1 Luxury Lawn Mower of the 1950s Doubled as a Golf Cart and Snowplow
One potential hassle of lawn care is that yards tend to be, well, outdoors. As such, lawnmowing is a task that exposes you to the elements, which isn’t particularly enjoyable when the temperature gauge is north of 90 degrees and the humidity is so pervasive you can break out in a sweat simply by sneezing. However, nearly 70 years ago, a company introduced a solution to keep the onslaught of summer heat at bay when giving your lawn a clipping — an air-conditioned riding lawn mower. Additionally, for the other temperature extreme, it could supposedly serve as a snowplow.
Let’s dive more into this late 1950s, highly unconventional riding mower that absolutely didn’t make its user look like a complete dork.
The Simplicity Wonder-Boy X-100: The air-conditioned riding lawn mower
Manufactured by U.S.-based company Simplicity, the Wonder-Boy X-100 is perhaps the most outlandish riding lawn mower to ever spin its blades. According to Wacky Explorer, the X-100 was marketed as the “Power Mower of the Future,” in which users sat inside a five-foot diameter plastic bubble. In front was a square blade housing and a mechanical housing — which looks like a giant, retro-futuristic floor polisher with dual exhausts — at the back. Inside the plastic sphere, users could enjoy air conditioning, which was probably necessary considering being inside a giant plastic bubble on a hot, sunny day would practically roast any occupants. Additional features included an onboard electric generator, which could power running lights, a radio telephone, and a cooling system for drinks. So, even if the user was displayed like an artifact in a museum, at least they’d be comfortable.
Simplicity also touted that the X-100 could do other tasks besides keeping the law trimmed, like weeding, feeding, seeding, spraying for insects, or even plowing snow come winter. The X-100 was later featured on the cover of a 1958 edition of Mechanix Illustrated, which was tagged as the “lazy man’s power mower.”
However, Simplicity’s “yard-care appliance of the future” never made it into production. It appears the X-100 was the lawnmowing equivalent of a concept car — the company was just showing what it could potentially engineer and previewing what it thought the future of lawn care might be.
Still, Simplicity is going strong nearly 70 years later.
The company behind the Wonder-Boy X-100 is still manufacturing mowers
The X-100 isn’t the only lawn mower from Simplicity to wear the Wonder Boy name. The company was founded in 1922. It entered the riding mower fray in 1957 with its 3.6-horsepower Wonder Boy, which didn’t feature a plastic bubble and had a much more traditional overall appearance than the X-100 prototype.
Since then, Simplicity has continued to sell a range of riding mowers and tractors. The company was bought by Briggs & Stratton in 2004. Today, Simplicity sells a range of snow blowers, riding tractors, zero-turn mowers, and a line of accessories. The company has long touted its “Free Floating Mower Deck,” which allows the deck to move independently from the rest of the mower to follow the natural contours of the lawn, Simplicity says.
Air-conditioned riding lawn mowers do exist
Though they certainly aren’t for traditional front lawns, those with a notably large patch of grass to maintain might consider an air-conditioned lawn tractor worth the steep prices they command — generally at or above $25,000. None of them, for better or worse, look quite as outlandish as the X-100, however.
The John Deere 1585 features a climate-controlled cabin, and like the X-100, it can also double as a snowplow. The appropriately named Cab-N-Air is marketed as the world’s first AC-equipped zero-turn lawn mower cab and is installed on a Ferris zero-turn mower.
Curtis Industries also manufactures an air-conditioned cab for about $11,000 that can be installed onto a 2016 or newer Kubota ZD1211 tractor with either a 60- or 72-inch mower deck. The company also offers air-conditioned cabs for select Ferris and John Deere tractors.
So, in a sense, Simplicity was correct when touting the X-100 as the yard-care appliance of the future.