During my whirlwind trip to Louisville for the National Farm Machinery Show, my friends at Woods Equipment gave me a call to stop by and when I entered the exhibit they promptly took me to a machine that had never been on display at the show - I was looking for new stuff.
But in this case the product was a little more vintage. It was an early model Batwing mower the company had gussied up to show off in celebration of their 50th anniversary. The Batwing mower is a Woods trade name - though it has become the word of choice to describe a specific kind of PTO-powered towed mower.
It's fun to see where equipment started and after years of concentrating on tractor restoration, there's rising interest in bringing back the vintage implements those early horse-less machines powered. The Woods Batwing on display was definitely not designed with an eye toward economy. The early machine offered users the ability to power down either wing allowing use in narrower areas without that blade spinning on its side - a feature the company dropped as an option a few years ago.
"It was an option that became less popular," says Rob Dewey, who works in engineering at Woods Equipment. "I do get requests now and then from customers looking for that feature." The economics of equipment change, but this first introduced effort launched a legacy even if the first ones didn't have a solid return on investment for Woods - that long-term view has some value.
That early mower - which you can see here - had hydraulic wing drives. The gearbox castings were heavy duty - far more than was really needed, as engineers have learned more recently. "I'm sure they didn't do an economic study of that machine," Dewey smiles. "There was no payback on that early machine."
Overbuilt as it was it ushered in a new era for mowing and while this wasn't the first tow-behind, tractor-powered mower, it popularized the wing mower concept and gave Woods Equipment a place in history and the market.
Happy Birthday to the Batwing.
Oh, Woods did have newer stuff in their exhibit, quite a few things actually, which is always good news in a market where customers demand innovation.