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Welcome to Top Gear’s 130mph lawnmower…
Current weather aside, summer should be just around the corner. Which means ice-cream, inappropriate shorts, pasty white legs and the smell of freshly-cut grass. Equipped with all of those things bar one, it turns out that what Top Gear really needs is a new… lawnmower. And possibly a lawn, but we’ll gloss over that.
Trouble is, most mowers don’t really - ahem - cut it in the TG office. Too much focus on neat lines and collecting grass, not enough concentration on the traditional Top Gear preferred attributes of speed, power and lunacy. So we put in a call to Honda to see what it could come up with. After all, the Japanese firm has done some famously eccentric things in the past, nobody in the world builds more internal combustion engines, and it makes everything from leaf-blowers to robots.
Crucially, it also builds more motorbikes than anyone else, and a bike engine is what we need. Small enough to fit inside a standard mower body, powerful enough to make things interesting. More Top Gear.
Honda, excellent sorts that they are, got immediately excited by the project. So armed with a VTR 1000cc engine and a Honda HF2620 mower, we headed up to Team Dynamics (the guys who run Honda’s touring cars) to see what might be possible. And that’s where things got a little terrifying.
It turns out that with Team Dynamics’ assistance, a Honda mower with 110bhp might well turn out to be absolutely ballistic. A fair bit more than just interesting. At least that’s the theory - standing in the workshop and looking at the bare bones of the chassis, it’s clear that there’s still a long way to go before this mower is driveable. But the on-paper numbers are already enough to mollify the most lunatic racing driver. 130mph top speed, 0-60mph in about 4 seconds, and a power to weight ratio of 520bhp per tonne. That’s a lot more than a Ferrari F12. All this in a machine with no seatbelts and a steering rack taken out of a Morris Minor.
Yep, you read that right. A Morris Minor. Because while it still looks like a mower, and will still cut grass, underneath it’s anything but. The only things that remain from the original donor are the plastic body panels and the pedals.
The wheels and tyres are from a racing quad, and the back axle is out of a 250cc go-kart. It’s got a space-frame chassis, the fibreglass cutting deck is 90 per cent lighter than the metal one usually used, the seat has been lowered by 14cm and the blades?
Hmmm, the blades are interesting. And quite possibly lethal. Honda has ditched the standard metal ones because the transmission needed to run them was too complicated to connect to the bike engine. Instead, there are two electric motors, each with two lengths of brake cable attached to them. These will spin at four THOUSAND rpm, like some sort of apocalyptic strimmer. Never mind grass, this thing will cut through a nuclear bunker.
The engineering effort that Honda and Team Dynamics have gone to is mighty impressive: Matt Neal and Gordon Sheddon, Honda’s touring car drivers, have given feedback on the design; there’s an electronic power shifter for the gear change. There’s even a chain-tensioning system rigged up between the engine and rear axle, and it’s been lined with plastic to make it run quieter.
And all we wanted was a mower. Top Gear doesn’t do Gardener’s Question Time, but if it did, this would be the answer to many, many things. Check out TopGear Magazine in a couple of months to see the results.