763 Moosehead Trail Jackson, Maine 04921
This story begins several years ago when my family and I lived in Connecticut. Our neighbors, the Lymans, had this old, dirty gas reel mower sitting in their garage. I made a few attempts to purchase the mower, but never was able to.
In May of 1999, my parents, my two younger brothers and I moved to Jackson, Maine, where we live now. It seemed like I would never be able to acquire and restore the mower. My dad and I took a short trip to Connecticut in the spring of this year and while we were back, I asked one more time to buy the mower. You could never imagine my surprise when they said yes! For a super-reasonable price, Eclipse 'Rocket' series #1103 was mine!
The engine is a Briggs and Stratton model WI, type 301149, serial #807500. Adam Lyman, my good friend, and I tried to get it started, but couldn't. I took it to where I was staying, and over the next few days cleaned the carburetor, gas tank and fuel line. I also filed the points and installed a new spark plug. The entire machine seemed basically sound, but there were a few broken parts. Anyway, I fed some gas to the carburetor and pulled. Nothing. Tried again. Nothing. I poured the carburetor full, pulled again, and got a few pops and a cloud of smoke. One more pull yielded a perfectly smooth running engine! I adjusted the fuel mixture and hit the clutch engagement. Zoom! Off it went! Once we got back to Maine, I disassembled the entire machine completely. Each part got its own special attention, cleaning, repairing as needed, and completely removing the old paint. Two primer coats and two coats of paint followed. The wooden rollers were soaked in a bucket of linseed oil after a light sanding. The engine was in excellent condition and did not need to be rebuilt.
The sheet metal on the mower was badly dented in front, like whoever used it had some trees in their yard and didn't know how to stop fast. I hammered it back out perfectly with a deadblow mallet. The hubcaps have the Eclipse logo and 'Rocket' stamped nicely into them, so I spent four hours, between the two, painting the letters. The entire restoration took about sixty hours. I know the mower had not been started for at least 20 years before I got it. It was protected inside the whole time, so no major rusting occurred at all. I put on a new gasket for the head and painted the engine. With new decals and stainless steel machine bolts for the shroud and gas tank, it looks great. I found a Champion J-8 spark plug from the 1940s in good shape and put it on. The engine has been dated to April of 1948.
The people who made this restoration possible are: the Lyman family, especially Adam Lyman; Charlie Stuart; Charlie Camara of CPC Reproductions; and Briggs Corporation for supplying copies of the original engine owners, parts, and service manuals, My two brothers, Josh and Eric, were a great help on some areas of the project, like reassembly. To get the clutch engaging linkage together, you could use about five hands and a few more eyes.
I would especially like to hear from anyone who has any manuals, books, or advertisements for the Rocket. Even better would be someone who has one. I'll be looking for some more Briggs engines, and have just acquired a Simplicity model LB garden tractor, walk-behind, with rototiller attachment. It has a Briggs 8B engine. I am looking for implements to fit the Simplicity, so if you have some, let me know.