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Collection, Preservation and Display of Old Lawn Mowers

1934 Atco 14" Lightweight - Restored

Hi Everyone,

I stumbled into this hobby quite by accident between mid-2018 and late 2019, however with the pandemic hitting us early last year the time for projects made it possible for me to actually start restoring something I had bought in Wales some 18 months earlier, and by December last year I was well on my way towards getting a project started and finished - that was when I signed onto this club (Dec '20).  In the past 4 months I was able to source and replace nearly all the nuts, bolts, and other fasteners needed to replace the rusting ones, get the cup & cone clutch dismantled, cleaned and completely refurbished, figure out which gears went where on reassembly (because I didn't take pictures of those!), reassembling the drive roller, and just as interesting reassembling the clutch handle!  Thanks to all of you here at the OLC for helping me with drawings, advice, and just as importantly telling me just what I had exactly (apart from a motor mower, of course!).  I am pleased to present my fully restored Atco, minus a grassbox, that square bar that runs above the wooden rollers, and one oiler cup lid (I still can't find those anywhere!)  and - of course - the Atco branding on the petroil tank (that should be in the post soon, thanks Colin).


I broke the motor mower down into all of its individual parts, with the exception of the engine which I worked on last spring / summer (removed the cylinder block and de-coked it with a bottle brush and an electric drill! Replaced the coil and timed it, installed a new fuel tap and overhauled the carbuerettor). I inventoried all the parts first before I took them up to a specialist in Wisbech (GLW Engineering) to sandblast them clean of any paint.

 Some parts after a second coat of paint

Most of the parts (except for the clutch assembly, cylinder cutter and certain gears) I applied a Teal Green (apologies to anyone if this isn't period accurate, Teal is one of my favourite colours) using Hammerite Smooth Green and Smooth White at a 13:2 ratio, and a 2:1 ratio of paint to Hammerite Thinner and Brush Cleaner, and shot this through a Voilamart L-898 LVLP spray gun.  Took the better part of a day to convert the front half of my garage into a makeshift spraybooth.  The wife was not amused when she came home from work that night!

drier racks and my air gun hanging from a rafter  

The red bits mounted on the wall are accessories to my Howard Bantam rotovator... the drum to the left is one half of the drive roller.  I shot these in the garage one evening at 10 deg. Celsius, the absolute bottom end for painting temperature-wise.  Took 24 hours to cure.

Refurbed clutch

The clutch I completely tore apart, cleaned, then had the parts sandblasted before repainting and reassembling (except for the cone, I was wary of the liner getting damaged).  The Motor Mower runs nice and steady; unfortunately, when I tried to engage the clutch, nothing happened (the cone probably needs a new liner). All the bearings (save for the drive roller, they were still in really good shape) were changed out and replaced with brand new self-aligning open bearings from Budget Bearings.Left side drive train

As many of the fasteners as I could replace I did with BSW and BSF stock from Namrick; nearly every join on this mower has a shakeproof washer of the period along with a washer to preserve the paint underneath.  All the hardware was soaked and wiped down in SAE 40 motor oil to prevent corrosion. 

I assembled the entire lower half of the mower this past Saturday while the wife was at work - took me all day, and only made one mistake in the reassembly - I fastened the handle bars to the outside of the chassis plates instead of the inside.  Sunday morning I finished it off. The wooden rollers are English Oak in Danish oil, courtesy of Mike Floody who did an excellent job.  That's the reason for the cardboard "pavement" running all the way out to the drive!

Wooden handles  

Now this - this is the absolute highlight of the whole project, in my opinion. Matching English Oak handles, 1 coat of Johnstones' woodstain and 2 coats varnish to get the right colour match to the wooden rollers at the front.  Thanks again to Mike Floody for doing a fan-flippin'-tastic job turning these handles!  The clutch handle I just 'winged it' with a simple, cylinder-style handle that Mike turned and drilled for me to some pretty precise specifications.  They pressed on just fine, and I ran several layers of hard-curing epoxy resin down the gaps to fill.  The Atco throttle body, like the coil and fuel tap, I purchased from George at Villiers Parts in Essex, along with a completely new, fabricated cable as the old one was really worn out.  George told me then I have the last one of his factory-new throttle bodies...

I have more pics, and a video of her purring along but these were the best of them.  I know I've dropped quite a few names in here of stockists and services, and it was intentional: they provide a service and a point of supply for us to draw on in order to pursue our hobby, and I'm sure some of these folks derive a small income from our patronage so I felt it important to point them out by name here for the excellent work / service they provided me to complete this project.  Thank you.

Now, does anyone out here know someone who can put a new liner on the cone of my clutch?





luftfanatic Sat, 24/04/2021

Hi Everyone,

I left it for a couple days and realised perhaps, instead of re-lining the clutch cone, I should try letting out a little more rod to see if that would allow the cone to seat further into the cup enough to catch - so, I let out the rod at the handle end about 3 mm, which was the length of play I had left on the clutch forks (any more and the forks wouldn't be able to draw the cone out enough to disengage if that was, in fact, the problem). I built a service trolley beforehand to sit the mower on, so I could allow the clutch to engage without the mower going anywhere, and then placed the mower on it.  Lo and behold, she worked! So, I have a fully functional Atco mower.  Only thing left now to do is place the Atco labels on the torpedo fuel tank, the get the cylinder and back blade sharpened.

Clive1997 Sun, 25/04/2021

Excellent a lot of hard work and well documented. The Lightweight with the so called 'Foot pressure starter' was introduced I understand in 1935 & was only sold for 2 years, this being the reason we see few of them. Modified in 1937 to pram handle with a central kick-start pedal.

Always been a favourite of mine as I assume this was the birth of the kick start on Atco mowers, in advertising Atco states that the foot pressure starter was as easy as starting a car!! Not sure exactly what car they were referring to as most cars were started with a starting handle (as with most mowers of that era) or electric start?

I do have a grass box if you ever want to use as a pattern.

olcadmin Sun, 25/04/2021

Reference to starting a car may have just been advertising hype but back in the day many cars were started by pushing a button on the floor with the foot rather than turning a key so perhaps this was also part of it.

wristpin Sun, 25/04/2021

Reference to starting a car may have just been advertising hype but back in the day many cars were started by pushing a button on the floor with the foot rather than turning a key so perhaps this was also part of it.

Even as recently as the first Austin and Morris Minis; although  one would have to have been a bit of a contortionist to operate that one with the left foot.

Clive1997 Sun, 25/04/2021

Yes you are right there, but think it was just a button rather than physical exertion! Also remember the headlight dip switch also a button on the floor.

Some of Atco's other comments in connection with this model would today perhaps be termed 'Sexist' for example " Every member of our female clerical staff have started this machine in its trials, with complete confidence" & "The clutch operation lever has been given special consideration, due to the number of ladies who are now using these light machines"

As to the foot pressure starter "The mechanism is simplicity itself & virtually foolproof", but as we know it only survived for two years.

The development of mowers and indeed the advertising is really fascinating, probably less research & development in those days and perhaps a case of, introduce to the market and see what happens! 

Adrian Mon, 26/04/2021

Given the wide variation in tone of various Atco greens, if you like Teal Green, I think that's the most important bit!  I think it looks rather distinguished in it.

luftfanatic Mon, 26/04/2021

Thanks Adrian,  the next mower I'm going to do I'll be painting it the same colour - tonight I'm going to have a look at it and post some pics tonight or tomorrow.