The other day I used a pair of scissors to turn a block of packing foam into a Baymax toy for my son. He liked it, and for a few moments there I felt like a pretty cool dad. Then I saw this dad's astounding 942 lb working 18 HP bulldozer he made for his kids, and I realized that, really, I'm a big pile of crap. This thing is astounding.
The dad in question is named Ryan Mueller, and he knew he wanted to build his kid a working bulldozer since before his child was born. As to why a working, all-metal, motorized bulldozer, here's what he told me:
I built it because I wanted to give my kids something that would last a long time. Something that was built well (all metal, no plastic). Something that was unique. Everyone has gokarts, scooters or powerwheels. Not too many have a fully functional dozer.
Also, I'm an engineer by trade. I did this project so I can learn what it actually takes to build something that I designed. I have no formal machining or welding training. Basically, growing up, my Dad taught me to not be an idiot. If I don't know how to do something, try, make some mistakes and figure it out.
Those are pretty damn good reasons, and I find this whole project to be a pretty inspiring example of just how much is possible if you're focused and willing to risk making mistakes. Oh, and also can commit close to $6000 worth of material and at least 1000 hours of work.
The bulldozer is loosely modeled on the look of a 1930s-era Caterpillar Twenty-Two, one of Caterpillar's first really big successes. The basic foundation of the bulldozer came from an old, engine-less zero turn mower and the engine from a riding mower. The caterpillar tracks themselves are from a Ditch Witch, and most everything else on the bulldozer is hand-fabricated.
I urge everyone to look at the incredibly detailed build documentation on Ryan's website and be as astounded as I was at the time and effort and skill and care put into this thing. He made his own lovely steel wheels, because the Ditch Witch ones didn't fit the scale well enough. Everything about this build seems to have been done the best possible way. He needed a filler cap, so instead of finding some crappy one and making it work (like I would have) he went and milled his own that's just right.
A really good lesson to take away from this is that he was never afraid to rip out work he's done to make the end result better. He replaced the pump mechanisms and upgraded the engine from 14 to 18.5 HP (think about twice an original 2CV) even though it meant redoing a lot of work.
The build took him over three years, but the end result is pretty incredible, and his boys have what may be the coolest toy on the planet. Really, it's barely a toy — their dad made them an operational sub-scale bulldozer. Hell, he even used it to plow snow before he was ready to paint it:
I'm wildly impressed with this thing. Ryan says it'll do about 5 mph, but normally it's going more like 1 or 2, which is just fine, since his little kids are driving this 900 lb bit of earthmoving machinery around. He has emergency kill switches by the driver's position and on the rear, for the dad or whoever following the dozer.
I'm sure his kids adore this, and I'm sure at some point kids at school will know not to mess withe the Dozer Boys, because they're the only kids at school who can transform your backyard playground into a plowed field of dirt in minutes.
This is just a good record of an involved project, period. The fact that all this effort was done by a dad just to make his kids happy (well, and likely him too) just makes it even better.