1 - Isn't the ZTR mower manufacture market saturated enough?
2 - Do you really think Toro, Bad Boy, Dixie... etc. can't make a better mower? Maybe the problem isn't being able to design a better mower maybe the problems is economics? Maybe the problem is building a better mower that people can also afford to own?
3 - How many other guys do you think there are out there with dreams of building the ultimate mower and putting their name on it?
4 - I believe that you are thinking too small. Don't start a new mower manufacturing business... Think big!... Start a whole new industry!
Simple math 4 + 3 = 7... Start a new industry (item 4) catering to guys in item 3!
What I am suggesting is launching a whole new "Custom built mower" industry. Think along the lines of the custom built motorcycle industry. Supply the basic engineering and specialty parts for entrepreneurs to open their own custom mower manufacturing shop and sell them the parts and knowledge!
To make the ultimate mower you are going to need some pretty heavy duty parts that are built to last! The problem isn't the availability of these parts it is their cost. Can you think of any sources of heavy duty readily available parts for reasonable prices? How about the junk yard?
My mower design:
1) Start with the IFS (independent front suspension) off of a 4wd Toyota pickup. The axles are free floating and plenty tough. Now pull the axles out and replace them with adapters to hydraulic motors. The weakness in hydraulic wheel motors are the bearings not holding up. Instead use the Toyota wheel bearings with a stub axle adapter to a standard spline shaft hydraulic motor. Here is our first part! Hydraulic motor to Toyota front axle adapter. Charge $100 a piece and the custom mower builder has a complete "bullet proof" mower suspension for $300 (depending on his bargaining prowess with the local junk yard).
2) Engine - Since we are starting a whole new industry lets think big! Think of the biggest motor any 1/4 rational person would ever put in a mower and double it. That calculates to a Chevy 350. So when you are designing the frame you are going to sell these guys always leave in the back of your mind room to shoe horn in a Chevy 350... because some fool will want to do it!
Now for practical real life mowers... I think a Geo 1 liter 3 cylinder motor is perfect for the ultimate mower! I can pick up a running engine locally for $300. This is what you need to design and market your mower around. Some other common choices would be Air Cooled VW engines and VW diesel engines. Design a frame that will accept all three of these engines by ordering our Geo, Air Cooled VW or VW Diesel mounting kit and mounting it to our common frame.
3) Drive pumps - Why would we want belt drive pumps on our ultimate mower? Belts wear and break. I want a direct drive motor! Directly couple the motor to the pump. Here is another part for us to sell. Motor to pump adapters and mounting plates. Precision engineered and cut on a water cutter.
Here is where our over sized 3 cyl engine choice pays off. Most mower motors turn too fast in their peak HP band to directly drive most pumps so they have to be geared down via different sized drive pulleys. Since the Geo engine is over sized we can run it at a slower RPM and still have plenty of torque to spin our hydrostatic pumps... direct drive. What will that do to the Geo engine as far as life expectancy?
4) Deck drive - Most dual Hydrostatic pumps have a auxiliary port where we can bolt on a third + pump. Use this pump to drive the deck(s). We are getting down to a VERY low belt count in our mower design. Reliable enough yet?
5) The Deck - For a lot of LCA anything over a 48" deck is useless. Any wider and you have too many obstacles. So lets make our standard Deck a 48" deck that is hydraulically driven. We now have a pretty limited mower! So lets design our mower to have a 24" hydraulically driven bat wing deck on each side. Now we have ~84" of mowing width but we can still fit through most gates with the bat wings in the raised position. Since the bat wings are hydraulically driven they can be easily removed. Or even replaces with dual 48" bat wings! Lets see 11 feet of mowing efficiency, no scalping like conventional wide decks and can fit through most gates! Hmmm... but do we have enough power to drive all this deck area?... Hmmm?
6) Sound great so far but too big to fit on any trailer? Well probably. So how do we get around this problem? Well get rid of the trailer... of course. That Toyota IFS we went with has the capability of using manually locking hubs. Connect the whole mower to the trailer hitch on the pickup, unlock the hubs and drive to the next site. Unhitch, lock and mow. Sound efficient? Do you think the Toyota bearings are capable of Hwy speeds?
7) What about all the other stuff on the trailer? The custom builder can custom design the mounts to mount everything right on the mower. Where ever you are your stuff is there with you.
8) Tires / wheels - You can get Toyota wheels and tires just about any where. I've got a set out back you can have for free.
9) Brakes - They are already on our Toyota axles and are 10 times bigger that what we need to slow down a lawn mower!
10) Bagging - Make the front deck dual counter rotating blades. Make it center discharge from the back of the deck into the catcher plenum. Make the bat wings so they discharge into the same plenum which directed with the help of a blower into the rear mounted bagger.
11) Composting - If you want the perfect no clog composting baffle... cut a car tire in half and mount it around the blade.
12) The front of all decks should have brackets to mount a 2 by 4! Think about it a $2.00 2x4 will take a lot more shock and abuse and any metal deck and not dent or ding! Put a bracket to mount a 2x4 as a sacrificial deck bumper to keep the deck from being torn up. Add this to our indestructible steal belted rubber baffle, spray on a little bed liner and imagine the deck life we would have?
13) ROP - The ROP should be made out of tubing of a pretty decent diameter... so it can also be used as an intake snorkel for our engine. I want my engines breathing the clean air above the dust cloud from the deck instead of the dirty dusty air I am breathing.
14) Color - We can either follow Fords lead on the Model T and offer the customer any color they want as long as it is black... or go the Chevy route and let the customer have a choice of different colors! Personally I want my mower covered with bed liner.
So what problems have we solved?
1) Rugged - The mower will be based on 1/2 ton pickup parts. Should be plenty rugged.
2) Parts availability - Replacement parts can be picked up at any parts supply store. What do you think the chances of finding a wheel bearing for a Toyota at the local Napa on a Sunday are? Pretty good in my experience. How about an oil filter for a Geo engine? Or an alternator or starter?
3) Cost - If we can supply the few custom parts to make all the truck parts fit together and work our local custom builder can junk yard the majority of the mechanical parts, Add new bearings etc. and build a very reasonably priced mower.
4) Liability - We aren't selling mowers, we are selling parts. The liability lies with the local custom mower builder.
5) Service - Do you want to run a service company or a manufacturing company? The responsibility of service falls on the local builder and so does warranty. If the builder wants to use a $100 junk yard Geo engine instead of a $1000 rebuilt crate engine it falls on their lap to support this. But we are only going to distribute our products to reputable factory trained builders.
6) Repair - How many guys in your town can change a wheel bearing on a Toyota pickup? How many can change the plugs in a Geo engine?
The ONLY remaining problem... Where are we going to hold the yearly national "Chop Off" show for the builders and owners to get together and compare notes (and ultimate mower bragging rights of course)? It better have plenty of grass!
Last edited by oughtsix; 03-01-2010 at 02:10 AM.