Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another one back from the dead!

Christmas Eve eve I went over to Ed's and finished the deal for his '77 Pantera. Angie has wanted this sled since Ed hauled it home so when I heard he was looking to get rid of it I knew I should get it. Unfortunately it had sat out for a year and wouldn't start so we manhandled it into the truck and I dropped it off at home. The yesterday I finally manhandled it into the garage. There wasn't any gas in the filter so I started by cutting away all the gas lines and rebuilding the pump. The kit I'd bought for the pump was too small but I cleaned everything good and put in new check valves, then put it back in the sled with all new gas lines. Before I connected it to the carb I pulled the engine over a couple times to prove the pump was pumping which it was.

Today I connected the carb and free'd up the slide which was sticky but the sled still wouldn't go. I shot some starting fluid down the plug holes and the sled fired right up which at least proved it COULD run. So I pulled the carb, the bowl was completely empty and the needle was sticky so I shot some carb cleaner into it until it moved reliably, cleaned everything good and put it back together. 5 pulls later and it fired right up. It took a good 5 minutes for the goo to work through and get to where the sled would idle correctly and get good throttle response.

I also had to spend some time to free up the brake too, I think it was just frozen but I pulled the cable and shot some oil in until it moved good. Once the engine warmed up the brake light even worked properly.
The only real issue with the sled is that the trunk door is missing. I know its at Ed's house somewhere but we couldn't find it. I'll look again in the spring.

Before getting the sled running today I made the trip down to Worcester and found the snowmobile/boat/atv registry. Hint its in an unlabled building... The lady was very nice and now both the Pantera and Grand Touring are legal to ride in MA. Now all we need is snow...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snowmobiles are fun?

Finally got some time to get snowmobiles out;

The Tigre started up surprisingly well, maybe 10 pulls, ran strong and idle well considering its still got last year's gas. Later I tried to run it some more and the pull cord came out and stayed out, Grr...

The Grand Touring was a bitch, no primer action, no start action. Shot some starting fluid in and still no start action. Ether down the plug holes got some action but no pumping magic. After a HUGE effort the thing is in the garage where I realize no gas is getting pulled out of the tank. I wasted a bunch of time figuring it was frozen only to realize I could siphon gas out before the filter. My bet now is theres a leak somewhere. The big hassle is that this system uses fuel line bigger than the 1/4" stuff I'm used to. I'd like to disconnect the line at the pump and see if I can siphon there which would probably tell me the pump is bad but the danged thing is buried down in the belly of the sled and the right carb has to come out to get to it... Thats my next step I think...

I think my plan is to replace all the fuel lines once I find a source for them (need to find a nearby Ski-Doo dealer) as well as the primer tee. Last winter gas was definately getting out, it'd take a bunch of pumps on the primer to get gas into the line and then I'd have to keep pumping the primer to keep the sled running while the carbs filled. So clearly theres a leak somewhere. I figure the lines are probably all original and need replacing...

Good fun, goood fun... Never did get the Wankle Panther going, it was basically out of gas and I had to rob its primer and primer line to prove the primer on the Ski-Doo was good (it wasn't, at one point I did get it to pull gas but it pee'd on my hand) I bought a replacement which I've yet to install...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another winter?

So here it is the first of December...
Sheesh I don't feel like a Dead Sled Wrencher right now... Its cool today but above freezing. The slight skim of ice I was seeing on the edges of ponds is already gone. Rain is in the forecast.

*sigh* It ain't easy being a snowmobiler.

Still I plan to get some sleds running soon, maybe Sunday. I'm buying a parts car for my daily driver and I'll need to move the Grand Touring from its summer slumber. Saturday I'll stick the battery charger on it and see whats what.
I've committed to buying Ed's Pantera. Thats going to be the first sled I keep in the garage over the summertime, its in real good shape now and I want to keep it that way. I'd also like to make it the first vintage sled I register to ride on the trails. I need to check in with Randy to see whats needed to do that. We figure to register that and the Grand Touring in MA this year since Eddie and Carol had such a great time riding in Lake Dennison last winter.

I also need to rebuild my dogsled. Angie crashed one of the skis into the tractor last winter breaking the tip off. I've never been real happy with that sled, it was too wide which ment you couldn't ride on the back of it and it didn't ride in the tracks behind the snowmobile. I've got plans (in my head) for the Mark II which will include iron brackets too lift the body of the sled off the skis (arched for better clearance) and a simpler base design combined with better side panels to keep wood from falling out.

Just need time to build it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NH Snowmobile museum?

Anybody know whats up with the NH Snowmobile museum? They're website is suspended... I hope nothing bad is going on.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

MA House Docket 3795

If you read my posts other places you've seen me cross post this, sorry....

Okay gang state Representative William Smitty Pignatelli has submitted House Docket 3795 to the MA state legislature this year. Basically this bill is to allow for vintage snowmobile registration and would create a situation much like NH and ME where owners of vintage and antique snowmobiles could pay a one time fee to register their sled for as long as they own them.

This is a great way to get more people into the clubs and more cool old sleds out on the trails. More people means more money for the clubs which means more groomers etc...

The way to get this thing passed is to write/call/email your state reps and show your support. Only by putting pressure on our elected officials will this bill go anywhere. Last year it died in comittee....

You can find out who your state legistlator is by checking based on the town you live in. Drop them an email at the very least, it only takes a minute...


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another good show

Last weekend was the 2009 NHSMA winter rally, as usual it was a great show. Saturday night was the banquet with guest speaker Doug Hayes. Doug is a hall of famer who raced for Mercury back in the day. His talk was outstanding, I videotaped the whole thing. With luck we'll be selling copies at the spring swap meet.
The rally on Sunday was surprisingly well attended considering the Owl's Head show was the same day. NHSMA cut down some trees near the museum and its opened up the infield nicely and makes the area look much bigger. The Model T snowmobile was unveiled and rides were given. I got a ride in it, I gotta say its quite the thing. You can feel the body shift and flex, I can't imagine riding in it at any speed...
For the first time in 8 years of going to the show Angie and I went on the trail ride, this was a five mile loop and I was pleased that my '71 Panther 303 made it round trip with almost no issues. I REALLY need to put a new carb on that sled though, the HL Tillotson has a wicked bog at low speed, theres just about nothing between idle and 1/4 throttle and then the sled takes off like a shot. At one point on a big downhill the engine quit but fortunately I had the presence of mind to grab the starter handle and give a pull, the engine fired right back up... Out of the whole ride only one sled (a Panther, 399 maybe?) conked out and they had a new 2000+ machine to go recover it with.

Anyway as usual an outstanding show. I got some video of the show but my back was bothering me something awful so I dunno how good it'll be.


Friday, February 13, 2009

What happened to prices?

I got into vintage snowmobiling on the leading edge, now it seems like there are tons more people. You'd think that prices in that case would go up. There aren't any more old sleds than there ever were but there are more people wanting them so supply and demand kicks in.

So I'm trying to sell my '81 El Tigre. Mechanically this is a good sled, maybe 8 out of 10. Cosmetically not so much, maybe 5 out of 10. So I price it at $600, I want to buy Ed's Pantera and I figure $600 is a good price for that sled so I price mine to get the money I need. I get exactly 2 responses, both saying the sled is "too rough". For $600 I expect either a looker that doesn't run or a runner that looks a little rough. I've bought a couple $350 sleds that didn't look very good and didn't run well so I figure I'm about on with this price but apparently those prices are "so 4 years ago"...

I hate to offer Ed less money for his sled, he paid $900 when we got into sledding 8 years ago and while its been banged up a little I don't want to insult him with a low price...

I think Eddie paid $1100 for his Tigre in '01. It looked pretty much perfect other than needing decals, isn't $500 fair for a little cosmetic work? The interesting thing is that people seem to not want to dicker or offer a lower price. This is the second time I've seen this recently. If you read the other blog you'll see where I was stymied by a junkyard man last summer who wouldn't dicker on a hood. I was amazed and I'm amazed now...


Thursday, February 12, 2009

It'd almost make you cry

I go to one snowmobile show, yeah thats contrary to what you'd see on my website. I'd wanted to go to more shows this year but busy schedules and all. Why are so many snowmobile shows on Sunday? I'd prefer Saturday, sure I gotta get up early but with a Sunday show I gotta drive home and go to work the next day. The NHSMA show is great because its President's day weekend so I've got a day to recover.

Anyway its in the low 50's today with continued mild weather predicted for the weekend, I'm thinking there will be snow for the NHSMA show (should be just over freezing for the show) but nothing like we've had for the last couple weeks...

Oh well, it'll be better than the year we were there and there was zero snow.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another sale

So while I was on the 2 breakdown ride the other day it occured to me that since I've gotten the Grand Touring I haven't ridden the Tigre hardly at all and a big part of it is because while the thing is fun and fast and all it isn't terribly comfortable and if I'm not going to ride it I really ought to get rid of it. I've got 5 sleds right now and thats just too many.
Then I talked to Ed who mentioned he wants to sell his gorgeous '79 Pantera and that sealed the deal right there, the Tigre has got to go.
So for sale, 1 1981 Arctic Cat El Tigre 500cc Suzuki freeair engine with 150# of compression on each side, starts really easy, runs strong and fast.

A little bit cosmetically challenged, the hood is from an older Tigre, it has both types of hold down so you can choose which you like better. The heated grips work great, I put a new switch on last winter. New fuel lines last winter but they've hardened and should really be replaced although I've zip tied them on for safety. Carbs were cleaned last winter and the carb boots were replaced. New coil last winter, new headlight bucket and glass and new head and tail light bulb last winter.
The only thing I know doesn't work is the brake light but that'll be just a dirty switch which I think is in the handlebars, its definately not on the brake itself, I spent time looking for it the other day.
$600 and I'll deliver free to the NHSMA show this Sunday in Concord, NH.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

So lets say

Lets say you sank your Ski-Doo in a brook (see my post from yesterday)

and you bring your Cub Cadet tractor to pull it out and find yourself in this situation:

Probably means you're having a tough day huh?

Not so bad for us, we'd brought ramps and plenty of muscle, we were soon back on track.

I put a strap on the worst stuck ski while Bryan put ramps underneath.

I got the sled fired up while Bryan chipped some ice away. I was pleased that the Doo started easy.

I put Bryan on the Cub Cadet and got on the Doo, Angie took pictures. The plan was that if the Cub couldn't pull enough she'd hop on with Bryan to give added weight and therefore traction.

It turns out we didn't have to worry, after some mad scrabbling and sliding the sled came out with very little drama...

In fact the big drama was at the end as we couldn't get the Cub Cadet to climb the hill back up to the road. As the front tires started up the hill the rears wanted to dig for China. We strapped the wankle Panther to the front and I held it wide open and managed to drag the Cub up and out. I always knew that 303 rotary had some torque and towing power and I was very pleased with its effort on this.

Anyway big thanks to Bryan for his help and his most excellent camera, the pictures shown here are small percentages of the quality available in the originals. There are loads more pics too, at some point I'll make a video...


Saturday, January 31, 2009


Angie and I took the Ski-Doo out for a ride tonight. We wanted to explore over by lake Monomonac. On the way in we had to ride around one water hole. On the way back for some reason I decided we could cross the waterhole rather than go around.
The ice around the edge is severly undercut so the skis caught and we came to a DEAD stop immediately. Angie bailed out and filled her boots with water...
I had Angie try backing up while I pulled (yay reverse) but the skis got caught under the ice going backwards. So we went in the woods and collected sticks to make a ramp out of the water. Now for some reason the sled won't go forward, I don't know if its stuck in reverse again or if its just stuck...

So, can't go forward, can't go back... Of course I forgot my camera. We called Angie's parents and walked out. Fortunately we were right by the grocery store so we waited for them there.

My plan tomorrow is to take my Cub Cadet tractor and the Wankle Panther, the sleigh and ramp boards. I'll wedge the ramp boards under the skis, hook the tow strap on the skis and pull... I think I'll buy a come-along. I'm not sure the Cub Cadet can pull the Ski-Doo out by itself but if we wedged it into place with some firewood behind the wheels a come-along will pull pretty hard....

1 ride, 2 breakdowns, still made it home!

Took the El Tigre out for a ride last night, I hadn't had it out of the yard yet this season... After a mile or so I noticed it was pulling even when I came of throttle. Af first I thought it was just the clutch sticking and didn't worry much about it. Then the carbs started to pop at low throttle. I got the sled turned around quick and headed back.
Pretty soon I realized that it wasn't the clutch sticking it was one of the carb slides so I stopped and shut it down. Immediately the bulb in my flashlight burned out... Fortunately it was bright enough outside I could see that one of the carb tops had come off. If the slide had come all the way out of the carb I'd have been in a world of hurt!
So I screwed the top back on and took off again, the sled running much better now. Pretty soon it just slows down and quits. This time I worked by cell phone light and found the gas line to the carb I'd worked on before had come off. I put the line on as best as I could but the clear plastic had gotten hard. I replaced all the gas lines on this sled last year. I'm not pleased with the clear plastic, the blue tinted stuff stays soft and doesn't have these problems. I won't use the clear again. I also noticed that the carb boot was kind of loose, of course I didn't have a screwdriver with me to tighten it...

So now the belly pan has gas in it. When I was a kid some friends had an El Tigre like this one which caught on fire presumably from a similar situation... So I left the hood up for 5 or 6 minutes and threw some snow down in the bellypan in the hope that it would dilute any remaining gas and fired it back up. The sled ran rough for a few secconds and then we were off but I took it easy, I didn't want that gas line coming loose or the carb falling off...

Got home with no further issues. Tightened the carb boot and put zip ties on those two gas lines until I get a chance to replace them. I'll put zip ties on ALL the gas lines before I do any more riding and on the new lines too.

I'm also going to start carrying a few more tools. A flashlight with a spare bulb, a screwdriver and a few zip ties for a starter!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snowmobiler hurt

From the Keene, NH Sentinel:
"On Sunday, Susan Roser of Gardner, Mass., was hurt in a snowmobile accident in Marlborough when she lost control of her vehicle and went over an embankment — hitting a tree and a granite bridge along the way, according to Marlborough Police Det. Steven E. LaMears. LaMears didn’t know the full extent of Roser’s injuries but said her arm was badly hurt.”

Angie and I were there, we'd ridden past the spot maybe 30 minutes earlier. We hit the end of the trail turned around and came back to find:

We were asked to stay back as they pulled the woman up out of the ditch. Its not really a bridge as the article says its a stone culvert under the railbed. She was riding north toward Keene, facing the same way as the sleds in the picture and drifted off the trail (to her left, the right in the picture) . She left the trail and fell into the ditch, fortunately she didn't hit the stone of the culvert but still the force must have been tremendous, it buckled the trailing arm on that side of the sled, broke the tie rod and flipped the sled on top of her.
After she was removed I got to take a picture of the sled:

Amazingly the sled fired right up and ran fine. Some firemen and a police officer muscled it around in a circle and used their Polaris Ranger to winch it up out of the ditch.

A fireman then tied a stick between the two skis to keep the one with the broken tie rod from flopping around and managed to ride it out of the woods.

For our part Angie and I had a nice 40 mile round trip from Fitzwilliam to Keene.


Monday, January 12, 2009

The new sled is fun, but....

Tried to go up to NH the other night with the new Ski-Doo. That thing goes like a bandit! Its tall though, I'd stopped a couple weeks ago at a tree down across the trail. This time I said to hell with it I'm going through. It was just the windshield pushing against the trunk anyway. The windshield dismounted itself, the little plastic posts that hold it on came off, so there was no real damage. I got stuck again not much farther along at another tree down, then damn near got stuck trying another trail. I'm going to try to figure out who owns or has responsibility for the trail so I can see about getting the two trees removed. I'd also like to see about getting permission to clean up the trail a little too, there are some major whoops that could be smoothed out and some bad ruts put in by idiots driving 4x4s down the trail. I'd like to get that turned into a real snowmobile trail and at least groom it a little...

Anyway the bigger problem I had was the sled wanting to overheat. Last time I rode I thought the temp was higher than I liked but it was pretty stable, this time it was leaning waaaayy up toward the hot zone making me nervous. Part of the problem was that the snow was crusty so I wasn't getting the snow up on the coolers the way I'd like to. The other issue I *think* is that there was some schumutz (theres a technical term for you) on the radiator cap preventing it from sealing correctly. I think it wasn't building up as much pressure as it ought to. I really should drain the coolant and replace too, it doesn't hold that much and who knows how good the stuff in there now is...

Anyway Sunday we got some new snow and I rode it around the yard without the schmutz in the cap and it seemed to stay cooler. I even got Angie driving it. She's really scared of the size and at first she'd only ride behind me and only with her head down and eyes closed. I took her over a couple of snow piles that I guess scared the snot out of her. After a couple loops though she got confident and was going faster than I ever would...

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Now that I've got the new sled (c'mon, compared to what I normally ride a '94 is brand spanking new) I'm thinking its time to get legal, get a trail pass.
The NH trail system is just north of my house, I get there and I'm good to Canada...

However, Eddie has registered in MA. The MA pass is actually 2 parts, you need a MA registration and a SAM (Snowmobile Association of MA) pass. To get a SAM pass you need to join a Snowmobile Club. MA registration is $40 for 2 years, the local club here is Coldbrook and membership with 1 SAM pass is $65. So $85 a year gets you on the trails...
NH wants $93 for a non-resident, non-club member. The closest club to me is the Monadnock Sno-Moles, they wants $25 for a memebership at which point NH only wants $63, so $88 a year. Personally I like the NH method more, it seems more upfront and I do appreciate that supporting the club is a good thing to do.
It also seems to make more sense for me to register NH since its a short ride on the sled to use the NH trails. To use the MA trails I have to trailer someplace...

The other thing is that when Angie and I go north to do the NHSMA show we may go up earlier the day before and ride the nice central NH trails... I think thats probably the best reason right there to register.

One last thing, to register in MA I'd have to go to Worcester and find the OHV (off highway vehicle) registry (or go to Boston). To register NH I drive to "Bottoms Up Grocery" in Fitzwilliam about 5 miles from where I sit right now...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wankle Panther runs!

For the first time in 3 years my '71 Arctic Cat Panther 303 Rotary took victory laps around the yard. I'd taken the recoil off and sprayed the points with contact cleaner and wiped 'em real good with a business card, then put it all back together. Seeing more like 6-8v at the coil now, up from 4-5v. Pulled the plug and got spark, not terrific but there.
Pumped the primer and pulled a couple times, nothing. Shot in some starting fluid, I hate starting fluid but I was getting desparate. Brapp, brapp, brapp. It started but ran fast and when I gave it throttle it'd die. I let it run for a second and killed it to make sure the switch still worked, it does...

Pulled the sled farther out of the garage and with another shot of starting fluid it fired again and this time idled, high but it idled. Hopped on and gave it throttle and off we went! Made a lap around the yard and back to the garage for more fuel. Then restarted and around the yard a bunch more times to get it warm.

Downsides: The switches are loose, getting it shut off sometimes involves fiddling.
The brake basically doesn't work at all...

Upsides: Very smooth, apply power and it takes off, no hesitation, no waiting. Feels powerful, comfortable seat.

Oh and its VERY loud. I need to do some more muffler work, its only leaking a little but has basically no stuffing inside. I think this summer I'll try to make a reproduction...


Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Snow compells me

The snow from before Christmas is gone, warm weather and rain stole it away. New Years eve it snowed again, the weather guessers said 6-10", we got a paltry 5", the guessers are not doing much for us this season...
Still I gassed up the Tigre today, it started with relatively little trouble, I could tell immediately when the new gas started hitting the carb, theres always less power in last year's gas... I may take a try on the trail tomorrow but I doubt it. No real snow in the forecast either....