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 heap.

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 trees).

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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