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So as those of you who saw his awesome crib build know, Sean has a lovely young daughter that recently turned one. He’s been out in the shop like a madman recently building her all sorts of cool stuff, mostly (as you’d expect from Sean) out of wood. Well, back before she was born, we discussed making her something a little more unusual — something she probably won’t be able to enjoy until she’s at least five, or maybe three if her mother is at work and we don’t tell her what we’re doing: a pink tank.

I had the idea a long time back when I was cleaning out my dad’s place. I tossed an old zero-turn lawnmower that’d been killing a small patch of grass behind his shop for years, but a few days later (read: too late) I realized that it wasn’t the mower that had caught his attention. It was the transmission. Mate a decently-powerful lawn mower engine to a zero-turn transmission, machine up some fittings to hook up some Bobcat treads, and weld the whole thing into a nice little frame and you’ve got a first-class kiddie tank.

When Sean’s dad pitched out a lawn mower (non zero-turn, sadly) a while back, I scored a 20 HP Briggs in decent running condition — perfect for the project. It’s been holding up floor in the TM shop for about a year now while I’ve been hunting around for a transmission. Then it struck me: why not ask you folks?

Do any of you happen to know where I can score a cheap free zero-turn transmission? And where I might be able to pick up a set of rubber tracks and wheels reasonably cheap? It’s for a good cause.


15 Responses to Help: Need Parts For Kiddie Tank. Really.

  1. Jaxx says:

    Heh I watched this vid a few years ago about building 2:5 scale tanks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWHAfaC-pPg&playnext=1&list=PL135988FD2ED802D1

    But compared to that your idea is so much simpler, excellent! You might be able to get some used pull over tracks from a john deer gator 4×6 if that helps at all.

  2. Ben says:

    Didn’t they make some tracks out of old tires on Junkyard wars? Cut out the side walls? Maybe some dirt bike tires?

  3. Gerard says:

    Lawn mower repair shops. Although it’s very unlikely (most people choose to repair Zero turn mowers, even if it means dropping in a brand new motor) maybe you’ll run across a shop with a good salesman who convinced the owner of a zero turn to buy a new one instead of fixing his old.

  4. Collin says:

    Excellent project. No ideas for a trans, but ideas for treads

    1- cut a snowmobile track in half?

    2- make some like here
    Personally I’d go for the last type

  5. Gil says:

    Well for the tracts you could you use feed chain for a hay spreader. I’m assuming that you’ll be shielding the tracts. The chain is similar to roller chain but the links are farther spaced. New spreaders have a belt, but there are the chain ones.

  6. Jerry says:

    Here is a great source for the tracks. Interesting if nothing else. Converting a 4WD to tank tracks is one of those things that is “just cool!”

  7. Joe says:

    What about those guys that race lawn mowers in the upper mid-west? They don’t use zero turns, but I’ll bet one of them could turn you on to source.


  8. Dan says:

    You could skip the transmission and use belts and pulleys instead.

    I’ve been wanting to build something like this: http://www.eaeco.com/MTV.html

    You can see some details by pausing the video. 1:07 shows the drive system. I believe he is driving one shaft with the motor and running belts from that shaft to each side of the vehicle, with a pulley on a lever to apply tension to the belt to drive that side.

    The tracks are made from truck tires with the sidewalls cut off, using just the tread portion.

  9. dreamcatcher says:

    I had to repair my tracked snowblower this winter and was amazed to find out that it has a simple to make transmission. The FWD and REV as well as the speed is all run through a simple friction plate – a spinning metal plate direct driven by the motor turns a tire faster when positioned closer to the center of the plate and slower as it is moved outward. Then the steering is controlled by simply freewheeling on side or the other via brake cables (reversed) connected to a grab gear. Words make it seem more difficult than it is you should see one for yourself…..shoot me an email and I can send some photos.

    Here’s the repair schematics…

  10. dreamcatcher says:

    In imagining this more, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more prudent to go electric rather than unleashing gasoline combustion power onto a toddler? Maybe look around for an electric cart similar to a “Hoveround” that uses independent wheel motors and joystick controls. Search ebay for “power chair” to get some prices… they are more abundant than you may think considering the remaining lifespans of the market audience.

    From there, search ebay for “snow blower tracks” and you can get the rest of the necessary drivetrain.

    Slap that into a pink plywood box and add a tractor seat.

    Then all you need to worry about is whether to outfit it with a water cannon or a potato gun!

    Keep us posted.

  11. Toolhearty says:

    Lots of good ideas there from dreamcatcher.

    If we’re voting on weaponry, I think that a pneumatic tennis ball cannon would be pretty cool.

  12. Kyle says:


    Item # 13-14443

    ZTR Left/Right Transaxle assembly


    Not exactly cheap, but it is an option.

  13. Kyle says:

    Information on building wood tracks- http://www.gizmology.net/tanks.htm

  14. Patron Zero says:

    You might consider looking at the wheels-track arrangement on the Chariot vehicle from the classic TV show Lost In Space. So many technical drawing available on the web it might save you a bit of design time. Cheers !

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