Eclipse ‘Rocket’ Comes Back To Life

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By Staff

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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.

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