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 “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81

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Crazy_Carl
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PostSubject: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:09 pm

Two weeks ago I spotted in the tin pile at the local scrap yard an almost complete 1979 Wheelhorse C-81.  It looked like it had been sitting in a barn for a decade or more.  There were three mice nests in it and a lot of droppings on the cylinder head. It was missing the seat assembly and the deck, but everything else was there and the tractor wasn't too rusty.  It even came with the front idler pulleys and the deck drive belt. The tires were badly dry rotted but only one was flat.  I wasn't sure if I wanted it at first but when I saw that it was an 8 speed I knew right then that it was going home with me.  A few months back I was looking on craigslist for a wheelhorse mud tractor candidate and everything was $500 or more.  The scrapyard worker said they charge 25 cents a pound to buy scrap.  These tractors are heavy so I estimated it would have cost me about $125, but the worker called the boss and he gave the great sixty dollar price without even putting it on a scale.





The tractor does have the original Walboro carburetor and Bosch starter.  Unfortunately when I was cleaning the steering wheel I noticed a cursive "A" in the center of it.  The wheelhorse dealer by me unfortunately went out of business but they were also an Ariens dealer.  So I'm thinking that it must be a steering wheel from and Ariens tractor but I have no idea why it was put on there.

My goal that day was to get this tractor running and driving around the yard in the two hours I had before my girlfriend got home.  I borrowed a battery from my LT160.  The starting circuit wasn't working at first so I hotwired the solenoid to get it to turn over.  After working the key switch a few times, it now turns over with the key every time.  The engine had oil in it, compression, and spark but the fuel lines were dry rotted and the fuel shut off on the tank was rusty and plugged up.  The fuel pump wouldn't suck any fuel due to a crack in the line going to the gas tank.  I removed the carb and did a very quick bowl clean which was nasty and cleaned out the main jet.  I had an old gas tank from an old push mower laying around so I put that under the hood with new fuel lines and after some cranking and patience, the motor fired right up and sounded great. I hopped on the fender and took it for a few laps around the house.  This was exciting to be driving the scrapyard tractor I picked up two hours earlier.


Last edited by Crazy_Carl on Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:11 pm; edited 4 times in total
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AllisKidD21
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:48 pm

Wow, that's a steal for $60 in my opinion. Those smaller K Series have the nicest sound to 'em when they're running. Does it have the 12v ignition or is it the coil under the flywheel thing?

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MightyRaze
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:50 pm

Nice!  Sweet find!

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(Kal-El) 1982 Murray GT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-39002 . . . [2018 Entry]
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Crazy_Carl
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:51 pm

This is my tractor's current state in my garage.





Look at how well the hood and decals cleaned up using just Armor All!  I can't explain why the dash is a darker shade of red than the rest of the body.

My rims are currently in the process of being powder coated, and I have obtained a new seat, used bracket and seat springs, new shifter boot, front wheel bearings, fuel filter, new fuel shutoff and grommet, and a new gas cap.

Currently I'm going through the tractor and giving it a lot of TLC.  I cleaned out the gas tank and made it new again. I like how the Wheelhorse tractors use a plastic gas tank that doesn't rust. The transaxle fluid was very milky so that is being changed.  There's no oil drain tube on the motor so I had to unbolt it and move it a little bit to get the oil to drain out without making a gigantic mess.  My front spindles are in rough shape so I'd like a nice used pair or I might spring for new ones.  I'm going to remove things that have to do with the PTO, but not the implement lift because I think this would be a great tractor to plow snow with and I have a wheelhorse plow sitting in my shed.  I still have to tighten the loose input pulley for the transaxle and the right hub has moved in on the axle and needs to be pulled back out. I want to clean this tractor and make it look great again.

Of course what would a mud tractor be without a new set of 25x10-12 Kenda K299 Bear Claws.  I have a couple of clearance issues with the gas tank and I'll likely have to do a small body lift to get them to safely clear the rear fenders.  I'm thinking about using wheel spacers to gas clearance between the tires and gas tank.

I was undecided on what tires to use on the front.  I couldn't decide between snow hog or atv holeshot style tires, but after rewatching some Fearless Front videos I decided to go with the same tires that he has on his Sears which are Douglas JR XC 18X6-8.  I think they look awesome on his rig and should look great on mine.

I like the stance of this tractor so I'm excited to see what 2" taller tires on the front and rear look like.

I'm putting LED taillights on the back where the factory ones would go.  I'm not sure what I'm doing for headlights.  I'd like to bolt some kind of LED light where the headlights are supposed to go in the hood or the wheelhorse ones if I can find them for the right price.

I would like to pulley swap this motor reach a top speed of around 15 mph.  One day I'd like to swap the motor for a more powerful one but I don't have that kind of money right now.  I also love the look of the original hood and I don't want to cut it.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:04 pm

How about an LED light bar behind the grill in the front in place of headlights? Not sure of the dimensions of the hole. Maybe you can fab something up.

_______________________________________________

(Kal-El) 1982 Murray GT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-39002 . . . [2018 Entry]
Progress:  ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄
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Crazy_Carl
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:26 pm

Yes this tractor does have a 12V coil ignition style system that requires a battery to stay running. My dad and I have had great reliability and love the sounds of our K series motors inn the Wheelhorses that we mow with.

The hole on the grill is 2.25" tall x 7.75" wide. That's something to work work with. I need to find a small cheap light bar that can work with that.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:38 pm


_______________________________________________

(Kal-El) 1982 Murray GT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-39002 . . . [2018 Entry]
Progress:  ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄
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Crazy_Carl
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:02 pm

Nice Amazon find. I looked around at some other ones but I ended up ordering that exact one because I think I'll be able to use the mounting brackets that this one comes with. I can mount the light behind the grille, turn the brackets in front of the light and hopefully bolt them up to existing holes in the hood somehow but we will see.
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Crazy_Carl
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Fri Nov 03, 2017 8:08 pm

I received my rims back from the powder coater this week and with the help of my lovely assistant I was able to get the new tires mounted and on the tractor.  These tires make this thing look like an ATV.  I love the stance it has.

Miraculously I don't really really have any clearance issues with the fenders but I am going to have to modify the footrests.

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AllisKidD21
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:01 pm

She looks great man!

_______________________________________________
"Here's another option, it's not as violent but it's dishonest. So it has that going for it" - Red Green                "Memory is good, remember that" - Tomas Haake
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:05 pm

That is super nice. I love the look!

_______________________________________________

(Kal-El) 1982 Murray GT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-39002 . . . [2018 Entry]
Progress:  ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:34 am

Thanks for the compliments guys. I’ve been putting a lot of thought and effort into this project(and a little bit of money)

I’ve decided to name this tractor “Ol’ Red” after the Blake Shelton song. I’m really excited to work on this thing more today and actually drive it because “Ol’ Red’s itchin’ to have a little fun.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Sat Nov 04, 2017 10:04 am

Just don't get in any situations like if you are headed north, Ol Red was headed south!  

_______________________________________________

(Kal-El) 1982 Murray GT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-39002 . . . [2018 Entry]
Progress:  ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:12 pm

About that 15mph top speed- 5.5" on the engine, 3" on the tranny will do it without any issues with the belt guards.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Mon Nov 06, 2017 7:42 am

That seems a little aggressive on the pulley ratio but this tractor isn't fast at all stock. As it sits now it looks like there's barely any room for a bigger belt engine pulley with the current belt guard. I've been hunting for a thread that shows someone pulley swapping one of these and keeping the factory belt guard.

I got a lot of the little details done over the weekend on this tractor to get it drive-able and I love the way it handles. These tractors steer great when there's no deck or plow on them.

I ran into a problem that I thought was the governor at first because the governor was hunting and couldn't maintain a constant rpm. I think the problem was actually a faulty battery cable and ignition wiring. I re-crimped the connection on a battery cable and I took removed the tape and took apart the factory wiring harness and ran the wires from the solenoid, rectifier, coil, and battery directly to the ignition switch instead of through those old and useless PTO, clutch and seat switches. The tractor fired right up and seemed to run better.

I know I should adjust the valves in this old motor. The one issue I'm having is that when I rev the motor up from idle I hear a "squeak" coming from the motor and I see a small puff of white smoke come from the air blowing across the head. I wonder if I have a small head gasket leak? I think this motor has pretty good compression and power because it starts right up without turning over a lot and it will pop a small wheelie in high range 3rd gear.



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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Mon Nov 06, 2017 11:08 pm

I'll take a picture of the pulley setup next time i see my tractor. All i did was turn the tab of sheet metal at the end of the guard with a needle nose pliers so it can't rub on the belt.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:20 pm

That'd be much appreciated if you could do that. There's a ton of information about pulley swapping a sears or murray, but there isn't a whole lot on wheelhorses. With your help, we can change that and show people what a 1/4 inch thick angle iron frame with a cast iron front axle and rear transaxle housing can do off road.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Nov 07, 2017 12:35 pm

Have you seen MowerOutlaw on youtube? He has a pretty mean wheelhorse. I'm looking around for one at the moment. Got my eye on some here local that are sitting but no time or money at the moment for projects Sad
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Nov 07, 2017 1:36 pm

I have seen all of Mower Outlaw's wheelhorse videos twice. I'm amazed at how well his runs without a locked rear end.

I hear you on lack of money for projects. There's still things I need to order like tie rods, air cleaner, and the correct gas cap. I thought I ordered the right one already but it doesn't fit.

At least I have just about everything I need to install my lights.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:15 pm

I gotta pay gas and insurance, plus taking my girl out to dinner as often as I can. I don't really have a job. Just random stuff that pays 20 bucks here and there. Not near enough to fund another build, even as resourceful as I can be
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:59 pm

Last night it was a beautiful 60 degree, mostly sunny, and snow free evening in upstate New York which is quite rare for late November.  So my girlfriend and I decided to take the mud tractors out to my Dad's property and try "Ol' Red" in the mud for the first time.  I wish I had a video of her accidentally popping her first wheelie.  That was hilarious.

I was quite pleased with the handling of the tractor.  A few things became obvious though.

1) I need bumpers that I can pull from on the front of both my tractors.  I got the front tires of the LT160 stuck in a deep rut running perpendicular to my line and the belt came off in the mud hole so a better way to pull it would have been nice.

2) "Ol' Red" needs a gas pedal so it can drive more like a stick shift truck and not a tractor.

3) I definitely need to put a bigger engine pulley on the Wheel Horse because it is way too slow right now and can't keep up with my LT160.

4) Always remember to bring a tow strap!

5) Down the road I could definitely see myself building a custom front end with coil overs for one of my tractors for better ride quality and handling at higher speeds off road.


Last edited by Crazy_Carl on Mon Jan 29, 2018 3:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Sat Dec 02, 2017 6:49 pm

Today I finally got around to installing the LED light bar and taillights that I've had for this tractor.  I had to create some custom L brackets out of some big angle iron I had laying around to mount the lights.  I also snagged some pics of how I redid the wiring on this tractor.  It's so bright it rivals the brightness of my F-150's HID lights.















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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:40 pm

I had a terrible night working on Ol' Red.  I ordered a new $13 Oregon ignition switch from Ebay.  I was teaching my girlfriend how to install it.  When I turned the key on she saw a spark somewhere and the main fuse in the wiring harness going to the battery was blown.  She thought it was something she did in the wiring but that was all fine.  I replaced the fuse and the old corroded fuse holder, hooked up only the battery wire to the back of the ignition switch and the fuse blew again!  Checked out the switch with an ohmmeter and turns out the battery terminal is shorted to the case which is ground! Instead of dealing with returning this in the mail or dealing with online customer service I decided to do this to get some anger out.



I crushed its soul with the vise.

Turns out my intermittent starting problem is more likely caused by some loosely crimped homemade battery cables which I am going to either re-crimp at a place I know that has the right crimper or buy better battery cables.

I think I'm just going to put in the old Ignition switch back in but I hate how the key is loose in the off position so it falls out easily.
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:32 pm

I'd get an automotive or tractor type switch. Pretty easy to wire up, and have a decent detent(to hold the key in at least) and can't be turned by any idiot with a screwdriver. If you have the powered ignition you can wire the coil to the switch so when you turn the key off it looses power(like a normal tractor or car), or if you have a magneto like I do you'll have to get a relay so that when you cut off power to the relay, it grounds the ignition circuit, killing the engine. Warning: TSC switches get worn quickly, and can hang up, letting the starter stay on while the engine is running...not good for plastic starter gears!
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PostSubject: Re: “Ol’ Red” 1979 Wheel Horse C-81   Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:51 am

Rich If I ever go to Haspin or something like that I’ll put in a real keyswitch, and it won’t be a TSC one.

I’m trying this solder fix on these homemade battery cables.  Hopefully they won’t losen up anymore.

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