Fans of vintage garden tractors and cultivators say these little treasures have won their admiration for many reasons. Topping the list are such attributes as the ease with which the machines can be carted to a show, their safety (especially where children are concerned), their usually modest prices, the fun they are to maneuver - and their variety.
Farm Collector agent Bob Crowell of Batesville, Ind., has photographed a number of the more unusual pieces of gardening machinery over time and often shares his pictures. Profiles of three especially unusual pieces are featured below:
Jason Andrews of Blanchester, Ohio, owns a rare Saure three-wheel riding lawn mower with a front wheel that could run circles around itself - literally. 'The capability of it to do turns is really fun,' Jason says. 'It turns in a second, without ever stopping, and it can do a full 360 - all the way around.'
Jason bought the Saure four years ago at an Ohio Valley Antique Machinery Reunion show in Georgetown, Ohio, after a friend encouraged him to take a serious look at the machine.
'It's an oddball thing that's hard to find,' Jason says, 'I hadn't seen one before, and it was made in Ohio - I like to find things like that.' He hasn't seen another one to date, either.
The tractor still has its informational plate, which says it's a 'Super-Cut Model SR-K, serial no. 1071' made in Westlake, Ohio, which is just west of Cleveland.
'It's hard to find information on a year,' Jason says, 'but as primitive as it is, I'd say the early '50s or the very late '40s.' The tractor is powered by a Clinton engine, probably 3 1/2-to-5 hp, that isn't original but that Jason was told 'was just like' the original.
A Bethel, Ohio, man got the machine running for Jason soon after he bought it; last year for the first time, Jason had to clean out the carburetor. 'Three pulls is its maximum,' he says, 'and that's a cold start.'
The mower only has one speed, and no reverse as a consequence of the way the front wheel works. The steering wheel is connected to a gear box, a belt runs between the gear box and the engine, and a chain runs from the gearbox to the front wheel. The operator manipulates a lever to tighten the belt, thereby turning the front wheel - which, by the way, is still on its original rubber despite all the turns.
When Jason isn't cutting 360s on the Saure, he may be warming up the fiberglass seat of his model 61-301 riding Motor Mower - another real 'oddball' in this collectibles' class.
The tag on his machine says it was made by 'Motor Mower, Inc., a subsidiary of Dura Corp., Richmond, Ind.,' which Jason says dates it as a more recent offering from the firm than his push Motor Mower, which has a tag that says 'Motor Mower Co., Detroit.'
The riding Motor Mower has a cast aluminum body with a tan-colored seat and white 'rear fenders' that are made of fiberglass. Its handlebars are like those on roller coasters or tilt-a-whirls, and a push pedal feeds gasoline to the engine.
'It takes off,' Jason says. 'It's like an accelerator on a car - but there's no adjusting. It goes at a pretty decent clip. It'll keep up with a regular riding mower with a lot of gears.'
He bought the machine at Zena, Ohio, attracted by its single wide roller 'back wheel,' which replaces regular wheels, and which provides traction with its grooved rubber skin.
Two speeds - forward and reverse -are engaged with a gearshift handle, and Jason says, 'I've actually mowed with it. It maneuvers pretty well. Turns aren't as sharp as the Saure's, but they're sharp.'
Among Jason's more rare vintage garden machines are two Simar rototillers, both of which actually run. He also owns two Goodall mowers with cast aluminum decks, one of which has three blades. The main blade is 21 inches, and the two smaller blades, set to each side of the main one and back a bit, are 6 inches each. The original Briggs & Stratton engine (a 1950 model) is in one of the Goodalls, and the other, probably the older of the two, has a Lauson.
As far as 'big' machines goes, Jason's collection includes a 1951 John Deere A, a 1946 Oliver 60 and a 1951 Farmall Cub - 'and I'm working on getting a SC Case.'
He says, 'I like the big and the small ones both. For shows, you can play on the small ones more. They're fun to ride around on, but they can get out of hand (in number) and they can be more work, but they're well worth it.'
For a one-wheeled cultivator, the early 'George' brand must have been one of the most 'bionic' on the block; the single wheel is cast iron and weighs some 55 pounds. Paul McCullough of New Knoxville, Ohio, couldn't resist one of the machines several years ago at a Wapakoneta, Ohio, swap meet. That front wheel just seemed so unusual, he recalls.
He's found no model number on his machine, and even though it's supposed to be for cultivating, 'it's useless - as most of them were,' he says. Paul knows because he's tried it.
George Garden Tools Co. was a division of Community Industries, headquartered at 811 S. Hamilton St., Sullivan, Ill., according to another George collector, J.F. Brown of Crozet, Va., who knows of only a few machines still in existence.
Brown's collection includes some literature that shows in the 1960s, the company's name was changed to Yard-Man and then again in 1975 to Agri-Fab.
Paul says he's only seen one other George, and that was a few years ago at the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Assn. Reunion in Portland, Ind.
His cultivator hasn't had much done to it in the way of restoration, except Paul added a 3/4-hp motor, which he says probably is the original size.
A collector for the past 30 years, Paul also owns an old Bolen garden tractor; four Farmalls (three F12s and one F14, two of which are on iron) and some antique tools. He's still collecting, he says, 'but I don't know 'til I see it what my next purchase will be.'
- For more information on Jason's machines, contact him at (937) 783-2385; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Paul's George, contact him at 10212 Knierim Rd., New Knoxville, OH 45871, (419) 753-2553; and for J.F. Brown's, contact him at 5336 Jones Mill Rd., Crozet, VA 22932; his Web site, which has a number of photographs, is: http://www. mindspring. com/~fred_brown/i ndex.html.