I'm a mechanic and de facto junk collector. A year or so ago I was replacing an engine in a pickup out of my little home shop and the customer dropped off a replacement engine when I really wasn't ready for it and I had nowhere to put it but in the dirt, far from the shop. I later took apart my engine hoist and temporarily rigged it (poorly) onto the 2" hitch of a pickup because i HATE moving engines across dirt/gravel. It worked, but I didn't want to do it again and figured I should spring the ~$120 for a 'truck bed crane' from Harbor Freight. A little while after I got ambitious about moving all my 'projects that havent been started yet' engines (about 7) from one place to another, again across dirt/gravel. The truck wouldn't have fit everywhere between those two places and gotten me all the way from A to B, so I started to think about alternatives and came up with something a little wacky: Why not put the truck bed crane on the front of a riding lawnmower? "If it didn't work I could still put it on the truck" I told myself in justification. Thus, pandora's box was opened. I googled 'crane mower' pics and found a TINY number of examples, none of which i liked because they all seemed like they'd either fold up with 150lbs on them, or were massive overbuilt forklift contraptions which seemed like too much effort into what I considered a borderline 'bad' idea. I figured I could do something simply enough to either work 'well enough', or quickly disprove the concept so I could bolt that same crane onto the truck it was meant for and forget all about it.
I had two Craftsman DYT4000 mowers Id gotten for free (from different people!), one of which was in use as a mower, and one for parts which had donated its engine to the other but was otherwise pretty complete. Hmm! A quick mockup showed that the truck bed crane would not fit on the front of the frame unless I either extended the frame, or installed a smaller engine. One of the reasons I had liked the idea in the first place was that the hydrostatic trans gave me a very low minimum speed. I could have it creep forward at a snails pace if desired. I figured that would definitely be desired after I'd turned the mower into a self propelled see-saw/ejection seat.😂 How much power would i need if 'working speed' was 0.1 mph? Even if it topped out at 2-3mph empty, i would have been happy enough. So.. I decided to install a ~150 cc ~3.5hp engine from a push mower I'd also gotten for free and had no other use for. The engine was so much smaller I was able to move the crank centerline back by several inches and fit the crane onto the existing frame.
Well, the idea turned out to be JUST feasible enough to keep luring me down the rabbit hole over and over until I'd addressed all the main failure points and sunk a silly amount of hours into making it work, putting me right back in with the guys who put 'too much effort' into their overbuilt contraptions. 🤪 Shortly after i had the thing usable, I ended up buying a very compact Kubota B6100 tractor with FEL and rendering my own invention 90% obsolete, so i never ended up 'finishing' it to the level I originally intended. But, it still works, i still have it around, and when i lent that little Kubota out a week back and decided I needed to move a bunch of scrap metal from a scrap truck to a scrap trailer, I brought it out again and figured this time I would take some pics and let the internet see it in action.
Don't mind all the junk. If i didn't have junk I wouldn't build junk to move junk and this thread wouldn't exist! The heaviest thing I've picked up with it so far (actually right away when i built it) was a complete 318ci v8 engine with cast iron block/heads/manifolds. And, it ended up a little faster than it was with the original 18hp engine!
A lot of cobbling and weird little tricks went into this thing which I will detail in later posts as i dig up the old pictures off my phone.
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