I got this Quality-Built, American-Made beast for free from a friend of mine.
I was looking to get an older, American-Made lawn tractor and mentioned how I'd missed out on a few John Deere's and an IH-built Cub Cadet... he took me out to his shed and told me that he had an old something or other and I could take it away because he couldn't get it to start and really didn't want to just scrap it. It had been sitting for at least 3 years and he never really used it much. His uncle had bought it new and then sold his home a few years later. It ended up at his Father's house, sat in the back of the garage for another 8 years before my buddy brought it out and took it to a shop to be serviced. He used it for a few years, but he owns his own business and has a daughter that requires a lot of care... He told me that she'd been sitting for at least 3 or 4 years... As soon as he opened the doors, I recognized those colors right away, but she didn't look like the Bolens lawn tractors I remembered... However, once I got her out in the daylight, the 12 hp Briggs under the hood, Hydro-trans, lack of anything close to rot, and the sturdy chassis were all Classic Bolens... so into the bed of my Chevy she went.
Got her home and started my homework... I sourced not one but two good Bolens Grass Catchers with the EZ dump, but one was missing the catcher duct and tube... the complete one was $40 and the other was free. After taking stock of the original mower deck, I decided to hunt for another because at some point in its life it had hit something big and tweaked it good... it all spun freely, but it wasn't exactly what I'd call worth fixing... more like servicable parts....
Well, after a Summer/Fall of baby steps and "I'll get to it Later's", then a punishingly snowy winter, I Finally started working on her this June. Tried to turn her over gently by hand and got full resistance... "Uh Oh!". So I moved onto her fluids, Oil was a bit ugly, but didn't smell burnt/no water, and the Hydro was clean/topped off... All of her grease points were dried out... Lube'd her up, got a new battery and gave each tire a small shot of fix a flat to stop the slow leaks.
Went back to the engine, pulled off the cowl and discovered that every nook and cranny under the B&S's cowl was jammed with fluff n' stuff and glued together with mouse crap/urine... ICK!!!!
Took out my hose and blasted off the crud... what a nasty mess!... spent several days with soap, water, a small flathead screwdriver, and a mini wire brush cleaning that engine... I pulled the spark plug and shot a mix of light oil and PB Blaster, put the plug back in, and let it sit for a few days... and a few days... and a few days more, just had too many other more pressing things to take care of. July 2nd, I picked up where I'd left off. I finished cleaning the carb, connected the battery and tested the electrical system. Went back to the engine, pulled the plug, and gently tried to turn her by hand again.. gave a little more force.... Womp, OH $^%*!!!! over the side I went... grumbled a few more explatives, but she was free'd up... discovered that it wasn't internal either, as I had feared... the flywheel had been glued/crusted to the engine where I couldn't see/reach. Took care of that problem and turned the engine over by hand for a good 20-30 mins, then gave the key a twist (no plug still)... worked the engine easy with the starter for a little longer. stopped for the night. I had a Cookout at my house the next day, so she sat yet one more day waiting for me.
Monday, July 4th... I devoted the day to celebrating America by getting a piece of American workmanship up 'n running once more... My Fiance shook her head, kissed me goodbye, and went off to enjoy a local parade with family...
I buttoned up everything, topped off the gas tank with some Seafoam, some Mobil 93, and tried to fire her up... Nada. Sprayed a bit of ether into the carb, she tried to catch, caught for a few seconds, and then flat on her face... "Come on Baby!" I tried to coax and sweet talk her into starting but no dice... I kept trying for a few hours, until the battery was dead... put the Black n Decker jump box on (these newer ones are pretty incredible), countdown timer ticked away and finally "Beep". I gave her a twist cough, sputter, cough... shot of ether, cough, put.. put.. put.. cough, put.. cough, sputter cough, putt... putt, put, Put... put.. Put. Put PUT PUTT PUTT, Growl, Vroom!
she had a slight miss, but I did the "Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy Dance" anyway... (Ren and Stimpy FTW!)
I let her run for a good 15 min at the lowest rpm I could get her to maintain... then gradually worked her up, then down through the RPM band, and shut her down. I changed out the plug, (new) and of course it was fouled up nasty. I drained the old oil out and put in fresh Briggs and Stratton W30. Outside of some slight sludge in the drain pan, it was very, very clean, no hint of any metal "WOOT!"
I gave her a few quick jogs with the starter to lube her up with the fresh stuff and tried her again. Took a few tries and then good to go. Tried to take her for a drive and she quit on me. But after a few minutes of running she let me ride her. Went around the yard just in time for my Fiance to come home...and me with my big grin! She gave me the look of conceeding me being right about American Quality and just needing some elbow grease.
...Tried the electric PTO and old girl hated that, stalled right out... took a few more tries until she accepted my demand, then was happy as ever... The old belts squeeled a little at first but, trurned the blades just fine...
Took her to the back yard and scrubbed her body/chassis down good, then as I was wiping off some crud from below the seat on the right side, I found a sticker that said, "Manufactured in USA"
No lie folks, this was one of those "moments" in my life... as if God himself smiled, not more than a few minutes after finding that sticker and taking this picture, a flight of 4 F-15's from the nearby airbase screamed overhead on their way to some 4th of July event.... It was both awesome and saddening at the same time.