Warm Weather Options for Your Hibernating Snowmobile

Street Legal Sleds snowmobile conversion kit

Street Legal Sleds snowmobile conversion kit

Last winter was pretty mild and those of us used to seeing many feet of the white stuff were looking at bare roads, not a bad thing, in my mind, but if you have a snowmobile, you start to wonder if there's any use for it when the temperature rises. Some owners get into drag racing on grass and others, who care less for their sleds, run them across short stretches of open water, hoping to carry enough speed to keep their sled above the water line, but there have been quite a few folks who have either converted the sled itself or used the engine for another vehicle altogether, and some of those alternatives are pretty slick.

Street Legal Sleds snowmobile conversion

I started thinking about this when I got a note from Mike C., the other day, bringing my attention to a company called Street Legal Sleds. They've come up with a conversion kit that replaces the skis with wheels and replaces the track with a swingarm, turning the snowmobile into something resembling a Can Am Spyder.

While the idea of adding wheels to a sled isn't new, I'm not sure how many, if any, other attempts, actually saw the light of day. This one looks like it works OK, but from the dates on the web site, it doesn't appear they've been doing much for the past couple of years. Are they still in business? The kit is listed at $8499 and includes everything you need, though whether that price on top of the sled is cost effective will depend on your own situation. Pretty neat.

Kawasaki factory race car

One of the best snowmobile engine applications ever covered on The Kneeslider was our story about Kawasaki's Factory Auto Racing project. In 1972, Harvey Aschenbrenner was tasked with building the car and adapting the 440cc Kawasaki snowmobile engine. He made quite a bit of progress, but the project ended too soon and the effort was never developed to its full potential. Very interesting story, though.

Polaris Star CarAlong those same lines, but evidently preceding the Kawasaki project by a few years, was the "Star Car," developed by Polaris Industries to use a snowmobile engine during the summer months. It was a neat single seat racer, however, as the story goes, when some owners took delivery, instead of installing the engine from their sled, they installed much larger engines yielding much more performance than intended by the factory. Under the guise of "suspension updates" the cars were recalled and when they were returned to Polaris, the legal department had the cars destroyed. I have absolutely no way of confirming that bit of trivia so, believe what you will.

There was one for sale on eBay some years ago and estimates vary about how many are left, varying from as few as 10 to as many as 100. It's doubtful anyone really knows, but it is another fine example of snowmobile engines finding summertime use.

Tularis 2 stroke racer by Rob Tuluie

The Tul-aris, was a sweet little racer built by Rob Tuluie who used a Polaris 700cc 2 stroke snowmobile engine, that eventually grew to something over 800cc and ended up with 140hp in a 273 pound bike. Nice!

Monotrack Experimental by Dan Hanebrink

Dan Hanebrink built the Monotrack Experimental back in the early 1970s. The monocoque chassis was made from magnesium plate and a three-cylinder, rubber-mounted, two-stroke Kohler snowmobile engine provided power to the belt-driven torque converter. Drive to the rear wheel was also by belt. Very cool.

No matter what you think of snowmobiles, the engines certainly have a lot of potential and sometimes, guys with a wrench find better things to do with that little 2 stroke than running around in the snow or letting it sit all summer long. I thought you might find these options interesting in case you have one gathering dust in your garage.

Comments

  1. HoughMade says

    …and the Bombardier engineers all look at each other and say: “can you believe it took this long to people to catch on to what we were doing?”

      • JP says

        there was a guy who lived near my home town who lost his license for several years due to a DWI and did a wheel conversion so he could ride his sled to work in summer. His was a bogey wheel sled so he kept the track though.
        A benefit to doing your own conversion is CanAm has a traction/stability/lawyer protection system that really saps some of the fun from the machine that you will retain with a conversion

  2. GuitarSlinger says

    My first reaction upon seeing this was to almost fall off my chair … laughing my ____ off . My second though was …… hey …. no more expensive Unitasker Snowmobile ( especially in light of the snowless global warming winters we’ve been having ) Now you just pop off the skis , bolt on the wheels and Eat Your Heart Out Can Am dealers .. we don’t need your stinkin Spyder no more ……… Assuming you actually want one ! ( needing one is a different story )

    So …. instead of laughing I’m looking at this with a touch of admiration . Don’t want one ( or a snowmobile ) don’t need one …. but having lived in places like VT I can sure as heck see a lot of uses for one .

    Three Cheers for one less Unitasker ….. and more space in the garage ( or Garrrrg if you prefer the VT pronunciation )

  3. B50 Jim says

    Here in not-so-snowy-any-more Illinois, the past several winters have been mild to almost nonexistent. Last “winter” consisted of random cold days with maybe some snow, followed by mild-to-warm stretches in which all the snow melted. There were no lengthy stretches of cold weather with regular accumulations; and the sleds mostly stayed in the sheds. In a world of global warming with winter retreating further and further north, converting a sled to a road machine makes perfect sense. Even in a “normal” winter when there is plenty of snow, a sled sees use three months of the year at the best. The problem would be emissions certification for those 2-strokes, especially older machines. Given the performance levels of modern sleds, it would be a formidable road machine.

  4. Mean Monkey says

    Geez, maybe I shouldn’t have passed up my buddy’s offer of an old Polaris snowmobile for $250. I had (have) so much shhhhh-stuff in my 500sq-ft. garage that I can get in there myself

  5. B50 Jim says

    The “Star Car” looks like a nifty little racer with an early-60s vibe — or a carnival ride. Get rid of those trailer tires and bolt on a set of Minilites with slicks, do those “suspension upgrades” yourself, and have fun. I wonder if that bouffant hairdo qualifies as a helmet? Maybe with enough hair spray….

  6. Carolynne says

    The first thought that crosses my mind is that this looks like fun stuff. Thats one thing I have never seen, is a snowmobile engine used for other purposes, and where I am from in Northern Ontario, there are a lot of snowmobile engines laying around, you’ll find one in the back of just about every truck and garage. For some reason I have always thought you couldn’t run a snow machine engine in the summer for any length of time due to cooling issues.

    • B50 Jim says

      Carolynne —

      There shouldn’t be any problems with cooling, even in warm weather. Most of them use some form of forced-air or water cooling anyway, so there should be plenty of cooling. Think of those Norwegians who hydroplane them at top speed over fjords in the summer — I think the record is 61km; so even on a fjord that engine was working really hard, and they don’t seem to burn up.

      By the way, I’m not a snowmobiler; the last time I rode one was 1971 and I rolled it, breaking an expensive windscreen. Snowmobiles qualify as “playing in the snow” and I gave that up by age 18… I’d rather look at snow from indoors, sipping a cup of hot tea; or from inside a nice, snug truck. My baby sister crashed her sled a couple years ago; a pickup with snow plow ran a stop sign. She was nearly killed and has permanent reduced use of her right arm. But last winter she got a new sled.

      • GuitarSlinger says

        You ever seen what those mad men from Iceland do with their sleds come summertime ? Those folks are truly insane ! In a good way

  7. parts-2-u says

    Have any of you seen a Subaru 360? they have a pretty big following. They were imported from about 67 to 72. I have a 1969 sedan that needs to be restored. It has a rear-mounted 360cc (hence the name) 2-stroke, 2-cylinder, air cooled engine, that is basically a Polaris snow mobile engine bolted to a manual transmission. I’ve often played around with the idea of adapting a newer larger sled motor into it to see what kind of fun I could have.

    • todd says

      Yes, however I had more fun with my friend’s Suzuki LJ20, 360cc two-stroke 4X4. That thing would literally smoke everything on the road.

      -todd

      • Paulinator says

        In Canada Suzuki sold a 4-stroke version of that neat little 4×4 back in the early eighties. It was then replaced by the Samurai. I was a kid pumping gas when one of those little things pulled up along side me (with two big guys in it). The 4×4 was at a good lean because of a slope in the parking lot. I don’t know why I did it, but I shouldered into the little truck and watched in utter shock as the two high-side wheels grabbed air. The machine settled slowly back onto its wheels and three of us shared a moment of stunned silence. Not a word spoken.

  8. jeff_williams says

    Two things:
    1. The guys that water cross their sleds ride them really far… as in oval races on the lake.
    2. American Snowmobilier had a short piece on the side bar in the latest issue on the Polaris Star Car. I had never heard of it before then.

    • Paul Crowe - "The Kneeslider" says

      The guys that water cross their sleds ride them really far… as in oval races on the lake

      Really? I didn’t know that. I always thought it was a short distance thing. I’ve only seen videos and they were all short runs, … with some sinkers.

  9. B50 Jim says

    Here’s the record run I saw:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87TI5J6DthQ&feature=related

    The Subaru 360 was totally unsuited for American roads, but it was a funky little thing. I remember grabbing one by the front bumper and picking the front end off the ground. Hmmm… how ’bout a Hyabusa engine? Might have to do some mods to the suspension; the car wasn’t meant to run more than about 50!

  10. Tin Man 2 says

    No comments on the price?? $8400 ?? No wonder the kit has never caught on ! And yes I make things in my little shop all the time, they sure don,t cost near that kind of money.

    • OMMAG says

      I doubt that an outboard motor would work for long if you put it on it’s side…..

      BTW … the first really strong snow machines were based on two stroke bike engines from Yamaha and Rotax (Can-am, Bombardier).

      Also … I recall that guys were putting wheels on their sleds as far back as 1967.

      • says

        Just turning the motor on its side, no that probably would not work, but think of all the work that went into various projects we’ve seen on these pages, like the v-twin bullet, v-twelve cbx, all the various motors made from scratch… using an already made v-6, while it would need some modification, would still be a massive time saver compared to some of these projects.

        • OMMAG says

          Well … there is potential in everything … and maybe one of those two stroke Mercury’s would make a good starting point.
          Now … you have me thinking …

  11. stjohn says

    Growing up in southern Michigan, the shoehorning of various powerplants into various chassis not designed for them is somewhat of a rural pastime. I can tell you from personal experience that shoving a 440cc snowmobile engine on to the rear deck of a tube-frame go-kart is not only possible, but it’s a crapload of fun. I wish I’d had more metalworking chops, because rocking that on a motorcycle frame would have been genius. I have to admit though, it never actually occurred to me at the time.