Stronger, not faster | North Dakota students give garden mower a makeover
FARGO, N. D. — There’s finally a solution for guys needing a more powerful lawn tractor. Install a Chevy small block, widely known as “Mighty Mouse.”
It is possible to pull that tiny original engine and slide a Chevy small block V8 into the same hole, as students at North Dakota State’s College of Science will testify.
They installed a modified 350 into a John Deere 316. Their 316 began with the Kohler engine but the conversion works just as well on the Onan powered units.
However, it’s not a weekend project and not for the faint of heart. This is for people who are serious about using their little 300 series for hauling big, heavy loads of leaves, grass clippings, bedding plants or peat moss.
The end result is a working tractor that can be driven for hours. How-ever, it will burn more gasoline than a box stock 316.
The students started with what they called “a normal garden variety 316,” the basic JD riding mower tractor that’s been around since 1963 under various names.
They used the original stock 316 drive train from the Chevy flywheel all the way back to the drive wheels, said Larry Asham, head of the John Deere PowerUp program at NDS.
The automotive technology department built the engine, which has a high lift cam, aluminum intake, four barrel carburetor and headers.
It’s obviously more power than anyone needs.
Cooling is provided by a small aluminum radiator and electric fan mounted where the mower platform was located.
These items came from a sub-compact car in a wrecking yard, and they do provide enough cooling for the Mouse Motor.
“We never drive this thing fast or do weight pulls or wheelies or anything like that, so it stays cool,” said Asham.
It can no longer mow the lawn but can haul a lot of bedding plants next spring. They kept the original flywheel to facilitate use of the original starter motor.
The machine, tool and manufacturing department built a flexible adopter that bolts to the end of the crankshaft and serves as a coupler to the regular JD hydrostatic pump.
“Once the power comes in the front of the hydro, everything from the coupler right back to the tires is pure original John Deere,” said Asham.
The PowerUp students did all the engine installation and other chassis modifications necessary to make it all work together.
“They did all the fabrication. They had to build a lot of linkages and things from scratch.”
Asham said the Kohler originally ran at 3,600 r.p.m. They run the V8 at 4,200 r.p.m. He concedes it’s slightly over speed but not enough to hurt anything.
“When you drive it, it really won’t go much faster than a normal riding lawn mower because the pump has only so much capacity. It’s self-regulating. The relief bypass valves open and that limits the performance at the drive wheels.
“Whenever we drive it out in public, it’s like the Pied Piper. Crowds follow us and the crowd keeps growing.”
Asham said that the John Deere PowerUp training program is available in Brandon, Saskatoon and Olds, Alta.
For more information, contact Asham at 701-671-2213 or visit www.ndscs.edu.