Snapper gives Forrest Gump's rear-engine rider a makeover

Consumer Reports News: November 02, 2012 10:08 AM

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Until they saw Forrest Gump cutting his lawn, most folks who grew up on smaller properties hadn't heard of a rear-engine rider. But as charming as the film may be, the 1962 Snapper machine that the title character made famous has long been overdue for an upgrade. Snapper showed us the difference 50 years makes at the recent Green Industry and Equipment Expo in Louisville.

To make its plans for the new Snapper (see photo), current owner Briggs & Stratton conducted focus groups using original 1962 models. Even with its cherished past, the old model needed work. Getting on and off was somewhat cumbersome, the turning radius was wide, and certain actions weren't well thought out by today's standards. For example, you needed to work a lever while holding down a foot pedal in order to engage the blade.

The old model's drive and deck haven't changed, but plenty else has. Snapper's three new models, ranging from $1,249 to $1,899 and available through its dealers, have 28- or 33-inch decks with an easy-to-reach height adjustment and other ergonomically located controls. The highest-end model, the RE210, has a hydrostatic drive for smooth gear changes. All have electric start, Briggs & Stratton engines, and three-year warranties.

By modern standards, even a year's difference makes some changes worthwhile. MTD has upgraded its $999 Troy-Bilt TB-30R Neighborhood Rider with a newer 11.5-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine that adds an anti-vibration system. There's still electric start, a gear drive, and a 30-inch mowing deck, but the transmission now allows mowing in reverse. Among other upgrades, MTD improved the design of an interlock on the discharge chute that, in our tests of the original model, had to be aligned just right for the engine to start. Best of all for some users, the seat's more comfortable.

Two dozen lawn tractors made our list of picks in our most recent mowing tests. You may not be in the market for one now but Spring is just a few snow storms away. You can also use a mower now to mulch your piles of leaves as you get ready for the cold weather ahead.

Ed Perratore

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