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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

New Here, Hi from Me & My Troublesome 1954 Groundsman

Hi all, looking for some help.... As per title, I bought a Groundsman and she's being difficult.

I don't "get" imperial. I just don't... I understand my 1/2" & 3/8" & 1/4" ratchets, but then it's metric sockets so I have to go by some old sockets I may have kicking around or the nearest metric equivalent, but not one olde worlde spanner I'm afraid...

However, I am getting by as I have only the flywheel and electrical system to muck around with at present. But I promise to get some suitable spanners as long as I know if it's whitworth, AF, Wallace and Gromit or otherwise as I plan to replace every gasket and seal if I can get a hold of some new old stock. She's been leaking oil for as long as I've been alive I imagine and the bucky mugger who sold it to the chap I bought it off hadn't cleaned the grass or muck off it in twenty odd years or more. I discovered dinosaurs living in the jungle of dried green just on the motor alone! However, I got all the parts with it, inc complete grass box and seat & rear roller. All for the princely sum of £80.

I am getting a weak (to me, although a spark is still a) spark so I know there is life in the old girl. But due to the issues with lining up the flywheel, I can't get her to fire. I have spun her over with the battery drill and there is sounds of firing, but no actual life. So before I delve in too deep, I would like to know where I can aquire spares please?

I have an excellent workshop with bench drill, grinding wheel & sander belt, hand drills, grinders, welder (MIG), couple of vice, all manner of hand tools and an ability to use them. My normal life is repairing cars, especially brakes & pipes, engines, clutches, etc. I'm not scared to dive in, but I like to be forearmed.

One thing I haven't got to yet is the condenser as I can only assume I'll have to purchase some old spanners to get into the back of the flywheel housing to loosen the small bolt heads in the well thought of hidey area. I can only assume the engineer was angry at a mechanic in the 50's for whatever reason. I thought modern CAD designs were maddening (I mean, Citroen think it's hilarious that I have to remove the wiper arms and associated plastics to get to the strut tops!!), but these fellows got there first, lol.

Here's a few photo's of the engine area:


Can I assume I'm going to have to de-solder the condenser and re-solder the new one? It's been an awfully long time since I dealt with such systems, but the memory is still there.

An help greatly apreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read my witterings.


Adrian Sat, 30/10/2021

AFAIK my pre-war condensor box is the same as you post-1950ish one - I think it just slides onto the old bolts (it's a very snug fit, that I do remember, you might have to bend the flange a bit to get it into the box). I don't recall having to solder/unsolder anything but I might have expunged it from my brain. You do need to be careful to get any insulating bushes the right way round - I spent ages trying to track down a lack of BANG! on my Standard before I found a top-hat bush was on in the wrong order. Wristpin will turn up in a bit and put you straight, he is "Da Man" when it comes to mower engineering.

Luckily there are lots of options for Villiers spares

If anyone tells you "Meetens" - sadly, Meetens have closed owing to ill-health, but their stocks went here:

DJD Sat, 30/10/2021

The condensor/capacitor is behind the points assy. a new one will need to be soldered on to the low tension lead that's now sticking out and old lead cut away.

Andoo Sun, 31/10/2021

Gentlemenz, thank you to you both for your input :-) It is greatly appreciated.

I will have a look through the links and make some purchases.

I will keep you appraised of my antics....

Thanks again.

wristpin Sun, 31/10/2021

Your images are from a Villiers Mk25 (note Mk25 with No alpha suffix; one with a suffix such as Mk25C makes it a much smaller two-stroke) 

Im not sure whether your comments about spanner/socket sizes are serious or a bit tongue in cheek  - if the latter, I've fallen for it!

This should date your machine as one with UK imperial fastenings that is, fastenings with a coarse thread will be BSW, British Standard Whitworth and those with a finer thread BSF, British Standard Fine. The Imperial designation can also include what's sometimes referred to as an American standard, UNF, Unified Fine or UNC Unified Coarse.  Just to make life thoroughly confusing  he old British Standard sizes refer to the diameter of the threaded portion whereas  the American sizes are  the the head sizes  measured across the flats and often referred to as AF - and, as you imply that you are a child of the metric age (blame Napoleon)  1/2" a AF spanner or socket  equals 13mm !!

Now just to add to your confusion those tiny brass nuts in the Villiers points box ignition are probably British Association , BA sizes which are expressed as 0BA, 1BA etc etc - and just you think that's verging on logical; the larger the number the small the nut size and visa versa. The biggest in my tin is 0BA and the smallest 7BA. Just in case that starts to make sense there are in-between sizes expressed in decimal sizes such as 5.5BA.

Now I'll retreat back into my cave but before I do, I  endorse two previous posts . 

Insulating spacers and washers. Very important not to damage them and to correctly position them . Soldered connections . They are  best and most reliable for those ignition connections .……




Andoo Mon, 01/11/2021

Dear Mr Pin, please do not retreat to your cave as I may have more questions... But thank you for your extensive knowlege and of course sharing with a hack such as myself :-) 

I was being a bit tongue in cheek, but I am absolutely confused by the miriade different classifications for nut & bolt sizes pre decimal! My dad was a bit of an engineer (and a fisherman) who welded & made all manner of things, but kept me away from most of them. But being inquisitive (nosey really :-) I poked around and was fascinated by motors and engines and the like. I was born at the end of the 60's so didn't really know much about the old currency and sizes of things, although I have heard about AF, BSF, UNC and such. I just didn't recognise the meanings apart from somewhere deep in the muddled recesses I know AF meant across flat relating to nut/bolt sizes.

However, the 70's came along, glorious hot summer of 76 (if memory serves) then that winter of around 78 where the snow was soooo deep!!!! Decimals were a pain, but I do like metric. It's simple. That Farenheight chap deserved a slap because What The Actual?? I mean water boils at 100 deg C and freezes at 0 deg C, simple. I like simple, it's just so easy... Unlike my French cars, or worse, my British one! I'll leave it "P38" and you'll likely understand my pain ;-(

Anyhoo, back to the mower. I am struggling to remove the points housing as I currently don't posses a spanner fit for the purpose of removing the teeny bolts at the back of the flywheel housing. So I guess after I have wired in a new switch and light to my sons en suit, I'll mostly be trundling to get a spanner and of course, no1 from school (we moved 5 miles over the bridge and no school transport).

I guess I will have to purchase a set of spanners just to be used on this mower. I shall guard them with my lock, keys and camera's. Although, so far it's a quiet area. Wait till I get the Atco going, lol....

Andoo Tue, 16/11/2021

Evening all, well thanks to George from Villiers Parts, I managed to order a new coil and condenser. I checked using the digital meter and found both the original & new coil were reading the same so at least I now have a spare. The condenser did indeed turn out to be the issue so the spark is big and blue..

Fired it up and although it took a Makita drill to spin it over, she started just fine. I do however, need a carb rebuild kit as it leaks. Bad fibre washer seal and a worn (I assume) float shut off needle... I also need a cork seal for the original fuel tank valve as it leaks when open.

That aside, I think she's running rich and possibly slightly out of timing, although it can't be much because the first spin of the drill she bursts into life. Doesn't like the choke much, a quarter of choke for the first few bangs then off. She puffs out black smoke upon throttle which suggests too much fuel, but again that may be down to the sheer amount of fuel going through thanks to the duff needle  shut off valve.

But my real issue is the clutch. I can move the thumb operated lever, but the business end does nothing. The cog disconnect (not sure of it's correct title, but it's the bit you pull on the left side to disconnect the drive) can be connected or not, it makes no difference. I can feel it wanting to take off and with the disconnect engaged and if pushing the mower with engine off, it won't budge... I tried moving the part at the end of the spring using a long lever, but it remained solid. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty certain the spring should be compressed as I push, but it seems to be seized. Again, I'm not certain as this is the first time I have even encountered an ATCO mower, so any advice again gladly received.

I made a video, but I suspect it'll be too large to post. But my wife stood there quite amazed that I got this old thing running despite the leaks and squeaks, lol :-)

Anyway, I discovered a set of old spanners that I managed to use the grinder to "adjust" to fit the nuts & bolts on the mower. So I'm on the case.

Thanks again all.


wristpin Tue, 16/11/2021

All sounding good. I suspect that if you can get the float valve to seal as it should , your rich running issue will go away. When I started working on those engines and carbs in the early 80s they were giving us issues even then. I think that George will sort you out a needle and seat . I think that he does a complete carb reconditioning service but no idea whether for yours or the cost.

That dog clutch does give trouble because a little pin inside wears / shears and, I believe was never available as a spare ; however I remember that another contributor to this forum, Hortimech, has posted that he used to do a repair using the hard steel pin from a pop rivet.

What ever you do don’t over oil the metal to metal cone clutch as once that happens it’s a total ******** to clean them up and get them gripping again. I have memory of a machine that had been left out side all winter and the owners gardener than tipped a bucket of diesel over that clutch to free it off . That succeeded but then......... !!!!

Andoo Wed, 17/11/2021

Thank you for your reply. However, I should have waited.... M'laddo was helping (??) earlier on and he tried to move the mower. I showed him how to pull & twist the clutch disconnect (still can't think of a name for it) and would you believe it, the clutch lever had freed itself off!! I soaked the moving parts (spring, bearings, lever and fulcrum, in chain oil (from Lidl). So over the past few days it's obviously soaked in and done it's stuff :-)

However, I fired her up using the Makita and off she went. I stalled it using the clutch, so decided to try the kick start & would you believe it, it fired first kick!!!!! But any time I try to engage the clutch, the engine stalls or tries to. Pretty sure it's a combination of the bad fuelling and a smidge out on the timing.

I will get in touch with George again and get the parts required. I wonder if he will have the petrol tank on/off valve cork seal and how to replace it....

I'm getting there, mower or less, ha ha.