Update - Ok, I checked the compression and that was good, so I decided to dive-in head first, Fix or fail.
I replaced the failed fuel pump, added a fuel filter, all new fuel lines, cleaned and rebuild the carb, changed plugs (even they were the wrong type! lol ), changed the oil and filter, replaced cracking remote oil-cooler lines, cleaned the gas tank and discovered a split in the plastic under the strap - now patched, flushed out the breather, added a new battery, and bought a brand new HD air filter assembly.
$240 later, She now cold starts in less then 2 seconds without using the choke at all and at low idle. Purrs at a constant 1100 rpm idle speed.
Of course starting it exposed all sort of NEW issues. Valve cover gaskets needed to be replaced, electrical harness was in such tatters (cracks/splits/ adhoc splices, etc) that I decided to build a new one using the OEM wiring schematic and correct wire (color and gauge). Even replaced the key switch since it too was in poor working condition. Operator presence, and neutral lock switch now work properly.
Hydros are in good condition, good power, and the oil looks ok, but I'll be changing this out soon as well. With all the other red-neck style "fixes", I'm going to assume the oil type is incorrect. Does anyone have a cross-reference number for the hydro oil filter?
OK, so I just HAD to take it for a test drive. She ran well. I was very impressed with the power and speed. Controls seem a little jerky, but im sure they can be dialed in once I get to that part. Nice power up/down the hills, the deck starts nicely and the idlers seem ok. The clutch is good and once I gave the drive spindles some much-needed grease they also ran well. No more squeals. I used my bench grinder to clean up the blades to just run a test cut. Not too shabby.
I am having a hard time finding replacement blades locally, so I'll have to order them online. Seems the only blades available online is the stock blade - OEM #767111. I was hoping to get Gators, or high lift blade for mulching. Does anyone have an any recommendations for blades?? Also - would the 48" Mulch Kit - 344788 fit this deck??
The model I have is #925669. How can anyone tell me when this model series was produced? I'm just looking to piece together some history.
Thanks again for the encouragement to move forward. I'm pretty pleased with the results so far. Now just new tires, blades, deck covers, and she be good as new. Definitely a keeper!!