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Wiki:"500" Special

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JERSEYHAWG /  Glenn

Good investigative story on the 500. Enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

 

Glenn

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DennisThornton

Awesome review!

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Racinbob

What a great write up. :greetings-clappingyellow: I am currently in the process of restoring a 500 Special and would like to add a couple things. The 5465 hood with the 7 slots and narrow decal is actually a 1967 hood (607, 657, etc.). The best way possible to determine what was original at this time is by the original parts manuals. That would be the 7231 hood with the 6 slots and the plastic escutcheon plate. It's very likely and even probable that some 67 hoods were used up early on in the production. As cool as it is, the 500 Special was really a 'low' end model with the aluminum block motor and recoil start. The steering wheel was a 4983 which is actually the one in the lower picture was also used on 67's and other years. I've seen quite a few with the wheel that has the bend in the spokes and my guess would be the supplier. The holes in the fenders for the lights is odd only in the fact that the 500 Special couldn't run lights with no charging system. The original muffler was the 7628 but I would imagine was often changed out to get the exhaust away from the hood better. Many tractors back in those days were modified to suit the buyer or some other reason before they left the dealer thus giving way to the belief that something was 'factory original' when in reality it was installed or swapped after the tractor left the factory. This would lead to electric start motors, headlights, etc. Because this was such common practice I say no harm, no foul as to the originality.

 

That being said, my 500 Special will actually be the joining of a 657 and a 500 Special. I would say that at least 95% of the parts are identical on the two models and due to their condition it will take both of them to build one good machine. I'll be using a 67 hood with the 7 slots and narrower headlight decal. Terrys decals include both styles of the hoodstand decals, with the 6 and without. I've got a Tecky H60 that I'll use but I'll probably go without the 6 since I'd like to find a K161 or K181 for it in the future. I will also have a restored ID plate on it with the correct model and serial numbers. It will definitely be a tractor that someone could make someone think certain things were original but, as was so very common, it won't be truly factory.

Edited by Racinbob
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red 500 special

I've learned a lot from this posting. I'm new too wheel horse. I picked up my first 1. 3 days ago. It was going to the  junkyard. She's  really rough but there's just something about her. I could not let her die. 

IMG_20160527_101525.jpg

IMG_20160527_101539.jpg

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953 nut

:WRS: That looks like a good project there, keep it as is or restore it to original, up to you. Apparently the previous owner wanted a low rider. You have probably already noticed that the rear wheels and tires were swapped out for smaller ones and the front spinals were reversed. What ever you decide to do, enjoy it.

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Racinbob

It looks like they flipped the front axle, spindles and all, upside down. A super low rider. :)

Edited by Racinbob
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red 500 special

Im going to bring it back to  normal Height. It looks cool lower. But I will use it for pulling a little Garden trailer. I just don't know what motor to put in that will fit. The  Briggs & Stratton they put on the  Hood won't close. Thank u for the welcome.

 

Edited by red 500 special
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953 nut
On 12/8/2015 at 5:28 AM, RedRider said:

Tecumseh engine model number used on the "500" Special models is H60-75118H.

You could also use any Kohler from six to twelve horse power and lots of folks are going to the Harbor Freight "Predator" engines as a more affordable choice. Lots of threads on here about installing them.

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red 500 special

Thank u I will check that out. 

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Digger91
On 12/8/2015 at 5:28 AM, RedRider said:

                                     Specifications

Length Overall...................................................................61 inches

Wheelbase...................................................................41 1/4 inches

Width Overall.....................................................................34 inches

Width of Front Wheels.................................................32 1/2 inches

Height...........................................................................37 1/2 inches

Height to Top of Hood..................................................33 1/2 inches

Approx. Shipping Weight.......................................................450 lbs.

Crop Clearance.............................................................7 1/4 inches

Frame Clearance.........................................................13 1/2 inches

Engine Horsepower (Engine Mfgr's Rating).............................6 H.P.

Engine Crankcase Oil Capacity...............................................25 oz.

Fuel Capacity.......................................................................1 gallon

Tires (front) 4.00-8 Pneumatic (16" wheel dia.)

Tires (rear) 6.00 x 12" Pneumatic (22 1/2" wheel dia.)

Speeds - 3 Forward to 6 mph.  1 Reverse to 2 1/2 mph.

Turning radius (to outside wheel)..................................................6'

 

 

 

Wheel Horse pioneers Elmer and Cecil Pond realized the benefits of marketing early and capitalized on the publicity brought to their home region by the world famous Indianapolis 500 race.  Beginning in 1961, Wheel Horse loaned approximately 40 new tractors to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for use by race teams to tow their cars around the pits for the testing and racing activities during the month of May.  A promotion dubbed the Indy 2 ½ was even created as the kickoff event, where the tractors were paraded from flagship distributor Radio Equipment Co. in Indianapolis to the speedway and then raced one lap around the famed 2.5 mile Brickyard piloted by dealers and other local media personalities.  The publicity stunt was a huge success for Wheel Horse, and later advertising would tout Wheel Horse tractors as The Official Work Horse of the “500.” 

 

The promotional value of the Indy 500 reached new heights in 1968 when Wheel Horse came out with a new model, the “500” Special. This tractor was a no frills model, powered by a basic 6 hp recoil-start Tecumseh H60 engine backed by the standard 3-speed Uni-Drive transmission.   What the “500” Special lacked in power, it made up for in looks with racing stripe decals on the hood and checkered flag decals on either side of the dash tower.  Similar to previous Wheel Horse “Special” models, production of the “500” Special utilized different leftover parts which created some variances on the assembly line. Common known variances include the use of at least two different styles of hoods, mufflers, dash panels, steering wheels, seats, fender pans and checkered flag decals.  Sale ads from May 1968 offer $200 off the “500” Special tractors, which were listed at a sale price of $529.95 and were advertised with a 32” rotary mower included.  The "500" Special differed very little from the Commando 6 offered that same year, except the Commando 6 had an electric starter and did not feature the extra racing inspired decals.

Much of what is known about these tractors is merely conjecture, as factory records were limited and were never formally released to the public.  Based on known serial numbers it seems that there were at least 5 or 6 production runs of these tractors; however, the total production number for this model is unknown.  One common belief is that these tractors were primarily sold at dealerships in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio (presumably due to their close proximity to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway); however, a few collectors have reported these tractors being sold new in other states as well.  Since the tractors were relatively plain aside from the racing inspired graphics, it is believed that they did not sell as well as intended by the company.  Several collectors have found “500” Special models equipped with electric starters or even 8 hp Kohler replacement engines believed to have been modified or upgraded by individual dealers to help sell the tractors when they were new. 

While the “500” Special models proudly represented the manufacturer’s racing ties, these tractors were never actually used for the big race.  The larger 10 hp hydrostatic drive Charger 10 model, equipped with extra racing decals similar to those found on the “500” Special, was the tractor chosen by Wheel Horse to be utilized by teams at the 1968 Indy 500.  There has been at least one seemingly staged press photo that has surfaced showing a "500" Special towing a race car at the speedway.  The “500” Special was replaced in 1969 by the Work Horse 700 model, which featured a very similar decal package and was upgraded to a 7 hp electric start Tecumseh H70 engine to help boost sales.

 

 

  Speedway.jpg.c013b75f06960a51bd929eedd97

 

This is one of the only known photos to show a "500" Special at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ad.jpg.57c77a24f877608e4f3e029c34cfad34.

Print ads for the "500" Special carried a racing theme to conjure up excitement for the new model.  Advertised sale prices averaged $529.95, but were as high as $599.95 (with electric start) and as low as $404.95 on clearance.

Restored.jpg.83047b5c6c5f28c079be829ce40

A fully restored "500" Special with 32" rotary mower on display at the 2015 WHCC Show.

 

The following photos are to show variances in some of the parts used in construction of the "500" Special models.  No confirmed pattern for the use of any of the following parts during the various assembly runs has yet been identified.  Photos of original tractors and the Owners Manual were referenced in putting together this list of variances.  In the absence of the original parts for comparison, anyone restoring a "500" Special could theoretically choose from their preference of parts pictured below and construct a correct original appearing tractor. 

HOOD

Hood2.jpg.65f20182996fc108df5f3ecb01bc26

Hood (Part # 7231) with Escutcheon Plate (Part # 7416) 

Hood1.jpg.fe3c42eefba06ff17e114a195b6b33

Hood (Part # 5465) with Grille Decal (Part # 6998)

The most obvious difference in these two hoods is the number of horizontal openings in the grille.  The first has 6 rows of openings and has a large rectangular opening filled with a escutcheon plate at the top, while the second hood has 7 rows of openings and a thin decal.  The tractor pictured on the cover of the owner's manual shows the first style of hood with the escutcheon plate.  It has previously been suggested on this forum that the second style hood with the decal was used in the later production run.  Of the original tractors referenced, the hoods with the escutcheon plates seem to be more commonly used on the "500" Special tractors.  As of 2015 the escutcheon plates were still available through Toro dealers.

EXHAUST

Exhaust1.jpg.8f99554509468c1ac4b04da9924

Muffler (Part # 7628) with Deflector (Part # 7843)

Exhaust2.jpg.9940004aa44489b35cd9312f77c

Muffler (Part # 1739), Elbow (Part # 1755), Nipple (Part # 943358-4), Locknut (Part # 1756) and Brace 

The tractor pictured on the cover of the owner's manual shows the first rectangular shaped muffler with a deflector.  Other similar variations of the second style of exhaust do not include the brace, which seems to be a relatively harder piece to find.  Of the original tractors referenced, it seems as if the first rectangular style muffler is slightly more common over the shower head muffler style exhaust systems. Both types of mufflers are still readily available on the aftermarket.

DECALS

Decal1.jpg.f61abddadff240e201255183b2644

Racing Flag Decal with "6" (Part # 8379)

Decal2.jpg.e3f691d4c062164d210602a5200b9

Racing Flag Decal without "6" (Part # 8379)

It is unknown exactly why there were two nearly identical versions of this decal made, the only difference being that one bears the number "6" indicative of the tractor's horsepower rating.  Of the original tractors referenced, it seems the the majority have decals with the "6" present.  The alternate versions with just the racing flags have also been spotted on the Charger 10 tractors that were outfitted for duty at the 1968 Indianapolis 500; however, for this application they were placed on the bottom front of the grille and on the backside of the seat.  Another interesting fact is that the "500" Special trim decals on each side of the hood (Part # 8376) were originally rectangular and could be applied to either side of the tractor.  The rectangular shape allowed  for a little variance in the placement, most likely for the sake of increasing application speed on the production line.  Once applied an assembly line worker would then trim the decals along the front edge of the hood to give them the beveled shape.  Reproduction decals are readily available and can be had in either configuration.

DASH PANEL

Dash1.jpg.13495f4fe2fc0ce980574889ef9c5f

Dash Panel (Part # 5453)

Dash2.jpg.e54515cb016f3d23a08c7fbeff197b

Dash Panel (Part # 7379) with Shift Pattern Decal (Part #7883)

Though not pictured in the owner's manual, the parts number listed is for the first style of dash panel pictured.  This style dash panel used two round hole plugs for the absent lighter and generator accessories.  It also contained a diagram of the transmission shift pattern printed directly on the panel.  The second style dash panel used one round hole plug for the lighter and a rectangular plug to fill the light switch hole.  This style dash did not have the shift pattern printed on it, so tractors with this part also had a shift pattern decal applied to the console (partially obstructed, but visible in the reference photo).  Of the original tractors referenced, the majority had the first style dash panel with two round hole plugs.  Reproduction decals for restoring either style dash plate are readily available, and the chrome hole plugs can often be found at hardware stores near the bins of loose fasteners.

STEERING WHEEL

Steering1.jpg.ba2e97a70d6b241e525cf88e8f

Steering Wheel (Part # 4983), Insert (Part # 2897) and Decal (Part # 7421)

Steering2.jpg.76ee98eb24530c36f9c4ab2235

Steering Wheel (Part # 7420), Insert (Part # 7469) and Decal (Part # 7421)

The first style steering wheel is easily identified by its three thin angular spokes.  These steering wheels were only used on the 1968 Commando 6, Commando 8, "500" Special, and the 1969 Workhorse 700 models.  Due to their thin spokes, these steering wheels seemed prone to cracking or warping.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find one of these steering wheels in good condition.  The second style steering wheel is characterized by its three straight tapered spokes and was more commonly used among Wheel Horse tractors during the late 1960s.  The tractor pictured on the cover of the owner's manual shows the second style of steering wheel; however, the part number given in the manual corresponds to the first style of steering wheel.  Of the original tractors referenced, it seems as if the first style of steering wheel pictured is slightly more common than the second steering wheel pictured.  Reproduction steering wheel inserts and decals are readily available.

SEAT

Seat1.jpg.5ae2162589738174343d1a163d7e3f

Fiberglass Pan Seat (Part # 7070)

Seat2.jpg.15159862cde727da0e849ebab2289a

Three-Piece Seat (Part # 7018, 7019, 7020)

The first seat bolts to the fender pan with four studs that extend out of the bottom of the fiberglass pan.  Over time and exposure to the elements, these seats were very prone to cracking or having the vinyl damaged, thus making them very rare to find in good condition.  The second style seat fastens to the fender pan with only two studs that extend from the metal seat base. While more rugged and able to survive the test of time somewhat better, these seats also have their wear points.  Perhaps the most common area of wear includes the top edge of the back seat cushion.  These seats are also becoming harder to find in good condition.  The tractor pictured on the cover of the owner's manual shows the fiberglass pan style seat and lists the same part number as well.  Of the original tractors referenced, there is a nearly even split of the use of each of the two styles of seats.  Reproduction seat covers have been produced for the three piece style seat, although they do no include the embossed Wheel Horse logo.

FENDER PAN

Fender1.jpg.60aa82e81f45ac157893f328069d

Fender Pan (Part # 7444)

Fender2.jpg.be178d1502211cf9482662134c82

Fender Pan (Part # 5661)

The difference in the two fender pans is the presence of holes drilled in the rear of the pan to accommodate a light.  The first style shown has three holes where a light would be added if the tractor was so equipped.  The second style does not have these three holes drilled and was likely left over from earlier production runs before the rear light was an option.  It is unknown which fender pan is pictured on the tractor in the owner's manual; however, it provides the part number for the first style of fender pan.  Of the original tractors referenced, it seems that the vast majority have the first style fender pan with the rear light mounting holes present.

ENGINE

H60.jpg.d935a0f4b4deecb695a1bcb0cf70abce

While there should not be any significant variances in the engines used for these tractors by the factory, non-original engines may have been installed to help boost sales of the tractor by the dealerships or to replace a blown motor later in the tractor's life.  The correct Tecumseh engine model number used on the "500" Special models is H60-75118H.  Since these engines were recoil start only, they should not have holes drilled into the block to mount a starter.  This recoil start H60 engine is photographed to show the two starter mounting pedestals that remain untouched (if there was a starter there would be two holes drilled in each of the horizontal mounting pedestals to bolt the starter to the block).  The owner's manual also shows the presence of a rear mounted "L" shaped oil drain pipe that would extend outward from the location where the drain plug is pictured, allowing oil to drain out over the right side of the frame when uncapped.  Finding a recoil start H60 engine without the starter mounting holes seems to be more difficult than finding one equipped with an electric starter.

 

 

 

 

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Nice job!

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