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.
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.
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.