Old Sled Zone: 1970’s Mercury Snowmobile & a backyard of vintage sleds

It's not too often you see an urban backyard with such an impressive line-up of old sleds like this one has.

A backyard full of snowmobiles.
Murray Willis' backyard in Kamloops is jammed full of vintage snowmobiles. Photo courtesy Murray Willis/Facebook

Hey, it’s the May long weekend and everyone is looking to relax in the backyard and fire up the BBQ . . . and maybe warm up the old sleds? After all, it's the official “first official weekend” of spring and early summer. Talking about backyards—what a great weekend to discover a yard full of old snowmobiles.

Evidently, Murray Willis' backyard in Kamloops is jammed full of vintage snowmobiles. Sleds he would like to liquidate based on a post on the old sled enthusiast Facebook site called Alberta Relic Riders (check it out for details). Now, there are no details why Murray is selling his backyard line—but could it be that his wife is threatening to plant flowers in them – if he didn't move them – and quickly!

It's not too often you see an urban backyard with such an impressive line-up of old sleds like this one has. By my count – here's what I am seeing: 

  • Two (2) vintage Ski-Doo, possibly Alpine
  • One (1) Mercury snowmobile
  • One (1) Ski Whiz by Massey Ferguson
  • Two (2) late model 1990 Ski-Doos
  • One (1) Ski-Doo Olympic tucked in with the bunch.

That's a total of seven (7) vintage or classic snowmobiles sitting in Murray Willis' backyard in Kamloops, B.C. Of particular interest is the Mercury sled found in the middle of the pack.

So what about that Mercury snowmobile? Here is what one enthusiast site had to say about the 1971 Mercury snowmobiles:

"Mercury snowmobiles – Big, black and ugly—Beautiful! In '71, Mercury embarked upon a project to design a new sled using a Mercury made motor. Designated the Model 350, it would have a padded, contoured seat, a forward-mounted horizontal reed valve 644 twin, stylish lines, ski shocks, a much "sexier" rear fuel tank area than the stark metal tanks in previous models, and a tach and speedo.

When unveiled in 1972, the name was changed from Model 350 – possibly to avoid association with the earlier "lead sleds" to "Hurricane". This was the pinnacle of the Kiekhaefer years, a smart looking, fast, reliable machine that finally met the kind of image that Kiekhaefer Mercury had been known for in the outboard industry.

Brunswick controlling portion of Kiekhaefer stock, leveraged a buy out of Mercury and Carl Kiekhaefer left the company. The corporate name was changed to Mercury Marine, and Merc snowmobiles hung around for a few more years.

The Hurricane upgraded to a para-rail type suspension and got a 15 hp boost in power, and the Rocket and Lightning mutated into the Max and S/R series. Carl Kiekhaefer started Kiekhaefer Aeromarine and focused on marine racing. He did, however, produce an axial twin 440, which can be found on a few Bolens and Northway models.

The Kiekhaefer sleds may not have been the engineering and performance marvels that the Twisters were, but they laid the foundation for the kind of firm commitment to building snowmobiles that was necessary to create the legendary Mercury Sno-Twister. No doubt, they have earned their place in snowmobile history, in that when someone mentions Mercury Snowmobiles, some of us still think big, black and ugly—Beautiful!”

Got a vintage snowmobile story or photo? Email it to us at SnoRiders: [email protected]

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