In 1959, a man named Alec Issigonis working for the British Motor Company revealed what many at the time thought was merely a response to lack of resources and growing congestion on the roads of England. Others openly called it a joke. However, they weren’t laughing so hard as the Mini — the original — went on to spawn more than 120 variants and remain in production until the turn of the century.
Why mention this little Brit icon when discussing a zero-turn mower, you might ask? It’s because there’s more than a little in common between the diminutive automotive star of The Italian Job and Mr Bean, and Ferris Mowers’ compact and quick 400S. Of course, the Mini won’t mow your lawn, but it has a few key features — plumbed in way back then by Mr Issigonis — which have their counterpart on the big red zero-turn mowing machine.
Firstly, the term ‘big’ is misleading — this is actually the smallest of the Ferris ZT range, with a 44-inch cutting deck and a tight, compact frame. Like the Mini, then, this machine has its wheels right at the periphery for nimble handling. It’s light, too, which means it’s easy to place just where you want it, like a Mini taking the racing line in the corners of a tricky rally. In the yard, as in the forests of a Finnish special stage, it’s all about getting the job done without ending up in the trees. With the 400S, as with the mini, there’s an art to this — the dark art of suspension tuning. Ferris has given their small zero-turn some serious travel, with big coil springs ironing out the bumps, in the same way, that BMC equipped their little car with a clever push-rod system in its rear subframe. The result for both — compact size with the kind of ride usually associated with much bigger and plusher machines.
Aside from a tight turning circle and a comfy ride, Ferris has played another classic car card — their small machine packs a hefty Kawasaki derived motor, delivering 21.5 horsepower. That’s enough not just to make the 400S quick across the turf, but also to power its cutting blades through almost anything that can photosynthesise. At least in the backyard. There’s another way in which the Ferris matches up to the classic Mini of yesteryear. Sir Alec built them tough — there are many still driving daily, even now — and he built them to be economical. Ferris has done the same, and that means years of service for a very reasonable price indeed.