Plug and Play: 1970s Wheel Horse E-141

Here is yet another crazy find and this one may leave your head spinning, or maybe you’ve heard of a Wheel Horse E-141 battery-powered garden tractor? I didn’t think so, I hadn’t either. This super cool silent steed is listed on eBay with a $649.00 buy it now price or you can make an offer. It’s located in Granville, Ohio, about 35 miles northeast of Columbus.

Yes, it’s a project but it’s a very doable project. I wrote about a similar electric tractor, a GE Elec-Trak, back in October of 2016. I don’t know which one I like better. Wheel Horse tractors are known for having a huge fan base and this tractor is based on the Wheel Horse C-141, a 14-hp gas-powered tractor. The E-141 was made from 1980 to 1983 and they are as rare as it gets. Is it better than the gas-powered 14-hp model? Probably not but there are legions of lawn and garden tractor collectors and restorers and pulling up to an event with a fully-restored Wheel Horse E-141 would most likely give you instant celebrity status. Maybe in an oddball Jerry Lewis sort of way, but still..

Here’s where six 12-volt batteries will go once the carcass is restored back to better than new condition. Yes, that’s probably around 300 pounds of batteries but it’s no different than giving your goofy cousin, the one that everyone calls “Tiny”, a ride on the front of a gas-powered tractor. The C-141 with the 12-hp Kohler on it weighs 640 pounds so these aren’t light machines anyway. You can see that there doesn’t appear to be any real rust other than surface rust. A couple of solid weekends and it’ll be either ready for paint or will already be painted and you’ll just be waiting for the reproduction stickers to come back from the printer.

The mower deck needs perhaps a bit more help than the tractor itself does, but it doesn’t look super daunting. The underside is a little scarier but anything is fixable. The seller says that the “main electric motor spins and the eight speed gears turn”, yes this tractor has 6 forward speeds and 2 reverse speeds, the same as the C-141 gas tractor does. I saw information with production dates of 1978-1979 and also 1980-1983 so I’m not quite positive on the dates. Maybe one of you Wheel Horse gurus know? I know you’re out there.

Wheel Horse supplied a charger as you would expect. I don’t have a clue whether this charger works or not but I might tear into it before plugging it in to your restored tractor with $500+ worth of batteries. I also don’t know why a person would use one of these over a gas-powered tractor other than for the unusual factor but that’s more than enough reason for me. Do any of you own any unusual garden tractors? Hey, it’s Barn Finds, tractors are usually found in barns – it makes sense to me!

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Comments

  1. Billy 007

    During the Carter years, electric was in fashion. Lots of alternative energy stuff, and electric stuff powered from it. Ronnie killed all of that, thanks Ronnie. Imagine what the world would look like today if we had reelected the man from Plains?

    • Tim S. Member

      Is that you, Buddy Carter?

      • xrotaryguy

        Semi related, I bought a can of Buddy Beer about a year ago. Wonder how it tastes.

      • half cab

        Billy beer I believe that it.

      • Billy 007

        “Billy” Carter I believe is long dead. He was a chronic drunk. All the ambition and intelligence in that family landed at his brother’s doorstep. One brother was a naval nuclear engineer and one ran a little gas station in Podunk USA where he drank beer all day. Poor JC, he had a weight of a brother chained to his neck to embarrass him.

  2. Coventrycat

    Elon Musk’s shop class project.

  3. Fred w.

    Not a bad idea, but I would have expected two batteries would have powered the tractor for long enough to get through a half acre yard, not six. Replacing six deep cycle batteries every few seasons is too expensive.

    • Charles

      I only replace my batteries every 15 years. But yeah, you absolutely do need all 6.

      Necroposting :)

  4. Adam T45 Staff

    These actually make a great deal of sense in the current climate where population density is increasing in our cities and towns. I don’t know about the US, but here in Australia different states and local government regions have very strict laws on when you can operate lawn-mowers due to noise pollution issues from there petrol engines. Something like this would circumvent those laws. I like it a lot.

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      That’s a good point, Adam, I read, lawnmowers are one of the biggest polluters. One gas lawnmower operating for one hour, puts out more emissions than 11 new cars in the same time. That’s pretty shocking. Think how many lawnmowers are operating on any given Saturday. ( in summer, that is)

  5. Rube Goldberg Member

    Crazy finds= Scotty G,,,I love it. Actually, I HAVE seen electric garden tractors. I saw a guy with an Elec-Trak. If I remember, it had all the attachments, but didn’t go very far per charge and didn’t have the steam of the gas job. ( the bane of most electric vehicles) Some things, especially garden tractors, still need the grunt of a piston engine,,,for hours. Nice try, but no cigar.

  6. Al

    I remember back in the day that Wheelhorse was owned by American Motors.
    There’s your car connection to go along with barns!
    Maybe someone has background or can check.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      You’re spot-on there Al. The company was originally started in 1946. It was acquired by American Motors for $30 million on 24th May 1974. It was then sold to Munn Investment Group in 1982.

  7. Fulm

    Nothing Runs Like A Deere

    • Dixiedawgmi

      When chased by a Kubota!

    • Billy 007

      Say what you want about JD, but they are tough and of good quality. For 20 years I bought many new big box store tractors to mow my 7 acres with. They all lasted 3 or 4 years and quit after multiple repairs each and every year. Five years ago I broke down and bought a 300 series JD at the dealer, paid twice what the other ones averaged, but guess what? NEVER been in the shop in all that time, also cuts and runs better. Something we seem to have forgotten in the America that thrives on cheap (well, really not that cheap anymore) Chinese made goods…you get what you pay for. I will continue to buy JD, but I see no need for a long time to come, should have done it years ago. Kubota, might be just as good, I don’t know, also seem to be quality equipment. Again, pay a little more and be satisfied in the long run. I remember not so long ago, say the 1970s, you could go into any Sears or Wards store and buy a tractor with all stong metal parts and ran for years. I miss the old America, where my neighbors all had decent jobs and the goods were superior. We all took it for granted.

      • On and On On and On Member

        Billy 007 you are so right about not so long ago goods. My dad, a Mack Truck mechanic bought a used Bolens lawn tractor one lunger 6-speed with a steel plate for a clutch for $100 in 1974. He put new bearings in the mowing deck and we proceeded to mow three acres for 25 years…………..Sold it, a running mosquito fogger for $50.

      • FordGuy1972 Fordguy1972 Member

        “Made in China” translates to “Crap” in my experience. I have a 1970 Ariens snowblower and a late ’70s Ariens RM830e Lawn Mower Rider. Both are tough, dependable and still going strong. Parts are still available, too. Both will probably outlast me.

        I try not to buy anything made in China if I can help it, I’ll buy American, preferably vintage. Especially when it comes to hand tools. My tool chest is like a history of American tools; Barclay, Williams, Billings & Spencer, New Britain, Blackhawk, etc. Some go way back in time including an 1860s Disston dovetailing back saw. Give me American made every time.

      • Harold Wood

        I have John Deere 160 Lawn tractor made in 1986 and it is still mowing every season, Although I have replace the Battery, the Blades, the bearings on the deck pulleys, the belts and the tires, I have never had to put a wrench on the Kawasaki motor or any thing but the deck. Just this year I bought a 60″ cut Scag zero turn cause it covers a lot more ground faster. But I still used the JD from time too time. Figure it up that 31 years of service without any Major repairs that you would have had to do on any kind of Mower. I once thought about selling it and placed an add on Facebook and some little A$$hole insulted me and offer $100. for it, so I just took the add back down a Decided I could sell it after such loyal service. So I parked it back in the shop.

  8. Classic Steel

    It’s a shame not all garden tractors are not electric for city folk ✅
    My lot is a quarter acre and my black and decker plug in push has been cutting the grass for 16 years with no issues. I can push faster than my neighbor rides his mower on his smaller yard . If you saw him you would know he doesn’t move around much 🤦‍♂️

    Anyhow small two cycle type engines are major polluters and why everyone needs a gas for micro lots gets me! I never have to say hmm I am out of gas in the lil can or let me check the oil but unplug and hear quiet sounds similar to a fan running ✅
    I think I read once it’s between 15 to 20 cents to cut my yard 🤑🤑🤑

    • Gary

      Bought my wife a B&D rechargeable to mow our 1/3 acre yard. It did great for the first year. We could get most of the yard mowed if we didn’t let it go more than a week. The next year we could only get 3/4 of the yard mowed and it went down hill from there. It just couldn’t hold the charge anymore. We got rid of it after it had sat in the garage for a couple years without being used.

      I kept the gas MTD push mower that she wanted me to get rid of when we got the B&D and have continued to use it, but it is starting to get a little bow legged.

      The wife wants me to get a rider, but I get most of my exercise by pushing the mower. Of course if I could find a nice Oliver garden tractor at a decent price I would probably jump on it.

  9. Cap10

    I owned a 1967 607 Wheel Horse, when we were living in a state park in SE Pa. When the wheezing, pull-start, 6 hp Briggs engine thru the rod thru the crankcase, I replaced it with an electric-start, 8 hp Kohler.

    One winter, while using the stock snow blower to clear our 1/10-mile driveway, my wife flagged me down. The park Ranger just called. He was plowing his driveway, got too close to the edge of the pavement, and got stuck! He heard my tractor and asked if I could pull him out.

    I threw a chain under the seat and headed up the hill, my two-link chains providing more than adequate traction.

    As I arrived, I saw him standing next to his pretty little aerodynamic, plastic, green and yellow John Deere laid over on a snow bank. When I throttled down, he began laughing, pointed at my old Wheel Horse, and asked, “Where’d you get the antique?”

    I replied (with a grin), “You want your little plastic tractor pulled out of the snow or not?”

    We spent the next hour trading jokes over cups of hot chocolate. I sure do miss him AND my old Wheel Horse.

  10. Wrong Way

    Great find Scotty G. Good writeup too!

  11. Chuck

    I got a c-141 at a estate sale with a rototiller on back 6 years ago. The old guy used it in his two acre garden. Still runs good with who knows how many hours on it. And yes there is a good following for these

    • CATHOUSE

      Yes, there is a good following. You want to see how much of a following? Just come to annual Wheel Horse show the weekend after Father’s Day in June in PA.

  12. half cab

    Billy beer I believe that it.

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