Story of a Trusty Late 1960's Simplicity Garden Tractor

Vintage garden tractors always kind of fascinated me. Seemed to me they have stories to tell just as rich and meaningful as vintage tractors. I’ve found vintage garden tractor owners/collectors to be every bit as passionate.

This is the story of a 50+ year old garden tractor. Trusty old friend of a buddy of mine here in Rochester, MN. A Simplicity 499-3112H from the late 1960’s. Here’s a pic.


I’ve lived in Rochester, MN now for nearly 35 years. My wife grew up here. Was a wonderful place to raise our two daughters. Town sure has grown, right along with The Mayo Clinic. Population 125,000+ now. Most of my golf buddies in town sort of know bit about Greg-Machinery Pete biz story/history. Some have ag backgrounds, some not. Played 18 holes yesterday with my friend Mike, very successful retired business guy, traveled the world.

On the putting green before yesterday’s round we got talking about Mike’s trusty old Simplicity garden tractor. Quite the story:


"Greg, here’s a short video of my 1969 Simplicity Model 499-3112H. I say 1969 because the engine manual has a December 1969 oil change date hand-written on it. It has a 42" mower, a 36" blower (with a counterweight for the manual lift), wheel weights, and chains. I replaced the seat (which had no backrest) as the cover was pulling out of the crimped area around the edge. The manual includes exploded views of every subsystem except the hydrostatic unit, a copy of which I found later. These have proved to be very useful."

“More than you probably want to know…”

“It’s my understanding that it was purchased by Samaritan Bethany on 8th St for snow removal, then sold to a guy named Steve Milam. We built a home on a wooded acreage and moved in in 1979. Shortly after we moved in, Steve, who lived in the same development, was moving to TX. He showed the tractor to me, we agreed on a price ($900), and I walked home. He was to turn it over when he left. He called me the next day and said that after he showed it to me and I left, he couldn’t move it back into the garage, but he would get it fixed.”

“I used it for mowing our lawn, our 450” of ditch, hauling wood and clearing our driveway."

“When we moved, I kept it even though we have a city-sized lot. It takes me about 15 minutes to mow the lawn! I only blow snow if we’ve had, say 6” or more. After I clear my driveway, I clear the sidewalk for our entire block. I have also hauled many tons of dirt and gravel since we moved."

“I’ve gotten to know it intimately…”

“Shortly after I got the tractor, I noticed that, when I turned in our gravel driveway, one wheel would dig up the gravel. It has a differential that drives concentric shafts. It was pretty obvious that someone had assembled it incorrectly. After I flipped all the planetary gears around, it worked fine.”

“There’s a “transfer case” that sends power to the front and side PTOs. A couple gears had failed and needed to be replaced. But that case also connects the front and back parts of the frame. So I had to take the whole tractor apart to get at it and replace the gears.”

“The most interesting incident was that the tractor suddenly failed to move (like the day I agreed to buy it). What I found was this… In the reduction gear case there is a sliding gear moved by a handle that permits the wheels to be disconnected from the drive train. In the “drive” position that gear and its mate engaged barely 3/16”. So eventually the two gears wore to where they no longer engaged. I have no doubt that was the problem 10 years earlier, and I have no doubt that all they did was replace the two gears without addressing the alignment problem. One of the gears I could flip over, but the sliding gear had to engage on the worn end, and there was no longer a replacement for it. So what I did was shim the flipped gear a little bit and have a friend re-weld the handle for the sliding gear at a steeper angle so it pushed the sliding gear farther toward it’s mate. It’s been fine for the last 30 years."

“The only thing I’ve done since moving (now 24 years) was to have the ignition system replaced. I pull the choke, turn the key, and the tractor still starts immediately.”

“BTW, I don’t plan to sell until next time we move. See you on the course.” - Mike


I think my friend Mike’s $900 investment 45 years ago buying this then 10 year old Simplicity garden tractor worked out pretty well!

Pretty interesting story on the Simplicity company itself. Founded in 1922, now 102 years sold. The company was purchased by Allis Chalmers in 1965 and later bought back by Simplicity management in 1983. More info in the Wikipedia link: Simplicity Manufacturing Company - Wikipedia

Mike and I talked more garden tractor talk as we walked the fairways yesterday. I mentioned to Mike he might get a kick out of a Machinery Pete YouTube video feature I posted four years ago of a Red Wing, MN man’s extensive collection of beautiful and rare vintage garden tractors. Here’s that video:

If by chance you may be looking for a used Garden Tractor to purchase, here’s a link to view nearly 10,000 for sale today all over U.S. and Canada:

Machinery Pete

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