Snowmobile Forum banner

1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It's been more than 25 years since I owned a sled, and I'm seriously thinking about getting back into it (with my wife). I'm considering buying a vintage sled for me (probably something from the 90s for her), such as a mid-70s Polaris TX. My concern is the availability of critical "wear" parts on that kind of machine (track, engine, sliders, brakes). We live in West Michigan and would trailer the sleds for a couple of hours to get to our riding destination (groomed trails). Would I be better off getting into something at least from the late 80s if I'll be putting on say 500 miles per year? Obviously the newer sleds are more comfortable and convenient (oil injection being one item), but that aside, what are the other considerations? I love anything vintage, and my best friend from HS had a 74 Colt SS that I lusted after at the time (it's handling was light years ahead of my big 73 Yamaha SL292).

Thanks!
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
18,338 Posts
After riding sleds with a bit of suspension travel to soak up the bumps, my back hurts just thinking of riding some of that old iron. Lack of some parts is definitely a concern, make sure you get something with a standard sized track. An early Indy 500 would seem to fit your needs, they built that engine for a LOT of years, it has adaquate HP, parts are still available. The 500 has a really great reputation for durability, too! When looking for a vintage sled, it's a lot about how it was maintained, and to what is available when you are looking. There are some really good sleds out there for cheap prices. Have fun in your search!

Welcome to the forum!
 

·
twins rule!
Joined
·
370 Posts
I started upgradeing from old iron 3 years ago, at 57 my body just couldnt take it. you may want to ride a vintage sled FIRST+see what your body tells you. after getting my first polaris edge my body felt like it was 30 again on the sled.

500 miles a year is not much ridin but, one bad bump could end your season on old iron.I gave the wife a 2001 edge with 500 miles on it +she says her neck still hurts her.I can tell you if there not comfortable they will not ride much, if at all. good luck with your come back, It WILL make winter a lot more FUN to live with.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
51 Posts
old iron

I like old sleds, probably because I am cheap, but it can take the fun out of riding if you arent comfortable or keep having mechanical problems.

Practically, the best 'deal' is to look for a low mileage 90s trail sled that has led a garaged life. Not hard to find around my neck of the woods, for $1500. This way you have decent suspension and reasonable handling/power. I have a 79 Yammie that I take on rides, but the riding position really stinks for anything more than an hour. Plus it drinks gas terribly and leaves me with a nice two stroke scent.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
228 Posts
I believe vintage sleds can be close to modern ones in reliability. Of course, newer is better than older.

Early sleds' main reliability issues are carburetion and ignition. Fuel supply can be a huge problem too, what with sediment in tanks and all.

Best thing to do is replace all lines and filters, clean and overhaul carbs (believe me, this IS important!), renew gaskets and seals, and replace all "iffy" bearings.

Of course, you want to be sure your suspension shafts are well-greased and moving freely. Slides and/or bogies need to be in good working shape.

Remember back in the day, vintage sleds were at the state of the art!

A common thread that bound all my long-distance travelers back in the day were dual track drives, slide suspensions, Mikuni carbs (with a few exceptions) and CDI ignitions. Points/magneto ignitions can be very reliable, but they do need regular maintenance.

The most reliable old school sled I had was a '76 John Deere 440 Liquifire. This was during the late '80s. It had a complete overhaul, and I rode it ALL OVER the Maine ITS trail system. I checked it regularly, but it only ever needed cleaning and greasing.

My '79 El Tigre 5000 was super reliable, but it was finicky about air temps. My best friend, a good sled tuner, had a tough time gettting it tuned to run well most of the time, but once he'd got it, it stayed in tune pretty well. It never liked temps near or above freezing- that's the cross you bear with free-air engines. I finally wound up carrying two sets of extra jets; one for very cold nights and one just in case I got caught out by warm temps.

Had decent luck with my '74 Chaparral SSX 340, but the carbs were a constant hassle. They were very fussy and needed constant adjustment to run good. They were NOT slidevalve Miks, but butterfly/floater BNO's. In retrospect, I'd have fitted it with slide valve Mikunis and a separate fuel pump.

My '79 Scorpion Li'l Whip was also very reliable, but its points ignition did need checkups on a fairly regular basis, and frankly its Walbro WF carb was a piece of sh*t. It was possible to make it run well, but it didn't stay in tune very well.

You can probably run any sled from the mid '70s and up with good reliability as long as you're sure it's in good mechanical shape.

Good luck to you and have fun.

Seeya on the boards.

-Strato-
 

·
Vintage Sled Pilot
Joined
·
533 Posts
I ride vintage on the trails all the time. I ride a '89 Eltigre' EXT for my main rider. My son (11) is currently riding an '88 Yamaha Exciter. It's funny you should mention a mid '70 tx. I was given a '78 TXL 340 left for dead. The suspension was junk, so with the help of this forum, I learned how to install a suspension out of a 91 Indy. I now prefer to do short rides on that machine, but if I am going to ride 100+ miles in a day, I ride my EXT. It has about 8" of travel and has never left me reaching for the Advil!
 

·
Snow Destroyer
Joined
·
32 Posts
This a personal opinion, but when it comes to the older sleds, I try and stay away from the first generation of liquids and stay away from free air. I find that the fan cooled engines were reliable and generally simple to work on. I have in some cases had trouble with the older (70's) liquids and rotting lines etc.... I'm not saying they aren't good with good maintenence etc.. but the fan cooled motors never had that issue. I would also try and find one that is cooled with the crank style fan and not a belt. (once again one less thing to break). In regards to ride, these guys are right, if the wife is not happy, nobody is happy. I found my wife a 79 Kawi Drifter 340 that she loves because it's super light and quiet comfortable. Myself, on short rides, I like my 71 Polaris Charger 488 or my 71 Ski Doo T'NT widetrack. Both can be spine tinglers, but I haven't had one bad enough on trail riding that it put me out for the season. I have had them bad enough off trail though lol. Good luck!
 

·
Vintage Sled Pilot
Joined
·
533 Posts
I forgot to address your concerns a bout finding parts. There two huge sled salvage yards here in michigan. One is in Cedar Springs and one in Mount Pleasant. I personally have visited the one in Mount Pleasant a lot. Parts are still available in these types of places, as long as you don't go along the lines of a Skiroule, Speedway or a Blue Goose. If you stick with one of the 4 main brands, you should be fine.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
162 Posts
I believe stratoman is right about having your sled maintained whether it is new or vintage.Just like all machines they accumulate wear and tear.I myself have a 1977 kawasaki snojet and have 5000 miles on and still enjoy it every year.Of course i perform regular maintenance plugs and clutch belt and lubricate suspension and chaincase.Which ever way you go lots of luck and remember you will see new machines out there broke down just like the old ones.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
228 Posts
This a personal opinion, but when it comes to the older sleds, I try and stay away from the first generation of liquids and stay away from free air. I find that the fan cooled engines were reliable and generally simple to work on.
This is a great point.
I had good luck with both my vintage liquid sleds, but they required full replacement of all the coolant hoses and radiator caps. The heat exchangers were cleaned and checked, and the water pump on the Chaparral had the seal replaced.

Got to stand by my free-air El Tigre. It was just plain dependable, no matter what the circumstances. With that said, the 500cc Spirit free-airs were light years ahead of other makes and models for reliability. The 340 Kohlers used in early Spitfires were really dependable as well, not so much the Kawis on later models.

The VERY best old sled I had was my '87 Yamaha SRV, but I'm not totally sure it qualifies as "vintage". Although it had an axial (belt-driven) fan and butterfly Keihin carb, it was super-easy to work on, stayed in tune, and was stone-cold reliable. The "Pro action Link" rear suspension is one of the most comfortable I've ever ridden, and it goes without saying that the TSS front handled and rode well.

In all, I'd have to agree with you about fan-cooled sleds!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
34,103 Posts
Belt driven fans are just as reliable as any other as long as the belt is maintained. Most tend to neglect this part.
If you do not know when that belt was last replaced, just put a new one in and tension it properly and it will last for years. Also check the fan bearings while you are in there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
477 Posts
I believe you can ride vintage in comfort depending on how well the trails are maintained. I ride at tug hill ny, at let me tell you those trails can get beat up bad real quick. I ride a 1998 arctic cat zrt with 13.5" of travel in the rear and it still beats me up when the trails get rough and im 33 years old. When the trails are taken care of its as smooth as glass. Tug hill ny is just a heavely riden area. Not sure how busy your trails are though. I took my 76 john deere liquifire on a ride before and the first day was great then the next day the trails were so bad i turned around and went back until the groomers came back out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
477 Posts
Oh yeah parts... like said above stick with the popular brands if you go vintage. I can still get just about anything for my 76 john deere. I must say that my deere is very reliable. I've beat the crap out of that sled before trying to ride rough trails and it took it. Now me on the other hand.... couldn't take it. I actually did an upgrade on my deere that gave me 2" extra travel on the front and rear. Haven't tryed the trails since i did that yet.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
34,103 Posts
Before my Wildcat, it was an 80 Pantera as my primary sled. Great trail sled and a comfy ride as long as you kept the speed reasonable. Now the Wildcat is no vintage, but with it's original suspension, I could ride with any new sled and keep up just fine. With the upgraded suspension, it's even easier to do. Keep in mind that I'm 56 and still can out ride most of the younger riders anytime I choose to.
 

·
Sled Of The Month Judge
Joined
·
2,841 Posts
I would recommend the Yamaha Exciter. My 1979 is zippy, and if you can find one in decent shape, it'll last you a while. They are under $1000 Unless it is mint, then they can get up to $2500. They have plentiful parts available. They ride ok, but don't have much travel. I am 14 and I don't have much money, so this is my primary sled. The Exciter will keep up to the newer sleds up to 60, Then it will climb slowly to 85+. The carb stays in tune pretty well, and it has CDI ignition.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Vintage Sleds.... They are hard on the body but good for the soul!!!

They make fun trail sleds and even better 'bush' machines.

If you have a love for vintage sleds then find one you like and run it for a while. You cant beat the price and you can always sell it without much loss
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top