I have always had an interest in Garden Tractors in general, but my favorite brand would have to be Bolens garden tractors. Bolens was founded back in 1850 by a man named Harry Bolens.
Originally started as a joint partnership in Port Washington Wisconsin. The earliest of the Bolens company was actually the J.E. Gilson / H.W. Bolens Manufacturing Co. working together making chair irons and garden tools. Then in 1914 Gilson sold out to Bolens and they went their separate ways.
Quoted from Robert Mann: "Bolens from that point on had become the worldwide leader in the manufacturing of Outdoor Power Equipment. Located in the same building since 1894, they went on to invent and make the world's first self contained four wheel riding garden tractor, The first mulching mower design that is still patented to this very day and one of the first hydrostatic transmissions implemented on a garden tractor."
Some time during the 1940's around the WWII era, FMC acquired Bolens which then implemented their progressive engineering program. In 1948 Bolens introduced the first compact tractor called the Ridemaster.
Bolens Continued to blow away the competition adding the Ride-a-matic series Garden tractors in the late 50's up until 1962.
1962 Was a very important year for Bolens. The Bolens Husky 600 was introduced to the world. This garden tractor boasted a 6hp Briggs and Stratton engine with a farm tractor type PTO that could run many attachments. The Bolens Husky 600 popularity and durability launched the "tube frame series" which made an incredible run of 16 years of production from 1962 to 1978. With each year that passed Bolens upped the standards by adding features and larger engines years ahead of other garden tractor makers.
One year later (1963) Bolens yet again improved their garden tractor lineup by introducing the Bolens Husky 800 which featured the cast iron 8hp Wisconsin engine. Bolens also startled the industry in 1964 when the Bolens Estate keeper made its debut. This tractor had center pivot steering which was way ahead of its time.
1966 Saw another turning point in Bolens design when the Bolens Husky 1050 was introduced in 1966. This tractor was a more fine tuned version of the previous makes; the Bolens 600, 800, 900 and the 1000.
The Bolens Husky 1050 featured a 10HP Wisconsin engine with a 6 speed transmission. The transmission had two speeds ie; hi / low built into the transmission. Lights were also sold as standard equipment. The Bolens 1050 was sold from 1966 to 1969. This was one of Bolens most popular and most marketed tractors. Bolens also used Arnold Palmer as a marketing tool for advertising in the mid to late 60's.
Yet again in 1967 Bolens introduced another design ahead of it's time in their hydrostatic transmissions: "The treadle petal". 1967 Also was the debut of the large frame Bolens series (1250). The Big husky 1250 Featured a heavy duty transmission powered by a rugged 12hp Wisconsin engine. Bolens was still not done yet.
In the following years even larger engines were used on the Large Frame Garden tractors. The 1455, 1476, and the 1477 featured the Wisconsin 14 HP engine.
In 1971 Bolens introduced the 1886 Large Frame Tractor. This again was fitted with an ever larger engine than the previous large frames. The 1886 was fitted with a 18hp Kohler engine. 1973 saw the launch of the HT series which yet again featured a larger engine, a 20HP!.
The HT series consisted of the HT20, HT18, HT23, HT23D (diesel). The last year for the large frame series was 1987. These big garden tractors could power just about anything. Even a back hoe and front end loader! What more could you ask for?.
Sadly after 1987 Bolens started to decline in the quality standpoint. They were bought out by Troy built and then by MTD in 2001.
Luckily, there are still a lot of these older Bolens garden tractors out there to this day. Many people are now starting to collect and restore these wonderful garden tractors. There are a lot of knowledgeable Bolens tractor collectors here on GTtalk and the Bolens Tractor Forum is a great source of information.
Craig., redrally2, iron Mike and 17 others have said thanks