Let it Snow!

This 1975 Mercury Sno-Twister PDC (Professional Drivers Circuit) factory team snowmobile  – sled #5 – was hand built by Team Mercury driver  Doug Hayes. The machine is in safe keeping here at Mercury Racing. Photo of this classic on frozen Lake Winnebago courtesy of Charles Plueddeman.

For some reason the colder weather and recent snow flurries has me reminiscing about Mercury Snowmobiles. Remember those?

The first round of Mercury snowmobiles were appropriately named “lead sleds” for being under powered and over weight.

The infamous “lead sleds” (Mercury’s early and very heavy snowmobile) and the legendary Sno-Twisters (when Mercury got it light and right).  Snowmobile historian Charles Plueddeman  wrote a detailed article on the history of the Sno-Twister and the infamous sled #5.

Mercury Racing Service Manager Bob Krupp restored this 1974 Mercury 440 S/R snowmobile to better than new condition.

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 you’re 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.

Team Mercury qualified 13th and ultimately won the 1976 International 500 snowmobile race in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Photo credit: VintageTwister.com

The Soo is home to the International 500 snowmobile race. I was there – from start-to-finish when brothers Stan  and Doug 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.

Winner of the 1976 I-500 endurance snowmobile race. The Sno-Twister continues to dominate vintage races and grass drags. Photo credit: VintageTwister.com

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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39 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.


  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.

  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.

    1. Hi Bob;
      Yes. The Sno-Twister was ahead of its time. It continues to capture checkered flags today! Unfortunately, Mercury Marine got into the snowmobile business at its peak and it didn’t make sense to stay in.

  15. I have a merc snowmobile suit men’s large style 093 69906 3 F4 if I’m reading the tag correctly. Anyone interested in it? My cell is 9788074027. I can forward pictures. It’s in great condition


  16. Team,
    Just got into vintage sled buying. I just bought a 75 T/T from the original owner that used it to tow his fishing house on and off the lake. Looking to make it go fast for vintage drag racing. Looking for helpful information in what to change spring, weights, gears, belts, and don’t know much more. This is something I am just starting. Thank you in advance

    1. Make sure the motor is as an not AX in the engine tag. Should be 2 carbs not 1. Check the gears in chain case the top sprocket should be 17 tooth if my memory serves me correct. If he was pulling he probably geared it down. Some 75 had a salsbery clutch. The clutch they later went with was artic hex and you can get all kinds of ramp profiles and springs for the hex. Needle jets in carbs are often partially plugged. Take carbs apart and clean totally. Do a compression test and ask him if he had any engine work done. Some guys would blow a piston and get a steel cylinder sleeve put in. Originals were chrome plated on aluminum perhaps 2 thou thick so great heat transfer. An LA steel sleeve does not but was a cheaper repair.
      Ask as much history of machine as you can. That way you know what has been done to it. If it has presto light ignition box run an extra ground strap and make sure bolts or holes are not stripped. Check hewtech for replacement cdi box if you need one. Spin each bearing and feel and listen. In summer probably would not be a bad idea to replace all bearings in track and gear case. If aluminum shafts are getting stripped then get helicoils for them. Check sliders for wear they are probably originals.

  17. I bought a 1974 400 sno twister, great sled raced some cross country races, some ice drags also some hill climbs with it, some grass drags in the summer too.

    In 1976 the 400 engine seized, mercury had the trade program a New 340 or 440 engine for some thing like $300.00. I chose the 340 removed my clutch, carbs and pipes off the 400 engine installed the clutch carbs and pipes on the 340 and I was good to go.
    I never raced the 340 in any formal event but can tell you my friend with a Artic Cat 340 Z stopped asking me to race him.

    I still have My Sno Twister today I ride it some but I am a old sleder with new Knees so my speed today is a 2001 Polaris 500 Classic electric start and reverese.

    I might also say some thing about my very first snow mobile a 1971 Mercury rocket 340 CCW engine. I also still own that one and ride it some.

  18. My Uncle Bob Alcorn sold and raced Mercs in Riverview N.B. Canada in the mid 70’s. It seemed like we had an unfair adavantage. Bob would enter his 76 250 in the unlimited classes and clean up. He then went into selling and racing Cats when Merc went out. I raced a 76 440 in the mid 90’s and recently picked up another one in CT. It has a 340 chassis # and 440 engine (not the 1st time I’ve run into this combo). I’ll see if I can get my Grandaughter interested in running the 440. Got to Love ;em…..

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