Carb Cable Blues (By Jonathan Holland)
Published on March 15, 2010 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Vintage
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How to sing the Carb Cable Blues.

There’s nothing like wrapping your glove-covered hands around the pull cord of your freshly tuned and restored vintage snowmobile. This was the beginning of what was planned to be a great day of riding with my dad and one of our friends, Brian Hughes. We were all on our vintage sleds. My dad was riding a classic 1969 Panther, Brian was riding his 1978 Jag, and I was riding my 1971 Panther 399.

To understand the pain I felt this day, let’s rewind this story. My snowmobile has been my pride and joy; those who have been to the Old Iron Dogs Vintage Shows know I have worked hard getting my sled to show-ready condition. Starting at the age of twelve, and with help from my dad, my sled was looking great. The last work I had done to the sled before this ride was changing out the carburetor to a Mikuni. When installing the carb I picked up a new throttle cable from a local shop near me. This cable wasn’t the same as the original, but the shop said, “It should work.” The sled ran great around the yard, so we planned a ride in Upton State Park on the upcoming weekend.

Carb Cable Blues for my arctic cat

Back to the ride: After that first spark, the pistons started thumping in time with the pop of the exhaust. We were now all ready to go for our ride. We headed-out taking it easy, to make sure everyone’s sled was running well. As we came around the main loop in the park, we saw a lady riding her horse. It was very cool seeing a horse on a snowmobile trail; you don’t see that every ride. We passed her slowly and continued on our way around the main loop. As the sleds started heating-up, we started working up a sweat, as well, so we stopped to take a break by the small pond in the park. The day was going great, so you may be asking, what was wrong with this ride? Well, I’m not there yet.

After we finished the loop we were back to the main parking lot, but not done riding the park’s trails yet. We wanted to try the trails on the north side. Our sleds got started back up with one or two good pulls, and off we went down the entrance road. Now we had to cross the road to get to the other trails. I was the first one to go across. I looked both ways, start giving it some gas, and then I cut the handlebars sharp to the right. At that very moment it became clear that I was in for quite the event.

Carb Cable Blues arctic cat

That old ‘71 snowmobile hooked up and ripped across the street. While crossing the street in about point-five seconds, I slammed on the brakes and tried cutting the bars even harder to avoid one of the sturdiest trees my sled and I had ever met. That darn tree did not budge when my sled decided to head full-force, right into it. If I hadn’t hit the tree there was a small water hole that had my name on it, too. I guess if I could do it again, I would rather the sled have gone across at a “controlled speed,” not out of control and unable to stop.

Mr. Oak Tree didn’t mind, though; all he did was flutter his little leaves at me. The sled, on the other hand, took on some damage for sure. The broad impact bent my bumper into the belly pan. At the same time the hood flew open, then slammed shut: almost as violent as the impact itself. The hit was hard enough to break the spark plugs! The period of time that this took place in was so brief, probably all of three or four seconds, if that. My dad was right behind, waiting for me to cross the road. He looked left, he looked back, and I was gone; my sled had crashed. All thanks to that cable. It sure fixed my sled, all right! Later on we figured out that the more I turned the handlebars the more gas the sled got, all because of that cable! I had questioned whether that cable was the right one, and come to find out, it wasn’t! There’s nothing like wrapping your newly-restored sled around a tree!

Carb Cable Blues smashed bumper

As for that Panther, she is fixed, running again, and still purrs like a little kitten. As for myself… I bailed out a second before hitting the tree and walked away with only the pain of knowing that my poor sled was meeting Mr. Oak Tree. So, now you can understand the grief I had gone through that day. Since then, I have been playing around with a “beater sled”; one that I have taken out on vintage rides here in Massachusetts. If this sled hits a tree, that tree better beware! If you go to the vintage rides you will not miss this beauty! Just look for the Arctic Cat, which is part 1971, ‘72, ‘73, ‘74, and ‘77 Puma, Cheetah, and Lynx with a 1981 John Deere Kawasaki engine. The sled went to the top of Mt. Greylock last March and towed back a Ski Doo. If you ride a Ski-Doo (I am sorry) I won’t hold it against you as long as you don’t mind riding behind me! Think Snow!


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