Let it Snow!

Mercury studio photography of the legendary Sno-Twister.
Polaris race sleds, fitted with potent 800cc three-cylinder Kiekhaefer Aeromarine two-stroke engines making over 120 hp, won three consecutive USSA championships.

For some reason the colder weather and recent snow flurries has me reminiscing about Mercury Snowmobiles. Remember those? The infamous “lead sleds” (Mercury’s early and very heavy snowmobile – appropriately nicknamed) and legendary Sno-Twisters (when Mercury got it light and right)? Fred Kiekhaefer can expound more on the history: Fred has first hand experience with engineering, development and production of high performance two-stroke engines. Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Motors (KAM) supplied various snowmobile manufacturers in the early 1970s. Fred was VP of Engineering at KAM during Carl Kiekhaefer’s snowmobile engine years. A greatly expanded Mercury Racing is headquartered in that KAM engine facility today.

I was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie – on the Eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The “Soo” as it is often called, gets bombarded with lake effect snow from Lake Superior. If your into it, the U.P. offers hundreds of miles of scenic trails for the snowmobile enthusiast. It’s a great family sport – if you respect the machine and ride safely.

Mercury's snowmobile race support team (L-R: Mike Butler, Randy Hankwitz and former KAM factory driver, Tom Wiener).

The Soo is home to the International 500 snowmobile race. I was there – from start-to-finish when Stan Hayes won it in 1976 riding a 440 Sno-Twister for Team Mercury. The Sno-Twisters and Trail Twisters were way ahead of their time – an evolutionary leap from the early Mercury sleds.

A page from the 1975 Mercury Sno-Twister and Trail Twister brochure. Vintagetwister.com is a great website dedicated to Mercury Sno-Twister and Trail Twister snowmobiles.

These machines are still very popular today. They continue to dominate vintage snowmobile races and grass drags. There are a  number of websites (here’s one)and facebook pages dedicated to the history of Mercury snowmobiles in general and the Sno-Twister in particular. The Sno-Twister was top dog then, but 35 years later, is no match for today’s technologically advanced sled designs.

There you have it. A quick ride down the snowmobile memory trial. For those of you that get out and ride, please respect your machine, fellow riders, skiers and land owners. Enjoy your time on the snow. Before you know it, the snow will melt and you’ll be back on the water – boating. Where we all belong. It’s only right.

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26 thoughts on “Let it Snow!”

  1. Rick, nice blog article on the twisters….. they are alive & doing very well in todays vintage racing .. I currently run a 440 trail twister In the 440 fan superstock & my wife runs a 340 f/a snotwister in the women’s superstock,,,, I also have a 71 triple Polaris 650 like you have pictured on the blog i race in the 1971 older relic 800 class… eagle river champs in 2010… runs 90 MPH in the straights,,, Check out PROVINTAGERACING.COM …I’m on the board of directors.. we are the largest vintage racing club around..250 entries ea week 400 members strong with one local race in Gresham Wis in FEB( by shawano) Kurt Andrews

    1. I have a 75′ twister 440FA, raced them back in the 70’s and am wondering what class it would run in, its a stocker. Any info you could send me on your association would be a help, a schedule of race dates would help also. This would help me decide to get it ready for the track or not.

      Thanks
      Jeff

  2. Good one Rick..! Before racing boats, my brother Mitch and I started racing snowmobiles in 1969! I still have a 1961 Ski-Doo, but the all time favorite is still hanging on the shop wall – my 440 Merc Twister!! Wow, it was “all over” when they came out! My brother and I have been well over 200 mph many times in the Unlimited Hydro’s, but we both agree there was nothing quite as intense as pullin the trigger on a Merc Twister on a 1/2 mile, solid ice track for 5 laps! Thanks for remembering the Twister! I even name my dog Twister!! Take care! N.Mark

  3. just an update….. our 440 merc trail twister won the eagle river 440 fan super stock class .. last weekend..1st out of 66 sleds….. vintage racing is HUGE.. over 1200 entries in 3 days…..Kurt

  4. The Merc sno twisters were 20 years ahead of their time, not only in racing, but in looks. My twisters still turn heads of all ages at races n shows!!

  5. Rick
    By any chance do you know how I could get ahold of Jeff Rydahl, I think he was a Mercury driver?
    Blast from the past from SSM and Bay Mills, MI

  6. Do you know how much they break down because I want to get one badly for this winter. A 1975 Merc Sno Twister is what Im talking about. Does anybody know someone in New Brunswick Canada that will sell one to me for less than $1,000?

    1. Hello Marcus. Hopefully others reading this post can help you find your dream sled and provide you their experiences regarding vintage Sno Twister ownership.

  7. Rick, I ran across this blog today talking about old Merc snowmobiles. Wondering if you know how I can find information on a Kiekhaefer/ Mercury trailer? I believe it had to be for snowmobiles. It was manufactured in 1969. Would like to find more information about it and find out if it is worth anything. Thanks Mike

  8. HI, I was a sno-twister&trail twister owner/racer, and eventually drag racer. They are feared by any fool without one, on the track even today in vintage races. I still own a pair of sno-twister pants, and they are in very good condition. If anyone wants to buy them they are for sale.

  9. Does any one know how many 76 merc twister did they built I have a trail twister now and love it looking for a 76 sno twister

  10. Hello to fellow Merc sledders. I just bought a 1975 Merc Trail Twister. All original (529 miles) and would like to know the production run and approx. Cost when new? Thank you.

  11. ive owned many twister a 400 74′ and 440,75.340,75, a 340 76,440,76..and about 6 trail twister…man that 340 76 flew i had alot of projects going but i rebuilt the whole eng,on the 76 340…the others were sold to my friend who took a long trip down here to lincoln,il to buy them for marine minnesota- lee fredrickson and another friend of mine in morton steve wherry bought the 75″440 and two trail twisters….wish id’ keep the 76’s 440 and the 74′ and 75′ sno twister and got them 3 running…but would also love to have another 78″srx

  12. Hi
    Was trying to reach Dan Alt
    Would be very interested in purchasing the twister pants or suit for my Mercury collection
    Can call 715 553 0800
    Thanks Verr

  13. Even the fanner Trail Twister’s were fast.. Does anyone know if the 75 440 free air Sno-Twister was as fast as the 76 440 liquid cooled Sno-Twister? Just wondering which was the fastest…. great article btw!

    1. Quentin.
      Great question. We’ll post this to see if anyone knows – but I believe the 76 liquid cooled machines were the fastest.
      Rick

  14. Raced Ski Doo’s until 1976, saw the 76 Sno Twister at the dealer in November, sold everything and bought a twister. I can tell you before the end of the year most guys either did the same or wished they had.

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