New to me 1968 717 - Lawn Mower Forums : Lawnmower Reviews, Repair, Pricing and Discussion Forum
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-11-2020, 08:40 AM Thread Starter
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New to me 1968 717

For what ever reason I am drawn to stuff that others throw away. You’d think I would learn, and you would think that my wife, who was with me at the time, would act as the voice of reason. Instead, both instinct and reason failed. Here’s the story.

There is an auto salvage yard on our road a few miles from our house and we have to drive by it on the way into town. They have a drop off place outside the yard where people can take their “spring clean up”.

Well, as we drove by, the better half noticed a flash of orange and said it looked like a tractor. This was just the beginning of the down hill slope.

Thankfully I’m not a cat because if I was I would have burned through my nine lives long ago, but I guess that number must have been renewed for me because darned if I didn’t turn around to go take a look at this thing and I’m still kicking.

What we found was a dirty, greasy Simplicity 717 Broadmoor. The steering was loose, the blades wore down to nothing, the front tires bare, no battery or key. Seemed the junk yard was a good place for it.

But maybe it was the cool wide back tires and maybe I fondly remembered that my first experience on a riding mower was on a Simplicity Wonder Boy way back in the early 60s. So, you guessed it, the 717 came home with me.

I’ll continue the story in a bit.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-11-2020, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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So, get it home, second guessing myself all the way, and the first order is to go over it to see what we have and whether it should be loaded back up and returned to the junk yard.

So, it’s a Simplicity 717. A quick internet search says it was only made in 1968. It has a Briggs and Stratton 8HP vertical shaft engine and this one has electric start.

Mind you this is a 1968 model so safety devices were scant. Operator presence lock out? Nah. Mower deck disengage lock out? Nah. Safety amounted to, well, whatever common sense the operator has and take the key out of the ignition when not in use.

The transmission amounts to a two speed (Hi/Lo) and reverse. Who ever owned this particular tractor went the extra mile and equipped it with an accessory Hi/Lo shifter which gave it four speeds forward and two speeds reverse! Woo Hoo!

OK, hook up a battery, put some gas in it, check the oil level, close my eyes and see what happens.

Oh wait, no key. Alright, bypass the ignition switch, (do not try this at home) close the choke, open the throttle a bit push the starter button and darned if it didn’t start after a few lazy spins.

Now we’re cookin’! Try the gears and see if it moves. Hi works. Reverse makes it go backwards. Lo just grinds. Now I see why it was at the junk yard.

Now here’s the weird part of the story. Even weirder than the fact that I brought a five decade old machine home from a junk yard.

As I said, no key, but a few days after my initial joy ride around my side yard, I noticed a shinny object on the ground. Stop. Back up. What the heck? A Briggs and Stratton brand ignition key! Wow! Nice but why couldn’t have been an unclaimed winning lottery ticket? Anyway, I somehow feel more complete. Darn thing must have been hidden away somewhere on the tractor and luckily it hadn’t come loose on the eight mile trip down a gravel road from the junk yard.

Next, a list of needed parts.
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Last edited by bwdbrn1; 05-11-2020 at 11:16 AM.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-11-2020, 07:00 PM Thread Starter
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So I found an owner's manual for the tractor, the mower deck and that accessory Hi/Lo transmission on line. Nice because they each had exploded diagrams and parts lists with part numbers.

First order was to put fresh oil in it. Then on to the gas tank which had a line of pin holes along the bottom seem. That was taken care of with small kit that I got from the local Auto Value store. I had an epoxy like stuff with a fiber glass webbing to strengthen it up. It mixed easily and spread out across the bottom of the tank and has held up nicely.

The mower deck is a three blade 36" affair with the famous Simplicity rollers across the back. Because of where I live, and the type of grass, or what ever it is, I adjusted it to its highest setting. Three new blades were installed, again courtesy of ebay.

Now those worn front tires. New ones with inner tubes came from our friend, ebay. The front wheels were wobbly and the steering spindles were worn out too giving the little tractor a bow legged look. After all those were replaced, I centered the steering wheel and took it for another spin. Much better.

Now to figure out what the problem with the Lo gear might be.

I had also found a pdf version of the Simplicity shop manual for this thing so I printed out the pages specific to the transmission and headed to the garage again.

Mind you, some of this work was done pre-shut down, and more post shut down. So at this point I have to say that we sure do have to appreciate all of those online merchants, and especially the US Postal service, UPS and FedEx. I can't say thank them enough for their offerings and their work. Without those folks the little Simplicity would just be a big orange and white lump in my garage.

Getting the transmission open on this isn't a small task. The 717 is different in that the front axel is mounted solid to the frame, and the rear end pivots just ahead of the seat. It is a different experience when running around that you don't, as the rider, follow the line of the hood and steering wheel when going over holes and bumps.

Once the transmission was open, the problem was obvious. All of the teeth on the Lo side of the Hi/Lo pinion were stripped. Once again my friend, and yours, ebay came through with a NOS part. I don't know why this would happen, other than like I said earlier, this thing is devoid of any sort of safeties and lock outs, so I'm going to guess who ever owned and used it in the past didn't mash down on the clutch/brake peddle enough to stop things from spinning inside the transmission before changing or engaging gears.

The transmission is easy enough to figure out, even for a goof like me, especially with the shop manual in hand. So taking it apart and putting it back together again went well, even though I always have this fingers crossed hope in the back of my mind while I do stuff I've never done before, like open a 1968 Simplicity 717 transmission.

The carb got a rebuild kit, though one of these days I have to fiddle with the float setting.

Anyway, now that I've bored you with my stay at home project. It's running, it has all gears forward and reverse and seems happy to be ready to mow. Now if it would just warm up enough here in the U.P. to make the grass grow, the little Simplicity 717 is ready to go.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-11-2020, 09:59 PM
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Looks like a great tractor!
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-12-2020, 01:00 AM
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I didn't remember any of the larger tractors like that having a fixed front axle and pivot at the seat end. Well I guess the snappers with the tube frame are kind of like that.

Mark - 2002 John Deere LT150H

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-12-2020, 07:42 AM
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I love it when cool old junk gets saved from the dump
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-12-2020, 09:12 AM Thread Starter
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It is a hoot to drive but dang, that muffler is loud! It originally had one of those cigar shaped mufflers on it and I put that Briggs Low Tone thing on, but blasting straight out the side means ear protection for sure, and wild life here in the north country surely go scurrying. I wonder if putting a 90* bend in it to point it out the front might help from the rider's seat anyway.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-12-2020, 10:19 PM
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Great story Bruce and thanks for sharing. Gotta love it when you can save something from oblivion and make it operational again. Nice job! Bill
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1968 Lawnboy 3054 Mower
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1975 Lawnboy 5024 Mower
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1972 Lawnboy 1015 Edger
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-13-2020, 08:03 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Bill. Yeah, I’ll be selfish here and give myself a pat on the back for saving it from the dump, but now it enters the “what do I do with it now?” category. I put it on CL but no bites yet. I suppose I’ll find a use for it here.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 05-15-2020, 12:22 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I guess it pays to hit the “re-list” button on CL. Had a fellow call me within an hour. He came by, watched me demo it, and he took it home with him. He was happy and so am I. Life is good.
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