A Victim of the Habit

Vintagesleds.com member toocheaptosmoke tells a familiar tale of the thrill of the hunt, the art of the deal and the hazards of wrenching on old sleds….

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If you’ve been into old iron for very long then you might be able to relate. The
scenario seems to play out over and over again. You’re just minding your own business,
tending to practical matters and being financially responsible, when out of nowhere some relic from the past appears and you’re forced to buy it. I swear it must be a medical condition, at the end of the day you’re bewildered as to how you’ve come home with empty pockets and a full trailer. Old snowmobiles in particular seem to trigger this disease.
 
This particular adventure all started one night while I was on my way to an evening class at the local college. The cell phone rang, it was a member of my reconnaissance team (i.e., a local friend) with a hot tip, he said there’s an old sled for sale less than half a mile from my house, sitting in a front yard! The cell phone reception was sketchy, and so was the description of the sled, but it was just enough to trigger a relapse of my UJAD. (Useless Junk Acquisition Disorder) What I gathered from the informant was that it looked like a 1970’s Ski-doo, black, with a red stripe on it. So now I had to suffer through three hours of Art History, trying to concentrate on paleolithic cave paintings with that carrot dangling in front of me… It wasn’t happening, too busy racking my brain over what type of Ski-doo it could be. Citation SS? 1981 Blizzard?? 1975 245 RV?!?
 
Little bit after 9:00 PM the class ended and I decided to do a nighttime fly-by to scope out the situation. Got into the vicinity and couldn’t see much from the dim head lights of the Jeep, but finally I spotted some reflective red tape down behind a big tree. Didn’t look to be a 245 RV, dang it… Couldn’t really see what it was, but had a feeling it was a Merc of some sort securely chained to that old tree. So the next morning I get up and decide to go check it out better in the light. Didn’t really want or need one of those big Mercs, but hey, you never know if the price is right. Head on over and there it sits, surprisingly no one else tried to buy it during the middle of the night. I drop down a gear and ease on into the driveway, which thankfully wasn’t very long. First thing I notice is BEWARE OF DOG signs clearly visible, in multiple locations. A few broken appliances and lawn tractors accent the property, but who am to talk, my back yard isn’t much better… Weave my way over to the flimsy screen door and get greeted by a couple of large german shepherds, I mean, we’re talking police grade dogs here! Eventually some guy corrals the canines and comes out to show me the sled. Turns out to be a 1972 Mercury Hurricane 644, with a seized engine, majority of the bogie wheels missing, and some amazingly decayed wiring. A real prime example of (s)crap. Of course, I figure it might be something worth picking up. After all, I didn’t drive a whole two minutes just to come home empty handed.
 
So negotiations begin, I ask how much for the sled, and the guy starts at $100. Ain’t happening I say…He rolls down to $50, I say it still ain’t happening… Then he counters with the classic “I could sell the hood on ebay for $50” line. Finally he asks me what I think it’s worth, I say 20 bucks is about it, the guy says it ain’t happening… I said that was cool, I understand, and we BS’ed for a bit, and it was brought up about how I like to wrench on old sleds. That’s when he gets an idea, and asks if I know anything about clutches, more specifically aligning them. I said I know a little bit.
 
So he tells me how he bought his son a Polaris Indy 600 the previous year but the thing eats belts, wants to know if I could help him get the clutches aligned in it. He says, “How about this, if you help me get those clutches aligned I’ll give you this sled for 20 bucks.” By that point I was in a weak state of mind, the allure of cheap junk mixed with the aroma of seat-foam mold just got to me. I said “Sure, sounds like a deal, I even have the actual Polaris clutch alignment tool for that sled!” We shook hands, I thought it was all good, the guy was happy that he found somebody to work on his son’s sled, and I had a new lawn ornament.
 
But that’s not the end of the story. I went back a couple days later to work on the
“Indy 600,” thinking it would be a breeze. I know the Polaris clutches well enough, no
big deal right? But, it turned out that it wasn’t an Indy 600 anymore… It had some sort
of early 70’s Yamaha fan-burner engine thrown into it, a primary clutch of unknown
origin (with only 3 out of 4 flyweights still intact), along with a random Arctic Cat belt
two sizes too small. Still had the original Polaris secondary clutch, but of course that was seized firmly onto the jack shaft. I was starting to get concerned about how I was going to pay my remaining debt. The sled was located out back in part of active chicken coop, where I had to worry about a lightly tethered dog pacing behind me, and a hornet’s nest about six feet in front. Now things were getting interesting. If that Merc didn’t weigh 700 lbs.(give or take a hernia), I would have seriously considered loading it back up and trying to return it for a full refund and then some. Long story short, through a mix of perseverance, penetrating oil, and possibly some black magic, that monstrosity of an “indy 600” came through with perfectly aligned clutches at the end of the day. The rest of the sled might not have run very well, or have run for very long before self destructing, but those clutches were in proper alignment… I even threw in a free used belt close to the right size for good measure.
 
Lesson learned: Sometimes the smallest price tags comes with the biggest headaches.
P.S. In a case of trying to make a right from two wrongs, I eventually combined another
sled (also purchased in a moment of bad judgment) with that old Merc to create the “Slo-Pro.” But that’s a whole ‘nother story…

victim2

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Waconia Charity Build 2016

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As the 2016 Waconia Charity Auction approaches, Everything
is coming together. With a great effort by all involved, the
dirty work is almost done. Time for you to warm up that
checkbook and make the project a complete success.

Waconia Charity Build

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Happy Holidays from VintageSleds

Thanks to Chris R who provides our holiday themed photo this year.
Wishing you a safe and snowy winter season. May you find smooth
trails and friendly rest stops in all your travels.

ChrisR

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The Great Circle of Life, and Snowmobiles.

The Great Circle of Life, and Snowmobiles.

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Part One.

My part in this story begins with an email from my son, Levi. He frequents “cafe racer” motorcycle message boards and, like the vintagesleds forums, the discussions veer off into other things people are interested in. One of Levi’s “message board friends” forwarded a Craigslist ad searching for old snowmobiles. Since his friend knew that we had plenty of those laying around he thought we may have excess inventory (is there such a thing when it comes to old sleds?) and might need to get rid of a few.

When I looked at the ad I noticed one of the pictures was of an old, blue Sears 309. My first thought was that I had a couple of those, and it seemed a shame that they were just sitting in the pallet rack so maybe I’d see if the guy might be interested in them. As I looked closer I noticed that the Sears in the ad looked an awful lot like one of the sleds I had, as a matter of fact it looked EXACTLY like one of the Sears sleds sitting in my barn!

My journey with the Sears sleds began at the A1 show in 2005. I had taken a few sleds up there and had sold or traded them all. I ended up trading one of the sleds on a Skiroule S-250 so I’d have something different to bring home. Shortly before I left someone came up & really wanted the little Skiroule. We agreed on a price and the sled went off with its happy new owner. This presented a problem; I was at the A1 show, I had an empty trailer and I had cash in my pocket. I think there is an unwritten rule that you are not allowed to leave a snowmobile swap meet under these conditions. Since everyone else was packing up or leaving we made a panic trip around the field and came across a couple guys standing by their trailer looking a little frustrated. It seems that they had the trailer full but still had one more sled that needed to go in… a Sears 309. They seemed happy to make a deal and I was happy to have a different sled to stare at in the barn.

Over the next few years I picked up another Sears up around Kalkaska, MI. I also picked up a parts chassis on the East end of PA. Like most of my projects the Sears sleds sat on the pallet rack waiting until I got motivated to get something done with them. Like most of my projects, that day never seemed to arrive.

So, when the wanted ad for an old Sears showed up, and not just any Sears; the Sears I actually had, I was pretty intrigued to hear the rest of the story. When I made contact through Craigslist the person that had placed the ad seemed pretty interested. It was cool to hear the story of how the sled was found and was brought back to operational status again. It didn’t take long to make a deal that we were both happy with. It ended up being being a great story and a lot of fun to be part of it.

Normally this is where the story would end. During the conversation I realized the guy I was talking to was named Marc and he lived somewhere close to Grand Rapids, MI. This caused a few of those long dormant neurons to fire somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain. On a hunch I did a search on the Internet for Marc Sebright and, BINGO. You see this story actually started many years before…

Our first family snowmobile was a 1973 Boa Ski Mark 1 292. We beat the tar out of that thing & eventually it went the way of all things that are not taken care of. Years later I started messing with old sleds and had the lingering urge to own another Boa Ski. I think around this time I searched the old VSCA classified ads page and found an ad for a pair of 1974 Boa Ski Mark 1 292’s. You guessed it, back in the late 90’s I had been to Marc’s place and got the first “hit” on my new Boa Ski addiction. I should have known it was coming – I was looking for ONE Boa Ski and bought two. I think since that time I’ve bought at least 20 more. As a result of buying those two Boa’s I also became acquainted with Jim Wanasek (Boa Brother 1, AKA the Grand Potentate) and the rest of the Boa Brothers.

When I told my wife and a friend of hers this story, they didn’t seem impressed. They seemed to think that there were only about a dozen people in the US that were dumb enough to drag home derelict snowmobiles, so it would only stand to reason that we would run into each other again. I told them how many registered users the vintagesleds website has, but they think it’s a made up number.

So, I guess the moral of the story is you never know what paths may lead you back to people you met along the way. I hope the time your paths cross again with an old vintage snowmobile acquaintance it is a great event for you as well.

Todd Retterer  “Boaski”

Part Two.

This is the story of P8841, a 1969 Sears 309. In 1997 I was seventeen years old and a junior in high school. I was a budding vintage sledder, having only been in the hobby a couple of years. Gas was 99 cents a gallon, so I spent ever moment I wasn’t sleeping or in class roaming the back roads of lower Michigan, looking for old snowmobiles. They were everywhere back then, a seemingly endless supply, and most of them were free if you had the guts to knock on a few doors.

On this particular trip however, I hadn’t seen a single sled all day and had only managed to get myself lost about three hours Northeast of the Grand Rapids area. As I attempted to get oriented and find the highway, I spotted a pale blue machine sitting in tall weeds along a fence row. When I stopped, the owner gave me the same puzzled look I usually got, as if to say “Why would a young kid like you be interested in that old thing?” but granted me access anyway.

Wow! A Sears snowmobile! Who knew? This is common vintage knowledge now, but at the time my only resources were my dog eared Intertec snowmobile manual and the old VSCA website. I had heard of various ‘department store’ sleds but had never actually seen one. Unfortunately this one had seen better days. The skis were rotted and mangled, the tunnel bashed, the windshield broken, the seat was completely missing, and so were many of the primary clutch parts. An aesthetically challenged artist had rough stenciled the registration number P8841 onto the hood.

Even so, I had to own it. The owner, in addition to helping me gather my directional bearings, gave me the sled for free and helped load it. What a great guy. When I got the sled home, I drew on my limited knowledge and growing supply of old sled parts in the loft of my parents’ barn to resurrect the old machine. The skis and springs came from a ‘71 Ski-Doo Olympique. The 309 made way for a good running 335 Kohler single from a 420 Gilson.

By mid summer I had the sled running well on a Sprite bottle of premix, rigged to the running board. I had a blast zipping the Sears around on the grass at the farm. However by fall, under pressure from my folks to clean up some of the junk (mom’s words not mine) laying around the barn, I gave the machine to a friend. He gave it a quick spray can makeover and only rode it once or twice. I lost track of it after that.

Fast forward to 2015. I was in the market for an old single cylinder bomber as a backup machine and placed an ad on Craigslist. As an example, I used a faded photo of the Sears sitting in our barn. I never could have anticipated the response I got! I came home one day opened my e-mail to find a question, asking me if I’d like to have the exact same sled in the photo. I was blown away and asked for more details. Todd, the owner, sent me a half dozen photos of a 309 wearing Olympique skis, a 335 Kohler single, and a hood with P8841 stenciled on it. How the sled managed to survive intact almost twenty years since I had last seen it was beyond me.

Apparently, after it was sold by my friend, it ended up at the A-1 New Lothrop show, where it was bought by Todd. He then collected parts from two other 309s with plans to restore one. Seeing how much the sled meant to me, he made me a deal I couldn’t possibly refuse, and everything was soon on a trailer back to Michigan.

I was beyond giddy to have the sled back in my garage, and immediately began preparing it for winter 2015. Since the few old photos of the machine show it wearing the faded original color, I chose to retain the current ‘patina’ and only rebuild what was necessary to make the Sears a rider. A few chassis cracks have been welded, the front-end rebuilt, the fuel system gone through, and the Kohler engine given new crank seals and a carb kit. The only modifications to the original build are a set of carbides, a windshield, and an actual seat. Otherwise it’s 1997 all over again, only this time it’s not leaving me in the fall!

Marc Sebright “69MarkIII”

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The Age Old Question.

The age old question….what does one buy a friend for his wedding?

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Wedding gifts tend to lean toward the female persuasion yet guys
tend to blissfully disregard this fact, simply thankful that the
event is nearly over. This summer, one of our very own club members
was tying the knot with a wonderful gal and I was left scratching
my head what to buy for a wedding present. Several months before
the wedding a couple of us club members had an impromptu gathering
in a garage and were discussing a very important topic….vintage
sleds. This is nearly a weekly occurrence and during the discussion
there is always a conversation that starts with, “Did you see that
sled for sale” on some website or bargain finder. During this
particular garage session, Blair mentioned he saw an older Ariens
for sale in Alberta. Despite having a very diverse hodgepodge of
vintage sleds in our stables, the Snowflakes did not have an Ariens.

Everyone reading this knows that the vintage sled “sickness” is
fueled by sleds you have never seen or ridden and the guys gathered
that night loaded up the web page and had a look simply out of
curiosity. Blair was smitten with the orange machine in the pictures
and although I think all vintage sleds are cool, I just didn’t see
much attractive in that old beast. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,
however, and despite my misgivings we encouraged him to call the
guy and make the deal. As we were 4 or 5 beers into our gathering
it seemed like a better and better idea to phone the seller,make a
deal and bring the Ariens home. Like most ideas fostered by alcohol,
the call was never made and the idea was soon forgotten.

The wedding loamed closer with each passing day and I was still at a
loss for a gift. My wife was not much help and I was starting to panic.
I was surfing the vintage classifieds (again) and was expanding the
radius to neighboring provinces when I came across that same old Ariens
ad. BOOM… Idea. Of course…the Ariens was the perfect gift for a vintage
sled collector like Blair. I wasn’t too sure what his bride would think
but I was content with the knowledge that the majority of gifts would
be mostly for her anyways. This one was for our vintage sled brother
and was sure to bring a smile to his face. I put out a plethora of text
messages to the club and the support was unanimous. We would all throw
in money and make it a club gift. I imagine that the reason for such
unilateral support was because everyone was facing the same dilemma as
I was….what to buy?!?

Now the logistics. We had to go get that sled, bring it home, clean it
up, make it run, hide it from Blair until the wedding and finally sneak
it into the gift area during the ceremony. I made contact with the owner
and he said that the sled had been in the family it’s entire life. I
thought his asking price was a little high so I offered him our price and
he declined indicating that the sled held sentimental value for him. During
our conversation it became obvious that he was not a vintage sled guy and
was getting pressure from his wife to get rid of “that old thing”. Like
most of us who have “the sickness” badly, I have made many many sled deals
over the years and have learned a trick or two during negotiations.
“Sentimental value, eh?” I thought to myself. “Wife wants it gone, huh?”,
I smiled. I explained to the owner that his sled could go to a guy who
fell in love with it months ago and who would surely look after it for
years to come. I explained that we actually have a vintage club and his
sled will be appreciated by us all. I explained that the fact it hasn’t
run in years didn’t detract from the beauty of the sled (small white lie).
I then went in for the kill and told him it was actually and truly going
to be presented as a wedding gift! I knew I had him when he repeated that
line to his wife as we were on the phone. The deal was done.

Many military campaigns have failed due to poor logistics and this
project almost never came to fruition for the same reason. The sled was
located almost 9 hours away and despite trying to arrange transport several
times, it didn’t look like we were going to make our deadline. It is funny
how some people will step up to make good ideas work and in this case, good
old Travis (Kube1) announced that he would make the trip and get the sled
regardless of the distance. How is that for a club member and a friend? He
loaded up his trailer, filled up the truck and made the horribly boring
trip to get it. A mere 16 hours of travelling and he was home with our prize.
The sled was in decent condition and without much effort, it was running.
Travis cleaned it up and we kept it hid away in his trailer until the big day.

On an overcast but pleasant August day, the wedding took place on Blair’s
acreage and a few Snowflakes were able to attend. Giggling like school children
we could barely contain ourselves during the ceremony. During intermission we
got the sled from the trailer and wheeled it in place right beside the other
gifts; blankets, towels, cups and saucers. It looked a little out of place but
to us it looked like the best present of the bunch. As we walked back to our
seats we caught Blair’s eye from the head table. Realizing we were up to no
good, he strained to see what we had just done in the gift area. For the
second time that day, Blair fell madly in love! He actually excused himself
from the head table and walked straight over to his new vintage prize. He
couldn’t believe he now owned the sled he drunkenly admired many months
previous. We had been concerned that the sled would be disruptive at the
wedding because, well, because it was big, out of place and kind of homely
(my opinion). On the contrary, the Ariens was a big success as many guests
took pictures of it and on it. Even after the booze began to flow freely
and Blair started it up several times the majority of the wedding guests
really admired the thoughtfulness of the gift.

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The decorations, the giant party tent and the guests are just a pleasant
memory now. That was one great wedding and one hell of a hangover for most
of us. Despite the event fading into memories, one wedding gift will
forever remind us of the joy of vintage snowmobiles and the joy of friendship.
Blair loves that stupid orange machine and he has it tuned and ready for snow.
If you are ever wondering what to buy your friend for his wedding, I highly
suggest a vintage snowmobile! Trust me it isn’t a bad idea.

ageold3a

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“Recoil”

(The Snowflakes Vintage Snowmobile Club is comprised of 20
members and is located near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada)

 

 

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