MP043: Ransomes Ajax
The Ransomes Ajax was one of the most popular hand mowers ever made. It was introduced in 1933 and remained in production until 1972. During this time the Ajax was produced in five different versions, each being a small progression on its predecessor, and over 250,000 were sold.
The Mark I and Mark II Ajax was produced during the 1930s. The remaining three marks were produced in the period after the Second World War.
The Ajax was a more modern design than the machines it replaced such as the various "Automaton" models produced by Ransomes for many years. It used pressed and sheet steel components as well as lightweight castings. Until this time most mowers had been manufactured from heavy cast iron components. It also featured a drive mechanism comprising precision cut gear wheels enclosed in a sealed oil bath. This was much cleaner, quieter and more reliable than the exposed gears and chains of earlier Ransomes machines. Other design features included:
- Ribbed back roller to provide better grip and prevent skidding.
- Self-aligning dust-proof ball bearings on the cutting cylinder.
- Patent "Oilite" self-oiling bearings on the rear roller.
- Machine-cut gearing, totally enclosed in the oil bath on the side of the machine.
- Welded cutting cylinder with six high grade steel knives.
- Lipped bottom blade for longer life.
- Cutting cylinder adjusted to bottom blade by single screw at each end for simplicity.
- Unbreakable pressed steel handles.
- All steel grass box.
Although these were not innovations the Ajax was one of the first inexpensive machines to feature many of them. The combination of the design and the company's ability to build quality products and sell them at a reasonable price was a winning combination and the Ajax was a success. It was only available in 12in cutting width, the most common size of hand mower over the years. In the 1930s it cost £4-19-0 and in the 1970s, just before decimalisation, the price was £14-2-0.
Pre 1939 models and those produced immediately after the end of the Second World War had conventional parallel handles. In the mid-1950s, during the production of the Mark 3, the style of the handles was changed to a new cross-over design manufactured from tubular steel. These were held together by an aluminium boss at the centre.
By the end of production in the early 1970s, Ransomes claimed to have produced 250,000 of the Ajax in its five different guises.
The Ajax is not a particularly rare or unusual mower. The interest lies in it being one of the most popular and successful mowers ever built. Examples are still very easy to find and many thousands are still in use in gardens large and small throughout the country and even further afield.