Merc Project Sled: Part Three (Jim Tucker)
Published on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Snowmobile Tech, Vintage
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“It’s alive,” I shouted! My wife thought I was crazy to say this, but I wanted her there just in case one of the pistons launched itself into orbit and took me with it! The motor started right up with a little gas in the cylinders and revved to maximum rpm as if it wanted to be free of the chains from its extended slumber. A quick turn of the kill-switch and the engine was silenced once more. After all that work–the blood, the sweat, the tears, and oh yeah, I really did cry over this one — it was really running! Right away there were problems with the carbs, though it seems some of those pesky little jets were plugged with age-old gunk even after extensive cleaning, and the motor would not idle, but it finally started and ran. Whew! The time-frame was September and I had three months before snowfall to finish the chassis and all the mechanicals. I couldn’t wait — just like a school kid waiting for the summer vacation to arrive!

How would it run on the trails? Would I have strange electrical or mechanical problems that would plague this project? Last season my goal was to get the sled together, debug it, repair any problems, and then finish the restoration process this season.

Surprisingly there were few problems, some gifts along the way, and a “whole lotta knowledge” gained in the process. After the carbs were repaired, the chassis, suspension, seat, and other sections needed work. The whole bellypan had an array of nuts, leaves, and mice nests, not to mention the spiders, all waiting to be cleaned out. A real barn-find to say the least! Of all these areas, the hardest and most expensive to restore was the suspension. It was rusted-out, the shocks were shot, bolts rusted and the slides, of course, destroyed. The largest expense here was the shocks — which set me back about $300. These new shocks were better than original, offered slightly more travel, and even looked better. Way cool. New linkages had to be purchased, as well, which are way more heavy duty than stock, as the olds ones were worn out and rusted through. The slides were installed, followed by a quick cleanup with the portable wire wheel, and it was off to the races. This whole project took up at least one-half of the garage, as parts were in various stages of repair, rebuild, and painting and I am still finding lost parts and wires from the wire wheel in the nooks and crannies of the Man Cave!

I got most of this work done by snowfall and it was a good thing as I was really going bonkers waiting to ride the old bucket of bolts!! It seemed like the day would never come, but a snowfall did arrive early, and after a few pulls on the starter rope, the old beast fired right up. Sweet! Now it was crunch time. Off I went with no particular fanfare around and around the yard, lap after lap driving my wife and the neighbors crazy, but it was well worth it. I felt young again, just like I did when I was 21 and owned my ‘75 Merc Sno-Twister. No problems found — just some minor tweaks and adjustments was all that was needed

As you read this, the hood is being stripped and sent off to the body shop for painting, and various parts are on order to finish the project. The last of the broken parts are as follows: a bent tie rod, weak clutch spring that caused a bog on takeoff, a seat cover that has seen better days, a rope handle that melted on the exhaust, and carb intake boots that looked like Swiss cheese! I am still working on a way to polish the tunnel to a mirror-finish and make the bellypan shine. That info may just be another story idea!

I registered the sled with the state, joined my favorite club, and am pleased to report that the machine runs, handles, and rides very well. Total cost of the project: $1,300 including a $200 price tag for the sled itself. Funny how these things work out. I could have bought one restored to the current condition of mine for the same price! Don’t be fooled — you will not do this type of project to make money. It is more for the knowledge gained and the good feeling that you did it from the snow up, that counts here.

This is the final series in the Merc project sled. I’ve had a blast doing this and cannot wait for my life to settle down more so that I can do more restorations. I hope that I have inspired others of you out there in Vintage Land to do the same. Dream big… it’s the only way!

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