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 Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”

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Crazy_Carl
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PostSubject: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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 Sat Nov 04, 2017 8:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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AllisKidD21
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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:50 pm

Nice!  Sweet find!

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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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.

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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:38 pm


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Crazy_Carl
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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:01 pm

She looks great man!
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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:05 pm

That is super nice. I love the look!

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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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!  

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PostSubject: Re: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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: Sixty Dollar Scrapyard 1979 Wheelhorse C-81 “Ol’ Red”   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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