by alan

The Hare And The Tortoise

April 26, 2024 in Articles, Club News

There are many horticultural items that we now take for granted. These include secateurs with their introduction in the early 1800s (read more about them here), and rotary mowers with the early Rotoscythe being described as unorthodox with the suggestion that it would never catch on (see Rotoscythe in the gallery).

With newly launched machines the marketing folk had a great deal of input when thinking up names, slogans, icons, logos, and advertising. How about Howard with their clever palindrome word ‘rotavator’, or Wheel Horse with ‘Get a Horse! Wheel Horse Of Course!’.  

We also take for granted a lot of instructions, icons and safety stickers on both old and new machines and which we easily understand these days. But there’s one that we all have seen but that I cannot find the source for – when did the hare & tortoise symbols, depicting fast and slow, first appear on machinery throttle controls?

The hare and tortoise symbols, possibly inspired by Aesop’s fables although in that scenario the steady tortoise wins the day, are popular on lawnmowers but did they also appear on other machines first? And were the rabbit and hare symbols a home-grown idea or imported from the USA, Europe or China, or even an invention by an engine manufacturer? Does anybody know?

When did the first Hare & Tortoise throttle control symbols first appear?

by alan

Lawn Fertiliser Spreaders

March 25, 2024 in Articles, Machinery

Lawn Spreaders - but why the green frog....

You may be wondering why there’s a picture of a stuffed green frog in this article, but more about that later…

I’ve concluded that nearly every garden, certainly those with a lawn, will have felt the presence of a garden lawn fertiliser spreader at some point. In particular, one of those plastic spreaders given away if one purchased a significant amount of granular fertiliser. Several of those plastic freebie spreaders had the unfortunate ability to block up if there was even the slightest bit of moisture on the grass that got onto the distributor. But some adverts worked in reverse where the fertiliser was free when a spreader was bought; and others just offered a free loan of the spreader.

Over the decades there has been a significant number of push lawn spreaders, plastic and steel, which have promised to give the perfect amount of lawn care product to lawns. They all work on much the same principle of non-slip wheels, a hopper, some sort of regulator to distribute the goods evenly, and a handle.

Cunningly, as with most of these domestic spreaders, there was often a range of weed and feed products that also went with them (not forgetting that some of the cheaper spreaders were calibrated for their own products) – and once one had the spreader then it would be easier to keep buying that manufacturers’ products year after year and trust that the system of looking after the lawn worked….and it did work, a foolproof way to look after the lawn with ease.

Briefly, here are a few companies that sold lawn spreaders:

Sisis started to produce a range of their Truspred models in the early 1960s – Click for advert image. These were available in 20″, 24″, 36″ and 36″ Super, although the range was of a professional quality and often aimed at sports pitches and the like. A smaller more domestic-friendly 15″ model was advertised in the late 1960s for £8 15s. Many models were promoted for ‘accurate, consistent spreading of seed and modern fertilisers’ regardless of manufacturer. They were also good for applying lawn or surface dressings and rock salt to de-ice drives and paths in winter.

ICI Lawn Plus Spreader 1970

ICI promoted their ‘Plus’ Lawn Spreader in the 1970s. Often a 12″ model, it was priced at 45s in 1970, but if the gardener had signed up for the ICI Garden Savers Plan there was a 6s refund. By 1980 ICI was selling a 12″ lawn spreader for as little as £8.

Wolf produced different spreaders in the 1970s and ’80s – Click for image. The model WE 16″ distributor had a curved metal hopper with a tough green-coloured stove enamel finish. The WE 18″ had a PVC hopper, while the WD was all steel. In the 1990s, Wolf produced the 17″ WE251 (Illustrated, below), sold in B&Q priced at £29.95.

Fisons is a popular name in the gardening game. The range of chemical products in the 1970s included the Evergreen 80 for a weed-free lawn, also Lawn Food, Lawn Peat and Velvetone Spring Dressings. Accordingly, Fisons also had a lawn spreader, sometimes in a blue paint scheme – Click for Image. But they also had a budget 12″ spreader advertised in 1970 for only 35s when bought with a combined purchase of Evergreen 80 and Fisons Rose Food – an odd combination but maybe the rose food wasn’t a big seller?

Wolf Lawn Spreader model WE251 in 1990

PBI had lawn spreaders through the 1980s, but they could also come coupled with a product. In 1989 the spreader came with a free pack of their Toplawn 600sq feet pack of Weed & Feed for £16.

In the 1990s both Levingtons and Scotts spreaders appear in advertising. Scotts models being the Accugreen and Evergreen. And today, a vast range of spreaders with different branding are marketed.

And what about the stuffed green frog shown at the top of this article? Well, who remembers the Fisons Evergreen TV adverts from perhaps 20 years ago, with a cartoon gangly-legged frog sprinkling some lawn feed around? I think the song went ‘If the lawn is a farce, and the weeds a right pain in the grass….‘. I bought some lawn feed, got a free lawn spreader (which is gathering spiders and dust in the back of the barn), also filled in and sent off a form, and amazingly this stuffed Fisons Evergreen frog turned up in the post – forget expensive vintage sales merchandise and paraphernalia because I’ve got a stuffed green Fisons frog…now that’s proper advertising!

by alan

Quiz: Guess the company…#1

February 18, 2024 in Articles, Club News

From the eight clues can you name this famous company?

Since the December quizzes are always popular, here are some clues to pass a few minutes and work out the company name. The answer and a more detailed explanation of the company at the bottom of the page.

Which single company do all these clues refer to?

Clue 1: This company started to manufacture their machines in the UK in 1964, with the first adverts pricing the models around £35. The machines were a success and the company was acquired by a much larger entity in 1968.

Clue 2: The machines they produced were ideal for use on bankings, gradients, orchards, and other grassed areas.

Clue 3: The first models had two-stroke petrol engines, but in 1969 electric-powered models started to be introduced – these were ideal for the domestic garden where a power supply would readily be at hand.

Clue 4: One particular colour is usually associated with these machines, but early models were blue.

Clue 5: Models used the mulching principle, but in 1979 an electric-powered model was launched that was capable of collecting the grass clippings in a rear fabric grass bag. This model was advertised on television.

Clue 6: This company also produced electric-powered small cylinder mowers in the 1970s, and professional cylinder mowers in the 1980s, although the professional models were just rebadged Norlett machines.

Clue 7: From the late 1970s, a range of 4-wheeled rotary mowers were advertised. Many of these models used steel decks rather than the polymer material which the company is famous for. The Lawnchief, which did have a polymer deck, was a very popular rotary model with a 16″ cutting width and a 3.5 hp Tecumseh/ B&S engine or electric power.

Clue 8: Through the years model names have included the Contractor, Professional, Pilot, Minimo, Hovervac, Sprinter, Lawnlady, Chevron, and Ventura, to name just some.

Scroll down for the answer……

This 1969 photograph shows a Flymo, fitted with a wheeled undercarriage, being used to mow roadside verges.

The eight clues all point to one company which is Flymo.

Flymo started producing their hover mower range in 1964 at a factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. Just four years later, in 1968, Flymo was bought by Electrolux. The Flymo range has been successfully developed and expanded over the decades.

The initial Flymo had a 2.5 hp 2-stroke Aspera engine and a 19″ hardened steel blade within a tough plastic hood. The ‘Professional’ version gained a power increase to a 4 hp engine. Other petrol engines in the hover mower stable have included Briggs & Stratton, JLO, Tecumseh, and Kawasaki.

A huge amount of electric hover mowers have been available. These have been staggeringly popular and cover a wide range of options, these include collectors such as the DXE which was launched in the late 1970s (clue number 5) and was advertised on TV. The DXE could either leave the clippings behind or collect them in a fabric grass bag that hung between the handles. In the 1980s, the Sprintmaster range could also collect grass clippings. The 1990s Hoverstripe models gained rear rollers. The smallest electric hover mower was from the Minimo range with a 10″ cutting width.

Flymo also produced a range of domestic cylinder mowers in the 1970s (clue number 6), they were called Lawnlady and Princess. These were very basic machines with small-sized cutting cylinders. In the 1980s, Norlett Precision cylinder mowers were rebadged as Flymo.

A large range of four-wheel rotary mowers complimented the hover range. They started in the late 1970s and covered many cutting widths, engine choices, push or self-propelled, and some early models that were front-wheel drive.

by alan

VHGMC Machinery Log Sheet – Download

January 17, 2024 in Articles, Club News

Here we are at the beginning of a new year and it won’t be that many weeks until the shows and events start. The first main event is Tractor World at the Three Counties Showground at Malvern on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th of February – more information: https://tractorworldshow.co.uk/

If anyone needs a log sheet for their machines for any show – whether a main event or just a local show – then they can be downloaded from the VHGMC.

The VHGMC log sheet can be either filled in online and then printed, or can be downloaded to your computer.

The logsheets can be found in the member download section at: https://vhgmc.co.uk/member-downloads/vhgmc-log-sheet-download/

Often members of the public will spend more time looking at an exhibit if there’s a log sheet that provides more than basic information. I recall watching members of the public perusing the horticultural exhibits at Newark tractor show a few years ago, the exhibits with interesting log sheets with date of manufacture, place of origin, a bit of background, and perhaps a story to tell, held the attention of the viewer far longer than those that just showed a basic machine model and name. We also saw that people take a photo of a log sheet as well as the machine it’s attached to. Remember that you can always add a page or two of restoration photos or extra information to go with your log sheet.

Horticulture Display at Malvern 2016

by alan

Quiz 2023

November 25, 2023 in Club News

Here are twelve questions for a short quiz.

These very random questions relate to horticultural items; technical knowledge is not required but a bit of guesswork might be useful.

A pencil and paper is handy to write down the answers.

As always, the answers (which are sometimes much longer than the questions) are at the bottom of the page.

Questions:

Q1: What colour were Dixon machines in the UK?

1: An easy question to start with: All sold in the UK, the vintage Dixon ZTR (zero turn mowers) and the Ford and Homelite ranges of lawn and garden tractors used what paint colour?

A: Blue
B: Green
C: Yellow

Q2: Wolf rechargeable tools?

2: In the 1970s, Wolf Garden Tools were advertising their Power Pack System. This consisted of a rechargeable battery that could be used with a range of attachments – a very popular system used by major manufacturers today but appears not to be a new idea as Wolf was advertising it fifty years ago. Items were a shrub trimmer which could have a long handle attached for also being a grass trimmer, and a 35cm double-sided hedge trimmer. A third item that used the same rechargeable battery was also sold – but what was it?

A: Torch
B: Powered secateurs
C: Garden sprayer

Q3: Who did Allen buy in 1983?

3. After Flymos’ hover mower patent ran out, many manufacturers started to produce similar machines. Allen Power Equipment Ltd, which is known for making numerous models of horticultural machinery, eventually included hover mowers. In 1983, which manufacturer of hover mowers did Allen purchase?

A: Crown
B: Flymo
C: Black & Decker

Q4: What did Westwood sell?

4. Before starting to manufacture their Gazelle lawn and garden tractors in the 1970s, which American-made lawn tractors did Westwood Engineering Ltd import and sell in the UK?

A: Countax
B: Wolf
C: Dynamark

Q5: Which decade?

5. Electric strimmers/trimmers seem to have been around for a long time and early domestic models have been made by Black & Decker, Qualcast, Toro and AL-KO. But in which decade did Flymo decide to join the game and introduce its first electric trimmers? The models were the Mini-Trim and the Multi-Trim. And for an extra bonus point, can you name the exact year?

A: 1960s
B: 1980s
C: 2000s
……………………..and in which year?

Q6: What did Zundapp make?

6. The German company Zundapp made a range of motorbikes, scooters, microcars, and outboard motors that were sold in the UK in the 1950s and ’60s. But in the 1970s they also made which horticultural item that was sold in the UK?

A: Lawnmowers
B: Woodchippers
C: Hedgecutters

Q7: What colours are Bolens machines?

7. Starting in 1959, Bolens lawn and garden tractors and rear-engine riders have been available in the UK. But what colour schemes have they been painted?

A: Red and white
B: Gold and white
C: Green and white
D: Green and Yellow

Q8: What was the Huff-N-Puff?

8. Bob Andrews Ltd, The Garden Machine Centre, Sunningdale, Berkshire retailed a varied range of labour-saving machines. These included the popular Cyclone lawn spreader, the Spintrim lawn edger, and the Spurspike lawn aerator (it had a bucket at the front which could be filled with stones or sand etc to give added weight). In the late 1970s, Andrews sold a machine called the Huff-N-Puff, but what was the Huff-N-Puff ?

A: A petrol-powered outdoor vacuum that could suck up leaves and blow away litter.
B: A handheld electric leaf blower that could convert to suck up leaves into a barrow or trailer.
C: A pedestrian-pushed rotary brush that created a blowing effect as it swept.
…..Three intriguing answers above, but which one seems most likely?

Q9: What was the Farmer 300B?

9. The AL-KO Farmer 300B, Texas TV3, and Mountfield M1 Gardener are all examples of what type of machine?

A: Strimmers
B: Garden cultivators
C: Powered barrows

Q10: What year did Honda launch their mowers in the UK?

10. In which decade did Honda launch their first range of lawnmowers in the UK? And for a bonus point can you name the year?

A: 1960s
B: 1970s
C: 1980s
……………………..and in which year? Have a guess!

Q11: What was Spearwells’ lawn rake called?

11: In the late 1960s, Spearwell Tools Ltd (a combination of the companies Brades, Elwell and Spear & Jackson) were advertising a hand rake that was used for scarifying a lawn – it had curved tines (as in the image). This tool was pushed and pulled through the lawn to remove dead and matted grass and thatch. What was this lawn rake called?

A: The Scrake
B: The Moss-Boss
C: The Thatcher-Catcher

Q12: How much did this Texas hosepipe cost in 1980?

12: We probably all remember the DIY superstores called Focus DIY, Great Mills, Do-It-All and Texas DIY; it doesn’t seem that long since we were shopping in them. The domestic garden machines and products they sold are immortalised in archives of newspaper and television adverts. In 1980, Texas DIY was advertising many things including the £14.99 Yeoman Ballbarrow which was a small galvanised barrow with a football-sized sphere instead of a solid tyre – these barrows will now be 43 years old! They were also selling ‘Texas Reinforced Hosepipe’ which came in 50′ lengths. How much did their 50′ hosepipe cost?

A: £3.49
B: £10.99
C: £15.49

Answers:

1: A: Blue. Dixon, Ford and Homelite all used blue as one of their main paint colours although all three also used white/cream for other tinwork and wheels.

2: C: Garden Sprayer. The rectangular-shaped sprayer could hold 3 litres and had a lance and nozzle much like a normal pressure sprayer. Complete with a battery and charger it cost £52 in 1978. The battery could recharge in 40-60 minutes.

3: A: Crown. Allen purchased Crown Horticultural Equipment Ltd, manufacturers of 2-stroke, 4-stroke, and electric hover mowers, in a £500,000 deal in May 1983.

4: C: Dynamark.  Westwood sold the USA-made Dynamark lawn tractors in the UK in the 1970s. The range included the 32″ cutting width D32R, 36″ D36R, and D36E and D1036E with electric start. There were also rear-engine rider models, though none appear to have survived in the UK – but the top-spec 8/36E with electric starter and headlights was £365 in 1973. For answers A and B, neither are USA makes, Countax being UK and Wolf being German…although Wolf did sell USA Yard-Man riders and lawn tractors rebranded as Wolf in the UK in the 1970s.

5: B: 1980s (1987). Flymo introduced their first electric strimmers in 1987. The models were the Mini-Trim and the Multi-Trim. The Multi-Trim could be converted to a lawn edger by twisting the cutting head. With an investment of £500K, the two models had taken three years to develop.

6: A: The German company Zundapp branched out into making lawnmowers. Several models of their two-stroke and electric-powered mowers were advertised and sold here in the early 1970s, but none seem to have survived. The mowers had yellow mower decks, red engine covers, and chrome handles.

7: A, B, C, and D: All the answers are correct. To mention a few: the Husky 800 and some Ride-a-matics were painted gold with white wheels; the early Ride-a-matics were green with yellow wheels; the Estate Keeper and Lawn Keeper were white with red wheels and detailing. Later Bolens were white and green.

8: A: The Huff-N-Puff was a petrol-powered pedestrian-pushed vacuum leaf collector – a mini Billy Goat vacuum for the smaller garden. It sucked the leaves or debris into a rear grass bag that hung from the handles. An optional wand (a flexible pipe that attached at the front end) enabled suction in confined spaces; the wand could also be attached at the rear, instead of the bag, and then it would be able to blow puddles off driveways and paths or “dislodge stubborn litter from shrub beds”. The Huff-N-Puff was £199+vat in 1979.

9: B: Garden Cultivators. In the 1980s, the AL-KO Farmer cultivator was available as a 3.5hp petrol or 1000-watt electric model; the Texas cultivators were advertised with 3hp – 5hp Briggs & Stratton engines, and the Mountfield M1 Gardener was shown with 3.5hp and 4hp Briggs & Stratton engines.

10: B: 1970s (1978). Honda launched their first mower, the rotary HR21, in the UK in August 1978.

11: A: The Scrake. Spearwells’ lawn rake was called the scrake – a portmanteau of the words scarify and rake. However, I think they should have called it the Moss-Boss, they really missed a marketing trick there. In 1968 the scrake was priced at £2.13s.6d – but the Moss-Boss name would have commanded a greater price.

12: A: £3.49. 50′ of reinforced hosepipe from Texas DIY in 1980 cost a bargain £3.49, and had been reduced from £3.99. Currently, in 2023, B&Q are selling a similar product for £19.95, I guess it’s all relative.

Phew! They took some compiling!


by alan

Briggs & Stratton powered…

September 14, 2023 in Articles

Imagine going back thirty years to 1993 (yes thirty whole years) and, quite randomly, you are allowed to put a small Briggs & Stratton engine on absolutely any machine of your choice. What would it be? Perhaps a lawnmower or tiller that requires an engine transplant, or maybe a machine in the style of something from ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ – there was a B&S engine on one of their machines the other day.

1983 – Apache Kart with 3 hp Briggs & stratton engine

But how about something more heart-stopping than a mower, how about something to terrify yourself and panic the neighbours enough so that they ring the authorities? In 1993, a tool and machinery retailer was advertising four ‘Fun Karts for off-road thrills’ (larger photos at the bottom of this page) – they look brilliant and include the Apache 300 with a 3 hp B&S engine and scrub brakes (£579.99), the Chieftain 2-500 with a 5 hp B&S engine, band brakes, and optional rear spoiler and front fairing (£719.99), and the largest machine being the Wildcat 900 with a 9 hp B&S electric start engine, disc brakes and a roll frame (£1999.99).

1983 – Indy race car with 3 hp Briggs & Stratton engine

The most brilliant machine must be the Indy race car. ‘A superb looking Formula One style Indianapolis car’. It had a fibreglass body shell and a 3 hp B&S engine and cost £949.99. I’ve looked all over the internet to find further information on this car but have found nothing: I wonder what the mechanicals looked like, how fast could it go…and how well it stopped?!

Earlier, in the mid-to-late 1960s, BlowKarts, Oldfield Works, Chesterfield were advertising (image, below) a Kart with an 80cc J.A.P. engine, heavy-duty pneumatic tyres, rear wheel braking, and manually operated belt-tensioner type clutch. It was available in either kit form or completely assembled, priced from £65 in 1966. Examples were sold, but what happened to them all?

Villiers engines can be found in Buckler Karts made available by Buckler Cars, Crowthorne, Berkshire in the 1960s. There seem to be quite a few makes of vintage Karts from different manufacturers and with various small engines.

The point of this article is that it’s easy to forget that many small engines did not just get used on lawnmowers or garden machines. Small engines, whether B&S, Kohler, Jap, Villiers or one of many others were used (and still used) on a wide variety of applications. Two to have a look at are the 1920s Briggs & Stratton Flyer and the 1930s Atco Junior Training Car…

B&S Flyer (Smith Flyer): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Flyer
Atco Junior Training Car: https://nationalmotormuseum.org.uk/vehicle-collection/atco-junior-safetyfirst-trainer/

by alan

Battery Power! Is it the future…again?

August 11, 2023 in Articles, Machinery

Battery-powered machinery has been hanging about in the horticultural machinery world for several decades. Probably the best-known machines with batteries as their means of power are lawn mowers, for instance, in the vintage arena are cylinder mower models such as from ATCO (in the 1960s and ’70s), also Qualcast (see the advert on the right for the 1967 Super Panther 12 volt battery electric), and the 2-speed battery mowers from Webb (1960s and ’70s). But in the eyes of the potential consumer who was looking to buy a new mower, these domestic battery models often straddled the gap between mains electric-powered and petrol-powered models, although in their lifetime the mowers did gain a limited (although enthusiastic) audience.

Battery models certainly have their merits: much quieter than petrol models, the convenience of not having to refuel with petrol (or a two-stroke mix), and no trailing cables or extension leads for electric models; simply plug the battery mower in for a hassle-free and relatively cheap recharge when finished.

Where battery power is really useful is with hand tools, these are mainly shrub and hedge trimmers, lawn edgers, and a few domestic lawn strimmers. Again, there have been models from different manufacturers over the decades but none have really captured the imagination of the public and the models have been reasonably short-lived (apart from the really useful Spintrim lawn edger). Machines have kept being designed, made and advertised over the years and, to name just a few, have included the aforementioned Spintrim lawn edger from Bob Andrews in the 1960s and ’70s; also in the 1960s and ’70s shrub trimmers from Wolf, Black & Decker and Wilkinson Sword (see the 1974 advert below), and Sandvic cordless grass trimmers in the 1980s, and battery trimmers from Flymo in the 1990s. As can be seen, the decades kept on giving cordless machines from many manufacturers.

1974 advert for Wilkinson Sword battery-powered trimmers for the garden

However, over the last twenty years or more there has been a development of 18 volt (and then increasing volts) garden machines with many strimmers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers and small lawn mowers – many being generic designs or badge-engineered and originating from overseas. DIY superstores have certainly stocked quite a lot and sold them to gardeners across the land to keep their gardens tidy with less effort.

At this point, I confess that I have had two battery-powered Qualcast hedge trimmers for the last five or more years, I purchased them new. The 18 volt machine is fine for light work such as small shrubs where the going isn’t tough. By comparison, the 36 volt hedge trimmer is almost on par with a popular brand of petrol hedge trimmer that I have. But sadly the batteries don’t last forever and the 36 volt hedge trimmer has done a lot of work and mechanically getting worn.

I have now upgraded to 56 volt handheld machines for the garden. I am hoping these will be revolutionary and make technological leaps (I admit the 56 volt power is great) – but will they replace petrol? Remember, the vintage machines also had the potential to become the machines of the future and were not just there to fill a gap in a brochure or look pretty in a showroom, but petrol and mains electric were the winners – maybe better battery power will be triumphant in the 2020s?

Left to Right: new 56 volt battery; 36 volt Qualcast battery; 18 volt Qualcast battery; 1974 Wilkinson Sword 7.2 volt shrub trimmer with integral battery in the handle (it’s a dinky little trimmer!)

Back to mowers, and just having looked at Webb brochures, ‘The Space Age Mower’ was the futuristic (and perhaps optimistic) phrase that advertised the Webb 2-speed battery cylinder mowers in 1970. There were three models in the advert: a 12″ which could cut up to 800 square yards, 14″ that could do up to 1350 square yards, and a 14″ de-luxe that could cut up to 2200 square yards per charge (and work for a claimed 2.5 hours) – will all the battery mowers of today achieve that? Will any new mowers in the 2020s really be ‘The Space Age Mower’ that will be in all our gardens soon?

So, I wonder if the battery-powered machines on sale today will be a great stepping stone to a cordless-powered garden that, without fuss and endless recharging and swapping of batteries, will entirely replace petrol?

Year 2023 56 volt leaf blower shown with 2017 qualcast 18 volt hedge trimmer and 1974 Wilkinson Sword 7.2 volt shrub trimmer

by alan

Kubota Premises – Then & Now

July 16, 2023 in Articles, Machinery

Recently I have been looking at the history of Kubota tractors in the UK. Although the tractors were sold in many countries in the 1960s, the first Kubota tractors didn’t arrive in the UK until the early 1970s, and the range has continued to grow and develop over the decades.

Many newspaper adverts from the 1970s showed the 14 hp B6100, 16 hp B7100, 17 hp L175, 24 hp L225 and the 25 hp L245. Additionally, the popular and compact B6000 in the 1970s had a 12.5 hp water-cooled diesel engine, four-wheel drive with six forward and two reverse gears, a three-point hitch and a three-speed PTO.

Kubota Tractors (UK) Ltd in North Yorkshire originally sold the tractors, but eventually, Kubota set up their own division in the late 1970s and, in 1982, moved to Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire.

Photographs exist of the original Dormer Road premises with the ‘Kubota’ name proudly on display. The premises still exist and (in 2019 with Streetview) look almost identical, even the planting with conifers and trees are the same – although they have grown! The 2019 image shows the premises occupied by another company, however, Kubota is shown across the road in a fantastic modern warehouse.

The location is: https://goo.gl/maps/nzoYkjgPu9znocR16

The early Kubota premises on Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire. Newer offices and warehouse are now across the road,
The same premises in 2019

by alan

Wolf Tools – Then & Now

May 5, 2023 in Articles

Tools and equipment made by Wolf are popular, both the vintage ones and the modern equivalents that can still be purchased. I have several modern Wolf tools and they are excellent.

This ‘Then & Now’ post features the Wolf factory at Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. This group of buildings, as shown in the third photo, is now known as the Wolf Business Park and still has the familiar Wolf logo on the signs.

The Wolf family had their new premises built on the junction of Gloucester Road and Alton Road, these opened in 1963 and included trial grounds and a demonstration and instruction centre for the trade and users. The first photo, in black and white, is from a report in 1964. The Google Maps link is: https://goo.gl/maps/TDcMvj7ZNs9JW3cR6

As shown in the second photo, which was taken from almost the same angle, the premises still exist, although they appear to have a different business trading from there.

The third photo, from 1977, shows the front of the main building on the left looking onto the front lawn – the large glazed windows showing a display of Wolf products. The same view is shown in the last image, which is from 2022.

by alan

Quiz 2022

December 6, 2022 in Articles

Here are twelve questions for a short quiz. These questions relate to the names of tools, machines, brands or slogans; technical knowledge is not required, if in doubt just take a guess at the most obvious sounding answer! See how many you can get correct!

Below are the twelve questions. As always, the answers are at the bottom of the page. 

Questions:

Q1: What slogan advertised the Groundhog cultivator?

1. In 1975 Westwood was advertising their Groundhog cultivators. Which inventive headline did they use to promote these machines which were ideal in the vegetable garden? 

A: Cultivata-Potata!
B: Veg-U-Like
C: Remove toil and slog with a Groundhog!

Q2: What unusual name did AL-Ko give one of their mowers?

2. AL-KO produced a range of lawnmowers, they can be found in a yellow or red colour scheme and as push, electric or petrol powered. In the 1980s a small red electric rotary mower with a steel deck was made by AL-KO in Germany and retailed by AL-KO Britain. It was given a really unusual model name; what was that electric mower called?

A: Gerald 18
B: Sidney 21
C: Cuthbert 32

Q3: What Allen machine was advertised as famous for performance and reliability?

3. In 1973 an Allen outdoor power equipment price list detailed many machines. Which of their popular machine of which we see many and cost from £199, was described as “Wherever a man can walk, this rugged machine will cut, famous the world over for performance and reliability“? 

A: Allen Motor Scythe
B: Allen Challenger MK.V commercial mower
C: Mayfield Tractor MK15 with optional 3 ft scythe unit. 

Q4: What was Westwood’s hedge trimmer trolley called?

4. In the early 1970s Westwood Engineering were selling the Rockwell electric hedge trimmer. They were also selling a two-wheel trolley (shown in the grainy image) that could power and store the hedge trimmer. The trolley had space at the base for a 40w battery to run the electric hedge trimmer. The trolley handle was a long box shape that contained oil; the hedge trimmer could be stored there with the oil inhibiting rust. But what animal name did this trolley have? 

A: The Frog
B: The Hedgehog
C: The Newt

Q5: What were the yellow-painted French garden tractors called?

5. In the 1980s in the UK, Hyett Adams LTD of Gloustershire were selling a range of yellow-painted 6 hp garden tractors that carried a French machinery company’s name, logo and decals. This French company also made engines that also carry the same French name. But what was the name of this French company? Was it:

A. Barrett
B. Bobby
C. Bernard

Q6: What did Yard-Man name some of their early tractors?

6. Yard-Man mowers and lawn tractors are often seen in a very distinct green and yellow colour scheme, but the 1960s models were painted red. The red colour was inherited when Yard-Man took over the George Garden Tools Company of Illinois in 1967. Apart from the colour, what name did the early Yard-Man tractors use from the George Garden Tools Company? Did they both call their lawn tractors the…

A. Lazy-Bird
B. Lawn-Bird
C. Easy-Eagle

Q7: what did Bob Andrews call their three-wheeled barrow?

7. Many companies have made trucks and barrows to help gardeners transport plants, tools and materials around the garden. In 1988 Bob Andrews LTD was busy marketing a three-wheeled barrow (pictured), more accurately, it had two wheels on a central axle and a third was a castor at the rear. It was lined with a polypropylene box that could be lifted out for emptying. Using a plant-derived name, what was this barrow called? 

A. Willow 
B. Bizzie Lizzie
C. Fuschia

Q8: What did Allen call a range of wheeled vacuums?

8. Allen Power Equipment Ltd in Didcot sold wheeled, walk-behind garden vacuums with large collecting bags at the rear supported from the handles, they were similar to the Billy Goat vacuums. In 1987 Allen had a new 21″ and a 27″ push model powered by 3.5 hp or 5 hp engines, the models could be converted from a vacuum sweeper to a blower in seconds. There was also a 30″ wide self-propelled model. But what did Allen call their range of wheeled vacuums? 

A. Scavenger
B. Grazer
C. Sucker

Q9: Who helped to advertise the Wolseley-Webb mowers?

9. In the mid-1970s which TV personality gardener was helping to advertise the Wolseley-Webb hand, battery and motor mowers including the Wizard range of mowers? 

A. Bayleaf the Gardener
B. Geoff Hamilton
C. Percy Thrower

Q10: “Grass Disappears Like Magic” with this Allen mower!

10. Another question regarding Allen Power Equipment LTD…In 1989 Allen was advertising machinery in newspaper adverts. One product was a 19″ lawnmower that would mulch the grass clippings, it was powered by a 4 hp Briggs and Stratton engine. The advert headline said that with this mulching mower the “Grass Disappears Like Magic”, not surprisingly the mower was given the name of a magical person. What was the name of this mower? 

A: Houdini 
B: Merlin 
C: Potter

Q11: What did VIA LTD name their range of mowers in the 1980s?

11. Lawnmowers have been given many different names to make them sell. In the 1980s a company called VIA LTD were selling several mower ranges in the UK. Below are three lists of names, but which one is a genuine list of VIA mower names? 

A: Beaulieu, Blenheim, Hatfield, Arundel, Sandringham
B: A-4SP, A-5SP, B-5SP, B6-SP, C-3PO
C: Derby, Devon, Dorset, Kent, Rutland

12. In horticulture, Honda may be a name we can associate with making rotavators, mowers and associated items. Also, a vehicle they made was a small pickup and van in the 1970s, ideal for the gardener on their round or a smallholder going to market with their produce.  Below is an advert for the Honda TN7 pickup which was advertised by Honda (UK) Ltd, Yardley, Birmingham.  In 1977, including the VAT how much was the pick-up version advertised for? 

A: £799.99
B: £1286.28
C: £3110.08

Answers:

1: A: Westwood Engineering was using the headline ‘Cultivata-Potata!‘ in the mid-1970s to advertise their range of Grounhog cultivators. The advertised range included the G/3 (3hp Briggs & Stratton), G/4 (4 hp Aspera) and G/5 (5 hp Briggs and Stratton). They were priced from £110+vat with adverts saying they were “a real investment [when considering that] an average family spend up to £3 per week on vegetables“.

2: C: Cuthbert 32.  A strange name for a mower but it was Cuthbert with a cutting width of 32cm The model was manufactured by AL-KO Kober GmbH in West Germany and sold in the UK. 

3: A: The Allen TS Motor Scythe was described as “Wherever a man can walk, this rugged machine will cut, famous the world over for performance and reliability“. Although available decades earlier, by 1973 the Allen scythe prices started from £199 with the TS fitted with a Villiers Mk 15 engine and standard cutting assembly. The Kohler K91T engine-powered Allen Scythe cost £232. The 22-inch Allen Challenger Mk. V commercial mower cost £139. The Mayfield Tractor with a Villiers F.15, 3 hp engine was £149 with an optional 3 ft scythe unit at £54.50. 

4: B: Hedgehog. I don’t know why the Rockwell hedge trimmer holder was called the Hedgehog, any ideas? The 40 watt battery and a 1.5 amp charger that the Hedgehog could accommodate were optional extras. Three Westwood/Rockwell hedge trimmers were advertised alongside the Hedgehog, these were 13″, 18″ and 23″ and were double-edged which enabled left and right cutting at 1300 cuts per minute.

5: C: Bernard. Although the tractors had Bernard engines, the tractors were actually made in the USA and were a similar design to Dynamark and early ATCO ride-on lawn tractors.

6: B: Lawn-Bird. The early Yard-Man liveried tractors carried over the Lawn-Bird name and the red paintwork of the George Garden Tools Company Lawn-Bird tractors.

7: B: Bizzie Lizzie. In 1988 Bob Andrews Ltd was advertising the Bizzie Lizzie three-wheeled cart. It was said to be tough, versatile, capacious and outstandingly manoeuvrable. It could make heavy tasks possible and could be stored tidily on a wall peg. The internal box was available in either red or black and the whole apparatus was £39,96 including VAT and delivery. Bargain! 

8: A: Scavenger. Allen called their wheeled vacuums the Scavenger. They were designed and built in the UK. In 1987 the 21″ 3.5 hp model cost £299+vat, the 27″ 5 hp model was £399+vat.

9: C: Percy Thrower appeared in newspaper adverts for the Wolseley-Webb range of machines. Bayleaf the Gardener was a character from The Herbs which was a childrens stop-motion animation in 1968

10: B: Merlin. Allen called the mulching mower they were advertising the Merlin. Shown in newspaper adverts as a mail order, it was priced at £299.95 including free delivery in 7-21 days. It was advertised as having superior quality, was precision made and had a specially designed cutting chamber that helped the mulching process.

11: A: Retailed by VIA LTD. were the mowers called Beaulieu, Blenheim, Hatfield, Arundel and Sandringham. Other models were Apollo, Mercury, Neptune, Jupiter and Saturn. More than likely they were made by Concord Meccanica based in Varese, Italy. These mowers were standard pedestrian machines powered by either electricity or petrol. The petrol engines seem to be mostly Briggs and Stratton but the 53cm wide Saturn mower had a 4.4 hp BETA two-stroke engine and was priced in the UK at £580 in 1985. Note: In answer option B, the listed model C-3PO was a robot character in Star Wars. 

12: B: £1286.28. Yes, an obscure question for horticulture but I managed to get in a gardening reference or two! 

Did you get all twelve correct?