I had this problem. 2.5 acres that took too long to mow, and a need for all the things that a decent small tractor would do.I have a small acreage. I need to mow about 3.5 acres fast because I hate mowing (belly mower + offset pull mower to mow 100+ inches per pass). I need to tend the garden which is currently about 14'x70' with room to grow as big as 1.5 acres. I need to repair and maintain ~700' of neglected gravel driveway and do snow removal on said driveway.
I have what I believe is a fairly large GT (JD GX345). I would really like something with more legroom and something where I don't have to reach down as far to release the parking-brake (come to think of it I really don't like anything about the brake on that machine from the pedal position to the release lever). Also I would like FEL, 3-PT, etc. I would like to really cut down on my snow removal time: bigger snow blower, especially taller to handle the deep snow, shaft driven so the belt doesn't get wet and slip when the snow is deeper than the blower is tall. Blower and blade on the same machine would help a lot, so I could use whichever is a better tool at the time/place.
Solution: Bolens HT-23 with blown motor, repowered with Kohler EFI, and an older Scag Turf Tiger 61". Commercial ZTR is a way faster mowing solution if you have anything other than an open, flat field; and you can keep your tractor in some flavor of working configuration instead of mower. Both made in Wisconsin as a bonus, and the pair was way cheaper than a newer SCUT. I have a mower deck, tiller, 48" wide 27" tall blower, cab, 54" mower deck for the tractor, and 54" blade, as well as a 3 point. Been watching for the FEL, but they've either been beat or expensive. Downside with the Bolens is lack of a 540 rpm rear PTO that works with the 3 point, but, given the attachments that are available for the tractor, I'm not really sure what I'd want to put on the 3 point that needs a 540 drive.
Both machines are shaft drive and Kohler Command Pro powered, although the mower is carbed. There is the odd occasion that I wish the tractor had 4wd, but with chains and weights, it's just not needed. I got 20" of that wet snow this last weekend, and the tractor didn't have any trouble pushing into 5' drifts with just the rear weights on...cab and wheel weights were already off for the year.
Diesel fuel has decent lubricating properties for the reciprocating parts in the engine, where gas doesn't. This accounts for much of the difference in longevity. The lower RPM that diesels excel at is another part of it...great torque at the bottom lets you run lower rpm on average. The heavier general build of diesels to handle the bigger forces that come with high compression ratios accounts for the rest. A "pro" or "hd" gas small engine is considered to be doing really well to pass 2000 hours without being opened up. I suspect it would be very a hard sell to have a machine that would be, what, 90% of the cost (transmission, axles, frame, hydraulics all have to be just as big to keep the capability) with a ~2000 hour gas engine vs. 100% of the cost with a 10,000 hour diesel. I believe that the demise of the last truly HD gas small engine (the Kohler K-series) is part of what killed off almost all of the large gas garden tractors by 1990--the cost vs value curve had shifted too far vs. diesel.
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