Woman Power: 1950s Fairbanks-Morse Mower

A riding mower?! Come on, guys, you’re losing your focus! Ahh.. it felt good to get that out of the way.. This one may seem weird, but Barn Finds isn’t always about dusty, hidden muscle cars. No where in the definition of the website does it say that it’s limited to cars only, and this one also has a motor and a person can drive it around. Albeit on grass, but still.. This is a 1950s Fairbanks-Morse Ride-On Mower and it’s on Craigslist for $1,000 or best offer. It’s in Alba, Michigan and the seller says “Cash ONLY. Pick up only”, but they also say that they’ll deliver it within a 50-mile radius. I wish that was a 500-mile radius. Thanks to Clarke B. for sending in this cool find!

If you’re a true gear head, you like anything and everything that’s powered by something – engines, small motors, batteries, pedals, sails, chipmunks – anything. There are legions of collectors and restorers of vintage lawn implements and this is a super rare and solid example. The price, though, ouch. In 2015, Barrett-Jackson sold a totally restored one in like-new condition – although not in a factory color, unfortunately – for a mere $150 more than the seller is asking for this rusty project mower! I’m guessing that about half of the asking price is what most collectors would be willing to pay for this one. The seller would like “to see it gone, but I’m not it a hurry, so don’t throw a low amount at me.”

Fairbanks-Morse & Company was a huge industrial company in the late-1800s that originally made weighing scales, but they evolved into making a lot of various things, such as “pumps, engines, windmills, coffee grinders, farm tractors, feed mills, locomotives”. And, of course, lawn mowers. Actually, the company purchased Root Manufacturing Co., Inc. out of Kansas in order to get into the lawn care business. Here’s a similar mower in action on YouTube. You aren’t going to win any races with these but I’m sure that it would be popular at vintage garden tractor shows. Yes, there is such a thing and it’s as fun as any car show for those involved in the hobby. Restoring vintage tractors and similar equipment is a great learning experience, it can be a nice starter project for someone just getting interested in restoration.

These mowers were specifically marketed towards women, a fairly revolutionary concept for the conservative 1950s. The company made push mowers, too, va-va-voom! This mower for sale here appears to be in good condition, as far as the metal work goes. This is thick stuff so it would take a real concerted effort to dent those cool pontoon-like fenders.

This is a Briggs & Stratton 8B-H motor and believe it or not, lots of parts are still available, even from Sears! This engine is “free moving”, according to the seller. Most Barn Finds readers could rebuild and restore this engine to like new condition in a couple of weekends and I think it would be a fun little project. This whole mower would be a fun little restoration project. The price may be a bit ambitious, but hey, if you start too low you can’t go up! Are any of you into collecting and restoring vehicles other than cars and trucks, like vintage garden tractors, mowers, snowmobiles, chain saws, etc?


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  1. Adam T45 Staff

    Chipmunk power? Oh Scotty, Scotty, Scotty!

  2. Jeffro

    If it has boobs or a motor, I’m interested. This is a cool little mower. Would be fun to restore. And I love going to antique tractor shows. This would certainly be noticed!

    • KeithK

      Preferably both of those items in,on,near, or around each other. Let’s face it , without them it’s just an awkward group of guys saying “that’s cool man”.

  3. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Ok, as a former mower engineer (true) I can appreciate this find. But not at that price.

    • Ryan Schneider

      Just sold this 1969 Craftsman 10 H.P. 36″ cut, ran perfect when the guy showed up to buy it. Dang it, hahaa, cool old original, gotta love it !!! As is the same with this cool lil ma chine.. !!

      Like 1
      • Chuck

        That’s cool. I have an ’87 18HP that I inherited. It doesn’t currently run. I want to restore it but there are a couple of other (cars) in front of it.

      • Howard A Member

        Guy I know got one just like this from the town dump. When he got it, the “dump master” said, “if you can’t get it running, you know where to bring it”. Cleaned the gas tank and carb, and was cutting that very afternoon.

  4. Rock On

    Just curious Jamie, can you tell us who you designed mowers for?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      I am still employed by the company (although no longer as a designer), so that’s probably not a good idea. But you’d know them :-)

    • Howard A Member

      Hmm, pretty tight lipped, Rock On, maybe the government?

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        LOL. No, let’s just say they have a two-tone color scheme that’s instantly recognizable running like an animal…

        Like 1
  5. Coventrycat

    That’s a really narrow mowing deck – it would take forever to mow a modest 50’s lawn. Guess that evened things up, designed by men for women. Clever buggers.

  6. Peter

    Those small width and solid tyres would sink into the ground with my weight. It would need a light weight driver to get around a soft soil yard.

  7. Jim

    Your legs would be real close to that motor,must have been a few burns,and a little hot mowing on a 90 degree day.The tires look like hard rubber.

  8. St. Ramone de V8

    Needs a cup holder….

  9. Fred W.

    Looks like a handicap scooter with blades.

  10. Howard A Member

    Here’s a BF’s 1st. A lawn mower,,,,I LOVE IT!!! The variation of eclectic items that come through here, are as varied as the author’s imagination. In the case of Scotty, you never know. Pretty crude, by today’s standards No offense, but that drive system couldn’t handle any woman bigger than Twiggy ( remember her?) I’d think those side tank things could be used as gas tanks , for extra cutting range ( Forrest Gump cutting that huge field with a RE Snapper) Styling is great, pretty simple,,,$50 bucks, if it runs. Keep ’em comin’.

  11. That Guy

    That’s the coolest thing I’ve seen all week. I’m picturing Mrs. 1950s Housewife in her heels and pearls, toasting the neighbors with her martini and Lucky Strikes as she bombs around the lawn drunk as a skunk. But that’s just me.

  12. Jim Mc

    B&S made two basic style engines. This is a center shaft meaning a vertical crank and horizontal piston and head. The other was a side shaft meaning horizontal crank and vertical head. Side shafts were popular on mini-bikes and go-karts in the 60s – 80s. I tore down and rebuilt both as a kid in the early 70s. On the side shaft remove the governor, tweak the carb, add a straight pipe, and you could have a kickin’ little bike or kart. 3.5 hp stock.
    This mower is for show really, you’d have to be a mid-century modern or googie fanatic to pay this much money.
    FYI, Fairbanks-Morse manufactured some beautiful and occasionally rugged diesel locomotives in the early days of diesel.
    Good eye, Scotty.
    Too much money but I like it.

  13. Howard A Member
  14. geomechs geomechs Member

    I knew that F-M was diversified but definitely not to this extent. This would have been quite a novelty in its day, especially when you consider that the majority of lawnmowers in the day were the push type. I like it, and if I had some extra change hanging around I’d take a closer look at it.

  15. terry

    Make a neat bar stool racer conversion.

  16. Jay E.

    When I get to the point that I need a mobility scooter… This is my ride. Fantastic. Someone is going to pay the entry fee.

  17. geomechs geomechs Member

    I wonder if George Jones drove something like this down to the liquor store when Tammy Wynette took all the car keys away????

  18. Chuck

    Love to have it but not at that price.

  19. Rentalbarn

    As a collector I can say it’s very very pricey. Maybe $150 on a good day.

  20. larry

    Mothers day is right around the corner…

    • Howard A Member

      She can put it right next to the bowling ball she got last year,,,

  21. John Hess Member

    Had a 66 Sears, 48″ W/about 6 attachments,12HP Koehler engine. Had a snowblower, mower 48″(?), disc, harrow, plow, spreader, one other I don’t remember. Wife had a beauty shop W/1/4 acre paved parking lot. Blew a lot of snow at 10;30 at night(after work). Plowed and disc’d a lot of huge gardens. Mowed tons of lawn. Finally after 10 + years it was tired. Rebuilt the Koehler and it ran like a champ until I sold the house and moved to Florida
    Great product

  22. Tom S.

    What a wonderful mower. Michigan seems to be the end of the rainbow for cool old mowers, minibikes, snowmobiles and so on.

  23. alfred

    Still way cooler than the chevette the other day. Lol

  24. Alec

    Loving this – I collect old mowers (along with anything else that has a petrol engine). Bought a 1960s British-Anzani Lawnrider a couple of years ago – a machine that looks cool but is rather form over function. There’s even a club here in the UK with a mower rally in a couple of weeks: http://oldlawnmowerclub.co.uk

    Like 1
  25. Loco Mikado

    Too bad it’s not powered by a miniature version of the FM opposed piston diesel like WW2 submarines or their post war Diesel-Electric locomotives. Now that would be something to have.

  26. Rob S

    What a great find!! This thing would steal the show at a tractor event! Even if I restored this for my wife the lawn would never get mowed….ooops, she heard me!!
    The boobs would cost you alot more in the long run! The B&S would be cheaper and more reliable. I would love to restore this!

  27. CanAm

    Love it – just as well its not on this island or it would be mine :)

  28. Chebby

    Worth 25 bucks at a garage sale. But it’s cool.

  29. Scotty Staff

    Update: the listing has been deleted so someone bought this super cool mower!

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