MP066: Atco "HY" Standard

12" Atco Motor Mower, HY model.

The Atco "Standard HY" Motor Mower was not called that when it was first built but over the years it has acquired this distinctive name. The mower is in reality a version of the Atco Motor Mower that was introduced in 1921 and went on to become the world's first mass produced motor mower.

The success of the Atco Motor Mower was based on its simple design. A large number of different machines could be built from a relatively small number of components that were (at least partly) interchangeable. This made the mower cheaper to manufacture than similar sized machines from other manufacturers. It also made it much easier and cheaper to service. If the mower needed a replacement part all a customer needed to do was contact the local Atco service centre - this was the first company to build up a motor mower service network - and tell them what size machine they had. The part could then be delivered to the service centre which would repair the customer's machine. At this time other manufacturers had ranges comprising different designs for each width of cut which made service operations much more complicated.

When the company decided to introduce some smaller versions of the Atco Motor Mower later in the 1920s it made sense to produce them to the same design as the existing range. The first 14" mowers -made from 1923 onwards - were the same as the larger models. But sometime afterwards Atco decided that a slightly different design was required. It is not known why this decision was made but while the new 12" and 14" Atco Motor Mowers looked similar to the existing models there were two very obvious differences: there was no cooling fan and the petrol tank was mounted crosswise rather than pointing to the front.

The presence of the new models created a problem for Atco. Customers and repair agents could no longer refer to the 14" machine and know for certain which model was being discussed. They could mean the old model or the new one. 

The solution was to find a name for the new models. The precise origins of the names are not known but the best guess is that the mower was readily identifiable by the H cross section of the casting and the distinctive Y shape of the petrol tank supports. There is no record of when the "HY" name was first used although it was probably not during the 1920s as there are no references to it in contemporary handbooks. It is also likely that the name originated among repair agents rather than coming from the company's head office.

By the 1930s the problem became even more complicated because Atco introduced many more models. There were tens of thousands of Atco Motor Mowers in use and the company needed a simple way of referring to them without confusing its customers or service agents. The company began to refer to the early "Motor Mowers" as the "Atco Standard" and the new models with names such as "De Luxe", "Heavyweight" and "Middleweight" and so on. In this way the "HY" became known as the "Standard HY".

The Standard HY is almost identical to the original Atco Motor Mower except that there is no cooling fan on the 98cc Villiers two stroke engine and the familiar "torpedo" petrol tank is mounted crosswise instead of in the line of travel. Another less obvious difference is that the model has no wooden toolbox. Instead the spanners and oil can supplied with the mower were suspended on hooks mounted on the frame. The model was introduced in 1929 and was available in 12" and 14" cutting widths. Production continued until 1933 or thereabouts when new Atco models were introduced.

The HY is less common than the ordinary Atco Motor Mower mainly because the majority of motor mowers old by the company were in the 16" - 24" cutting width range. They are less heavy than the larger machines and this should make them more popular with collectors.

Examples of the Atco HY Standard can often be found for sale at auctions for a few pounds