Roaring engines, the smell of motor oil, the crunch of twisted metal, smoke, fire and glory — Lehigh 11-year-old Parker Schultz loves everything about demolition derbies, especially his dad, Scott.
“I’ve been watching my dad do derbies for I don’t know how long,” Parker said. “It’s just pretty cool watching him.”
This year Parker plans to try his own derby skills at the helm of a modified Lawn Lion mower from the early 1970s that he got from his grandpa. However, first the father-son duo had to make their mower purr.
“I’ve done car derbies for 22 years and I was a mechanic for 18 years, but I’ve never built a mower for a derby,” the elder Schultz said. “The rules limit what you can do.”
To get a handle on the project, they researched pictures of derby mower designs and talked to friends who have kids entered in this year’s county fair derby.
Directed at youth drivers, the new event will be incorporated into the demo derby at 7 p.m. July 30 at the fairgrounds in Hillsboro. More information is available at http://marioncountyfairks.org.
Schultz and son put a new ignition coil in the Lawn Lion, went through the carburetor, and are tuning up a number of small things.
“We still need to put a new belt on it,” Schultz said. “I like to try to take care of or change out any little thing that might go wrong. Things like that can cost you a derby.”
Schultz gave Parker his own set of tools last Christmas. They have come in handy while working on the Lawn Lion.
“When we first started working on it I told him I’m not working on this unless you’re here,’” Schultz said. “And he’s been good. He asks questions.”
Parker was happy to oblige.
“A lot of people like playing on their phones but I don’t,” Parker said. “I get bored. I like going outside and doing things.”
Parker removed the mower deck on his own after receiving a little fatherly advice.
“The hard part was I had to use a wrench and another wrench so one part would come off and another would stay on,” Parker said. “There is a nut and a bolt. I had to put one on the nut and the other on the bolt so it wouldn’t keep spinning.”
Parker also removed the hood so they could work on the engine.
“It was pretty easy,” he said. “I just undid two bolts.”
Through his welding mask, Parker first watched his dad weld a metal bumper on the front, create feet and leg protectors, and connect support tubing that connects to the mowers frame. Then he did some welding of his own under his father’s guidance.
Parker wants the Lawn Lion to live up to its name and make look intimidating.
“I like the name,” he said. “We had to take the glass out, but we’re going to make the headlights look like eyes. There are three little things on the grill we’re going to paint white to look like teeth, and it’s going to have flames painted on for hair.”
Parker also plans to paint No. 9, his baseball number, on it somewhere.
“I’m excited but I’m also kind of nervous to drive it in the derby,” Parker said. “I think I’m nervous because it is something new and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not really worried about the smashing part. That’s kind of like football.”
Parker is a natural, Schultz said. His son has been driving mowers, golf carts, and a little dirt bike on a five-acre plot where they live since he was 6.
“He’s watched me in derbies for years,” Schultz said. “I want to be aggressive out there and make smart shots.
“One day I looked out in the yard and he was driving one of our golf carts backward and I thought, ‘Wow, he’s been paying attention.’”
Driving in reverse is a skill that could win Parker the derby. Schultz expects most drivers will use the front of their mowers to bash into each other because mowers typically travel faster in forward than reverse.
“His will probably do about 6 mph, which doesn’t sound very fast, but it’s fast on a mower,” Schultz said. “Newer Hustler mowers do about 13 mph, which is flying on a mower.”
Once repairs and modifications are complete, Parker will test drive the Lawn Lion much as Schultz test-drives demo cars.
“I just get out and hammer down on the car for a while to check and see if is stands up to the abuse,” he said. “I’ll just turn him loose, and we’ll check to see if it has any issues.”
Continuing his father’s passion for smashing, Parker is looking forward to competing against friends, but most of all he is ready to make the Lawn Lion roar.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I like driving. When I get bored, it clears my mind.”