploit.I hadn’t chosen well. These boys also suffered from DDF (Disinterested and Distant Father syndrome). For all the hot summer days and long summer nights spent in advanced auto-yoga positions under and within the ailing coupe, their results were no more distinguished then mine.

Occasionally, having brought the old Ford to a semblance of life, we would pile in. Progress was measured by how many blocks could be terrorized by the unmuffled flatulent flathead until it expired in a cloud of steam or smoke or some other violent and unnatural event.While the boys failed to teach me the rudiments of automotive technology, they certainly stimulated my desire to master idiomatic English.

For example, I was intrigued by their insistence on prefixing every noun with the word fucken. In Tirolean dialect, the word means swine. I was familiar with the practice of combining word to create vulgarity (as in schweinehund). But the boys’ masterful and ubiquitous combinations– frequently aimed at reluctant pieces of metal– left me breathless in admiration.

One day, after they’d pretty much given up on the old Ford, I heard the strangely familiar belabored bleating of an old engine. Running outside, I was stunned to discover a clapped-out Lloyd Alexander sans muffler, stuffed with the sheepishly grinning wanna-be hot rodders.

I’d never forgotten the 600cc 26hp 2cyl Lloyd micro-car my godfather drove back in Austria. Seeing these Iowa beef-fed football players spilling out the windows and sunroof of the baby-blue Lloyd was as much of a car-out-of-cultural-context experience as my first glimpse of the ’59 Caddy back in Innsbruck.

The tortured Lloyd held up to their endless full-throttle joy-riding abuse for most of that summer.  In the quiet hot nights, you could hear their un-muffled comings and goings half way across town, like a pesky buzzing fly endlessly exploring the house room by room. But one late summer day eerie quiet resumed, and I knew the fly had expired.

The Lloyd had been ditched somewhere near Burlington, an hour away. Some ten years later, driving down Hwy. 34 outside of Burlington, I encountered the unmistakable and immortal Lloyd again. It had been hoisted on top of a tall sign post for a wrecking yard. For all I know, it’s still there.

[Postscript: The Lloyd was seen to still be there by a reader recently]

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