Few and far between

| February 2003

Remember in the movie Jurassic Park when a group of particularly small and nasty-tempered dinosaurs with extra-sharp claws, called velociraptors, were brought back from extinction? The formerly dead dinosaurs run amok, terrifying all humans they encounter.

In the garden tractor world, collectors Jason Andrews of Blanchester, Ohio, and Robert Urich of Lewisbery, Pa., found their own version of the velociraptor: the SIMAR walk-behind rototiller. Their SIMARs are old enough, sturdy enough, and have tines strong and sharp enough to almost qualify as those terrible lizards.

'When I start these up at shows, they are loud,' Jason says. 'You have to stand about 10 feet away from them or it'll hurt your ears. I'm not kidding. They sound like a Harley tacked out in first gear.' The roar even prompted officials at one show to ask Jason to shut off his machine during a special event.

'Most people's reaction is, 'What are these?',' he says. 'Their eyes get really big. Their mouths drop. They call it a 'widow maker' and walk off.'

Among the early brands of earth-tilling machines that eventually became 'Rototillers,' the SIMAR was first made by the SIMAR Co. in 1918 in Geneva, Switzerland. It was only distributed from 1932 to 1939 in the United States, so not many are available to collect in this country, experts say.

Back home in Ohio, Jason keeps two SIMAR rototillers. He acquired his first tiller, the larger of the two, from his grandmother s neighbor who used it as a lawn ornament. The machine's work history is not known, but Jason says it was in pretty good condition when he bought it. 'The motor was not stuck, and it had good compression. The carburetor was no good, though. When I bought it, the carburetor was sitting in the garage of my grandma's neighbor and was broken,' he explains.