Getting the SS (MkII) into reverse gear
The Speed Sprayer (aka the "SS") MkII, as anyone who has the
misfortune to own or use one will already know, is a masterpiece
of poor design. Even given the constraints of the initial design
requirements (it needs to be really, really low to fit under the
trees in the orchard, it needs to be maneuverable, to turn tightly
at the end of each row, it needs to be sturdy, in order to carry
the weight of hundreds of litres of spray), it is still a steaming
This is probably the only vehicle on the face of the planet which
has two hand-brake levers mounted side by side... where one of them
is the actual hand-brake and the other is a clutch. Aaaargh! (And
for the curious who haven't had the misfortune to have first-hand
experience, it is the clutch for the massive propeller mounted on the
back of the SS which blows the liquid from the spray nozzles onto
The SS MkII also has a spectacularly weak gearbox. The gear-lever
is reminiscent of the early Mini (ie:- about three feet long and
as bent as a dog's hind leg). Even for someone as old as me, who
has had the experience of driving pre-WWII lorries with no
synchromesh (and so actually knows how to double de-clutch) it is,
as far as I know, impossible to change gear while the SS is actually
moving. Once you get it out onto the open highway, you'll need to
stop to put it into top gear. Yup, they may be racing lawn-mowers
and tractors in the U.S., but I don't think we'll ever see them
having Speed Sprayer races any time soon.
The main issue with that horrible gearbox though, is the almost
impossible task of getting the beast into reverse gear. I have
pushed the SS backwards by hand and also towed it backwards with
a truck (it's pretty much impossible to push by hand once the spray
tank is full) and have also tried kicking it backwards on many
occasions (it doesn't work too well, but it does make you feel
slightly better). Every time I have to use it the air is
sure to turn blue in the immediate vicinity (both wife and dog know
to stay well out of the way on a spraying morning), because I know
there's a reverse gear in there, somewhere.
The other day though, Miyazawa-san (one of the other locals who
uses this group-owned machine) dropped by while I was cleaning off
the SS after an early-morning spray run and gave me a little lesson
on getting the damn thing into reverse. Even he, the acknowledged
master of SS gear changing, still can't hit the spot with 100%
accuracy, but even 50% is a lot better than trying to push a couple
of tons of metal and liquid around. Here's the secret:-
That wobbly gear lever is over to the driver's left and situated
(in yet another stunning design decision) somewhat behind him.
When attempting to change into reverse, the lever needs to be moved
to the left of the rest position and pulled upwards. The natural
tendency is to tilt the lever away from the driver, towards the
engine, when doing this. The secret of successfully selecting
reverse gear is to ensure that the lever is tilted (twisted, if you
like) towards the driver, while still moving it across to the left
and up. This is 100% unnatural and takes a couple of practice tries
to get used to... but is -much- easier than pushing the SS backwards.
Try it and let me know if it works for you, too.
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