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Heavy-Duty Riding Mower Cost Less Than $1,500
"It has tremendous power and traction and does the job of an expensive grounds-keeping mower," says Mike Van Horn, Wendell, Minn., about the heavy duty Toro riding mower he repowered with a big 30 hp engine. It's equipped with hydrostatic drive and a 6-ft. deck.
  He bought the 1974 Toro Groundsmaster 72-in. riding mower at an auction for $1,200. The 20 hp Continental engine was worn out. He replaced the engine with an industrial Wisconsin VH4D air-cooled, 4-cyl. engine from a Versatile swather, which he bought for $100. The Wisconsin engine was too wide to fit between the frame rails so he mounted it on top of the frame. A 3-belt pulley on back of the engine goes down to a 1-in. dia. drive shaft that he installed parallel to the mower's original drive shaft. The Toro is hydrostatic drive, so the hydrostatic oil required cooling. So he added a 2 by 36-in. galvanized pipe with hydraulic fittings on each end to cool the oil. The U-shaped pipe mounts under the engine and wraps around the driveshaft.
  "I spent less than $1,500 to build it. Yet it does the job of a new heavy duty golf course mower that sells for $20,000 or more," says Van Horn. "I call it my ślawn swather' because it has so much capacity. The Wisconsin engine still has its original muffler on top, which is how it was equipped on the swather, so it gets a lot of looks."
  The Wisconsin engine not only has more power than the Continental, says Van Horn, it also has a longer stroke and therefore a lot more torque. "Even with the engine idling I can mow right through 10-in. high grass. One time I ran over part of a hay bale laying in a ditch just to see if the mower would cut through the bale, and it did. In fact, the Wisconsin engine has as much power when it's idling as the original one had when it was running wide open."
  He says the extra weight helps with traction as well as steering. And, the mower is fuel efficient. "I was surprised to find that it takes only about 2 1/2 gal. of fuel to mow my two acres of lawn, which I think is really good."
  According to Van Horn, Toro mowers like the one he bought are relatively easy to find. "The Continental engine on these mowers isn't worth much and they burn a lot of oil. However, the mower itself has a big, heavy frame which can easily support a bigger engine."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mike Van Horn, 18939 County Highway 26, Wendell, Minn. 56537 (ph 218 998-3227).


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2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2