While weiner, clean-handed automotive bloggers were preparing breathless items about the new Kia Rio, sipping a Mochachino and working up a semi to Ken Block videos, we were laying in the snow, snorting exhaust from a 1970s era John Deere snowmobile that hadn’t run in two years. Earlier this week, word spread that a massive blizzard was coming to our area, and two feet of snow were coming with it, our thoughts immediately went to the 1976 Deere snowmobile and all the mechanical hooliganism we could be involved with during the storm!
The snowmobile had been purchased from a John Deere dealer by my father in law several years ago. The guy at the dealer wanted to be rid of it and Tom is a good customer so a deal was struck. We rode it a little that first year and then it just sat in the woods, sinking into the ground for a couple years…until yesterday.
We used more aerosol products than a large scale meth lab, the base of a bird bath, and some creative fixes to square away a big fuel leak, but the old machine runs well and by the time you read this, we’ll be hauling ass up and down the road on it.
Read on for the story of the machine’s snowy revival from the depths of mechanical purgatory!
So here’s the patient. This is a 1976 John Deere snowmobile powered by a 340cc “Liqui-Fire” two cylinder, two stroke engine. The motor was designed by John Deere but was actually constructed by the Japanese company Kioritz (now known as Echo). As you’d guess by the name, the engine is liquid cooled, featured three Mkuni carbs, and makes 45hp @7200rpm.
Initially, the engine did not want to turn over, and the pull starter wouldn’t budge. After spraying Marvel Mystery Oil down the spark plugs and letting it work for a few hours, we were able to turn the engine by hand and then use the pull starter. We then proceeded to spin the motor a few time before winging the plugs out and shooting Ether right into the bores. We also filled up the gas tank with gas and two stroke oil. It took us a couple cans of Ether, but we did get it to start. The problem was that once we cut the Ether off, the engine would die. After replacing a fuel filter and spoon feeding the motor Ether, it seemed like we were in business. The engine really sounds pissed off when revved up. Both Tom (my father in law) and I were kind of shocked how well it ran for sitting so long and acting like it was stuck solid earlier in the day.
Here are some shots of the 340cc Liqui-fire engine.
Once we established that the machine would actually function by the way it acted with the Ether, we fueled it up. Note that we did not add windshield washer fluid to the gas tank. The icy blue coloration of the fuel came from the outboard boat motor two stroke oil we used (and was recommended by the manufacturer). A syringe of lead was added to the fuel as well because the manual for this motor recommends that it never be run on unleaded fuel. We probably wouldn’t have gone out and bought any of the additive, but since it was on the shelf we used it. With a full fuel tank the machine wouldn’t run on anything but the Ether. We discovered a heavily gummed up fuel filter, which we swapped with one from a John Deere garden tractor. Keep it in the family. Once we did that, voila! The machine was running on gasoline, and smoking like a coal locomotive.
After getting the thing running, we needed to check on the clutch to see if it worked and then to see if the belt would turn freely. Complicating matters was the fact that the snowmobile was absolutely frozen to the ground. We broke nature’s grip, whacked the throttle, and immediately starting shooting leaves, rocks, and whatever else was frozen to the track through the sky. The clutch was sticky as hell so we lubricated it with PB Blaster and Deep Creep while cycling it through the RPM range. By the time we were done, that baby was silky smooth. Our professional test stand was the bottom of a broken bird feeder. No one said that we were all that bright. In other news, the track saw 60mph while testing on the stand, according to the speedo on the machine. Smoke? Yeah, there was lots of that.
Believe it or not the smoke actually subsided after about a half hour of run time. With all the crap that accumulated in the exhaust, the fairly significant amount of ice and water in the fuel tank, and the fact that the engine had not made any noise since the Bush administration, we weren’t too freaked by the smoke. It sure made us smell like the inside of a tail pipe though. The last job was pulling the skis out of the frozen ground and chipping all of the frozen rocks and dirt off them so that they would glide over the snow. We got out the precision tools for this job, which were a hammer and a screw driver (flathead, we’re not hacks).
That pretty well concluded the exercise! The snow machine ran great and we rode it up to the parking space we have it in while the blizzard attacks. If this is the last dispatch you ever read from this byline, know that we went out trying to jump something on a heavy ass, old snowmobile. That’s a BangShift approved exit from this mortal coil.
Oh, here’s a parting photo of my father in law Tom (on the left), the racy 1976 John Deere snowmobile, and yours truly on the right, throwing the Dio and wearing a warm hat. Those designer coffee swilling, Kia writing guys can kiss my frozen ass.