Merc Project Sled: Part Two (Jim Tucker)
Published on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Snowmobile Tech, Vintage
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Things have been going on at a fever pitch here in the man cave. The 1976 Mercury Trail Twister is starting to look like a real snowmobile, as the amount of work that I have put into this sled last winter has been simply amazing. My wife has even commented that the only thing I really care about lately is “that old piece of junk out in the garage.” I shot back quickly and said I haven’t had this much fun in years! Most of my chores have been falling by the wayside, and it shows. They will get done sometime in the future, I keep saying to myself. Most of you know what I am referring to here. It does not matter what type of conveyance you are working on. You can substitute a car, boat, motorcycle, jet ski or airplane in the above text for what type of machinery you are restoring right now. It does not matter what color or brand it is when the restoration bug bites you, but one thing is for sure – it bites hard and does not give up. Even when that dirty four letter word crops up, called work, the project itself is never really far away in your mind’s eye.

By the time you read this, the sled should be moving under its own power after sitting idle for so many years. It’s a wonderful thing – movement, that is! My goal from the get- go was to restore it to be a daily runner and not a show-quality sled–something that could be ridden around the trails in the local area and participate in a vintage ride now and then. Not that I have anything against show-only sleds, mind you, but in this humble writer’s opinion, the sled has to be ridden to understand the total vintage experience.

Along the way, I have learned a few things about the restoration process. I would like to share this info with folks that are into this sort of stuff, and also, with those that might want to get into it at some future date. The first axiom of restoration is to never throw anything away! All parts and pieces have some value, whether it is to replace an existing part or to use as a template to make up a new part. Heaven only knows if certain parts are still available, and if not, then you will need to have it made up custom from scratch. A picture is worth a thousand words, but the real thing in hand is priceless when describing the object to a custom parts guy.

The second axiom is to have a warm, well-lit shop with plenty of tools, an air compressor and a wire wheel. Oh yes, a wire wheel! A motorized wire wheel takes rust off metal, and there were times in the shop that I saw this wire wheel way more than my wife! Oh so many lonely nights at this contraption! I cannot emphasize how important it is to have tools that really work and the right tool for the job. Nothing frustrates me more than to not have the correct tools or substandard items to work with. I’ve been blessed to have attained the status of “the best tools in good working order,” and am very proud of my workshop. Could it be better? Of course! But life is a step process, building things up a little at a time.

Third, make sure you catalog how the engine and all other pieces come apart. Get the shop service and parts manuals. Take digital pictures and lay everything sequentially out on the bench. Then you know what goes where.

Fourth, do a web search on the internet for parts suppliers. I have gotten to know many nice people from info gleaned on the web–people who have given up their valuable time to help me on this journey of mine. Bob Kloiber of Image Enterprises is one such fellow. In his lifetime he has forgotten more than most people will ever know about the Mercury brand and as such these are the types of folks you want to search out in your journey. Also, many thanks to Tim Dziok, Devon Lane Farm Supply, and the paint wizards at Reece Autobody.

And finally I want to acknowledge the support of my loving wife who has overlooked many aforementioned neglected chores, and lots of swearing coming from the garage!

Well that’s it for now. If you are out riding and see parts lying in the middle of the trail- it might just be from my restoration project! Ha! Ha! Next up- Merc project sled part three.

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