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Snowcat Restoration & Modification Projects Forum Major Restorations, Upgrades, and Non-Stock Snowcat Modifications

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  #41  
Old 04-20-2019, 05:47 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

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Originally Posted by Blackfoot Tucker View Post
The changes we've made thus far to Snowzilla have been related to improving the comfort and functionality of the machine, but nothing has been done to improve its performance capabilities. Scott and I firmly believe an automatic transmission is a very worthwhile option/feature in a snowcat. One issue though with the stock Chrysler LA series industrial engines is the available automatic transmission choices. Chrysler offered the Loadflite, which is very similar to their Torqueflite transmission. It is a three-speed, non-overdrive transmission. The Loadflite was offered with short and long tail shaft housings and Tucker chose the short tail shaft style. Those transmissions were not made in big numbers, and are thus very hard to find. In discussions with Tucker factory personnel, they unanimously prefer the other automatic that Tucker offered at that time; the Allison AT545, which is a four-speed, non-overdrive transmission. Those transmissions were made in large numbers and are easily found, and at reasonable prices, too! But there is an issue:

Typically automatic transmissions have a housing, or case, that incorporates the bell housing that bolts to the engine. With medium and heavy-duty truck transmissions, they make the transmission and a separate adapter housing for specific engine applications. For example, whereas General Motors made the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission with separate transmission case configurations for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, etc, Allison made the AT545 in a standard configuration with an SAE number 3 bolt pattern and then used an adapter housing with the SAE pattern on the transmission side and a specific shape and bolt pattern on the other side for all manner of different engines. But the problem is the AT545 was not offered as an option by Chrysler for the LA series engines, so Tucker had the adapter housings made for them by a company in Oregon. Finding those adapter housings is extremely difficult. (I have been trying to pry one from redsqwrl’s hands, along with an engine, transmission and perhaps a complete Tucker, but was unsuccessful.)

After basically striking out finding a suitable automatic transmission to replace the stock 5-speed manual, and after considerable thought, research and back-and-forth discussion, it was decided to upgrade Snowzilla to an automatic transmission AND at the same time it would get a "heart transplant” in the form of a new engine. That of course opens up lots of options for transmissions as well as engines. I'll call the new power plant the "mystery motor".

Note, a little history behind the name: Back in 1963 just prior to the Daytona 500, Chevrolet introduced what was called the mystery motor. Junior Johnson won the first qualifying race with one, and Johnny Rutherford won the second qualifying race, also using the mystery motor. There were five cars equipped with that engine and all five blew away the previous year's winning qualifying speed. The mystery motor was a pre-production Chevrolet 427 big block engine. In 1965 Chevrolet introduced the big block - in 396 cubic inches as an option in the Chevelle rated at 375 HP, and midway through the year, in the Corvette, rated at 425 HP (when they simultaneously dropped the 375 HP rated Rochester Fuel injected 327 option). in 1966 the venerable 427 was introduced.

(The mystery motor destined for Snowzilla has nothing in common with the 427 big block, other than my use of the mystery motor name.)

Look what arrived on a pallet. What could it be???
4BTA-3.9L
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  #42  
Old 06-04-2019, 11:20 AM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Work on Snowzilla continues. With Thundercat we made the modifications first, then tested them for performance verification. And only then did we disassemble the machine for sandblasting and painting. But the plan with Snowzilla is different. Many of the modifications we’re doing are similar to what we previously did with Thundercat, so proof-of-concept testing isn’t necessary, and we need to get it done for Christmas, 2019. Snowzilla is getting completely repainted (with a color change, no less), but we want to finish all the required welding before it gets sandblasted and painted. Then it will be reassembled with some new components, some modified components and of course some original parts as well. Then once it’s all together we’ll take it out and make sure everything is working properly prior to delivery. Hopefully we’ll have it done... and be waiting for adequate snow to do that testing. But it’s amazing how time flies, and though it’s only the first week of June, I’m mildly concerned about the completion date more than six months away.

We needed to remove the original engine and transmission mounts and get the mystery motor and the transmission (Allison AT545) mounts fabricated and welded to the Tucker frame. That required attaching the engine to the transmission to position them as an assembly in the frame to determine the location for the respective mounts. The Allison's torque converter attaches to the engine’s flex plate with six bolts. The original transmission behind the mystery motor only used three bolts to secure the torque converter. Of course the bolt circle was slightly different as well. These holes need to be in perfect alignment with each other, but the bolt circle must be perfectly concentric with the crankshaft or there will be balance issues. I took the flex plate to an automotive machine shop to make sure it was done right... except they screwed up. To be fair, they owned their mistake, bought a new flex plate and properly drilled the new one. But there was a delay and so progress slips a few days….


Here’s the frame with the engine and transmission removed.

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And with a bunch of parts removed. The original front mount for the engine is still there but the transmission mounts have been removed.

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A close-up of where the front engine mount was. (Bolts were removed for better access to eliminate the original welds.)

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A close-up of where the manual transmission mounts were removed.

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Here’s the frame with the new engine mounts and the original transmission mounts slightly modified, re-positioned and re-welded. Tucker offsets the engine to the left from the frame’s longitudinal center. The only reason we can think of is so there’s room for the hydraulic pump’s 8” diameter pulley. We mount the engine in the center for better side-to-side weight distribution. Due to the different engine and serpentine belt configuration, we have to redesign (re-engineer?) the hydraulic pumps belt drive system. That’s actually quite involved, and then the new specially machined parts are quite expensive as well.

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  #43  
Old 06-04-2019, 02:21 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

finally someone is going to put a HELLCAT engine in a tucker, how coooooooool....

will sound like it is going 140 mph, that will keep those pesky kristi s in their place

and they all lived happily ever after


Last edited by Pontoon Princess; 06-04-2019 at 02:35 PM.
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  #44  
Old 06-05-2019, 09:05 AM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

This has been a long time coming! I am like a kid at Christmas! I can't wait!
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  #45  
Old 06-05-2019, 10:02 AM
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Red face Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

So..
.that beast gonna have a "Hemi".....😀👍
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  #46  
Old 06-07-2019, 02:22 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

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Originally Posted by olympicorange View Post
So..
.that beast gonna have a "Hemi".....😀👍
I think it's up to wbuffetjr1 to reveal exactly what the mystery motor is. But I will go so far as to say it's not a Hemi... of any generation. The current versions, Generation 3, use the same bellhousing bolt pattern as used on the Chrysler LA series engines (273, 318, 340, and 360 CID) except the top bolt hole in the bellhousing is not used.

We decided to go with an automatic transmission, and more specifically to use the Allison AT545. If we wanted to use a current generation Hemi engine, we would need to find an adapter housing for the Chrysler LA application. I believe only Tucker used that combination and they had the housings made to their specs. I tried, but was unsuccessful, to pry a 360/AT545 combination from redsqwrl's hands (paws?).

But, the mystery motor's bellhousing bolt pattern is fairly commonly used with AT545's, which was a bonus in selecting an engine.
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  #47  
Old 06-07-2019, 02:29 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

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Originally Posted by Blackfoot Tucker View Post
I think it's up to wbuffetjr1 to reveal exactly what the mystery motor is. But I will go so far as to say it's not a Hemi... of any generation. The current versions, Generation 3, use the same bellhousing bolt pattern as used on the Chrysler LA series engines (273, 318, 340, and 360 CID) except the top bolt hole in the bellhousing is not used.

We decided to go with an automatic transmission, and more specifically to use the Allison AT545. If we wanted to use a current generation Hemi engine, we would need to find an adapter housing for the Chrysler LA application. I believe only Tucker used that combination and they had the housings made to their specs. I tried, but was unsuccessful, to pry a 360/AT545 combination from redsqwrl's hands (paws?).

But, the mystery motor's bellhousing bolt pattern is fairly commonly used with AT545's, which was a bonus in selecting an engine.

so sad, you were our best hope for a hemi...
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  #48  
Old 06-10-2019, 10:33 AM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Maybe its a nice orange Waukesha Thunder Pumpkin being fit into place?
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  #49  
Old 06-11-2019, 12:02 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

The engine is a low mileage 6.2 LS out of a Yukon Denali. I think it is something like 420HP and 440 ft/lbs of torque stock. I believe it makes greater than 300 ft/lbs through the entire torque curve. All aluminum block and heads. Listed weight is ~450lbs. I had it for another project that ended up getting sold. After much discussion with Blackfoot the engine headed West. I really wanted more power than the 318 was going to deliver and no matter what engine Snowzilla had I was planning on fuel injection since our cabin is at 10,000'. After looking over systems like the Holley Sniper and the all in cost of one of those combined with the still limited power of the 318, the 6.2 just made more and more sense.
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  #50  
Old 06-11-2019, 01:13 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Very nice choice. Have had two of those in life. One in a Denali 150K miles and current one in and Escalade under 100K. Both the wife drives.

Only had to do an oil pan gasket on one sometime after 100K miles. Both have been reliable flawless runners with lots of power.

Nice to see the heart beat of America in a Tucker! Congrats
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  #51  
Old 06-11-2019, 01:41 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Thanks TA! I have never owned a 6.2 in a vehicle personally, but a buddy had one in a Denali. His experience was identical to yours! Hoping it will last forever with such limited usage. Blackfoot is also installing Detroit E-lockers front and rear! I am thinking it will be a BEAST in the snow! Got to live up to the name Snowzilla!
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  #52  
Old 06-12-2019, 07:37 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Lockers add a tremendous amount of ability. is the motor a lot lighter or a little lighter?

a pound of aluminum and a pound of feathers weigh the same.
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  #53  
Old 06-12-2019, 09:59 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Now that the cat’s out of the bag on the mystery motor’s identity,.. By the way, it is considered a Generation IV LS engine and in GM engine parlance it is known as an L94. It was installed in luxury SUVs: namely the Cadillac Escalade and Yukon Denali. At the time, it was the most powerful normally aspirated engine available in a Cadillac. Yes, its sibling the LS3, that was installed in the Corvette at the time, makes more horsepower, but it produces less torque and it's torque curve isn't as flat. While some might think the LS3 would have bragging rights, in the snowcat application having more torque and a flat torque curve makes the L94 the better choice. The L94 makes a whole lot more power than the stock 318, AND having an aluminum block and cylinder heads, it weighs less about 100 lbs less than a cast iron engine of the same size. What’s not to like about that?



The 8.1 was basically the last evolution of the Chevy big block and dimensionally it’s a fairly large engine. The length of the shortest driveshaft we could have made between the transmission and the transfer case determined how far aft the engine and transmission could be installed. But even all the way back, the front of the oil pan (an aluminum casting) conflicted with the front axle/fifth wheel plate assembly. We then had to move all that forward 2”, which also meant lengthening the steering tie rod and the front driveshaft.

When we first positioned Snowzilla’s 6.2 engine and Allison AT545 in the engine bay, it seemed there was tons of room, and we didn’t have to move the front axle/fifth wheel plate/front suspension. While that was a serendipitous discovery, the question was why? We were baffled, took some measurements which confirmed there was over an inch of extra room and didn’t understand why "Tucker had installed the transfer case an inch further aft". Well, it turns out it wasn’t due to a change in transfer case location...

Tucker uses different transfer cases, I think both at customer request and for different applications. The “standard” case in this era is referred to as the 1 5/16” transfer case. (Note: this size is still being used today in some models.) That’s the transfer case specified in the original order sheet for Snowzilla. However, looking at Thundercat’s original order sheet, it came with the heavier-duty 2 1/2” transfer case. That detail explains the extra room. In looking at photos of the other Tucker’s I’ve owned, all except Thundercat had/have the 1 5/16” case.

Part of the disassembly process involves removing the cab floors, the rear seat footwell pieces and the rear seat benches. In so doing we discovered what I’ll call more disappointing workmanship. Sloppy work and poor manufacturing processes are big pet peeves of mine. If you do a job; do it right. And that applies across the board. For example, if you’re soldering copper pipe you wipe the joint. It doesn’t matter if it’s buried in a wall behind sheetrock. Don’t merely “do the job; “define the job” via excellence.

Tucker builds the frame for these machines from various structural steel members that are cut and welded together. Would it REALLY be that much trouble to at least paint these raw steel members with some primer before adding sheetmetal? Not doing so causes rust issues, and when dissimilar metals are in direct contact - galvanic corrosion. I have a lot of respect for much of what Tucker does, but I have contempt for their sloppy workmanship and questionable "quality control”.

Here are some pics.

Note the complete lack of paint on some of the frame members. (Shiny area on cross member is where the back-up alarm brackets were welded before being cut off.)

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Close up of unpainted frame section.

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These two pics are of the rear frame where the footwell’s exterior aluminum skin attaches to the raw steel frame. You can see the needless galvanic corrosion and rust. Note the two vertical frame pieces and the number of fastener holes. Yup, different. NICE attention to detail…NOT

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The fuel system will need to be completely re-plumbed from the gas tank to the engine. The stock canister filter and auxiliary electric pump will be replaced with a spin-on, water separating fuel filter (with drain) and a higher pressure, in-line electric fuel pump as well as a combination filter/pressure regulator downstream from the pump that also has a return-to-tank line that must be plumbed. The various components need to be mounted properly, and we want to determine the optimal locations for each, and then fabricate whatever mounting brackets are required, which will also require some welding. The foot well area in the rear cab on a XX43 Tucker steals a lot of real estate for mounting various components, so the best component positioning and routing of fuel lines isn’t obvious.

Snowzilla gets the benefit of lessons learned on other projects, and it's getting the same modifications to the hydraulic pump and steering system. That means the addition of a dual cross-port relief valve between the orbitrol and the steering cylinder.

Here, some pieces of flat bar have been welded to the Tucker frame. The cross-port relief valve will be bolted to these brackets.

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Another modification we did to Thundercat that we're doing to Snowzilla is reconfiguring the windshield wiper system for increased swept area and re-positioning the swept area more optimally for the driver and passenger. In general terms we move the left side wiper spindle (the part the wiper arm attaches to) 5” to the right and we move the right side wiper spindle 2 5/8” to the right. Of course this involves drilling new holes in the area below the windshield, welding up the old holes, and modifying the wiper mechanism linkage accordingly. The hard part to this modification was the design work. The modification itself is relatively easy. It’s just some labor, and there are no new parts required! (Note that this modification and the dimensions I listed above are for a 52” wide cab.)

Here’s the modified sheet metal. Look at all the holes in the firewall!

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With the change to an automatic transmission we wanted to add a transmission temperature gauge. As wbuffetjr1 mentioned, Snowzilla is getting Eaton E-Lockers installed in both differentials and it was decided to switch them independently. The exterior lighting system is being seriously upgraded with a plethora of LED lights, and those lights, all require switches. It was then decided to redesign the instrument panel to accommodate all the changes. Scott and I spent some time with his CAD system playing with different alignments and positions for the various dash mounted components. A new aluminum panel was water-jet cut to that design. (I’ll pause for a second and say if you find a good vendor, the water-jet process yields amazing accuracy at a very cost effective price. (It’s Uber cool technology!))

Here’s a pic. Notice the hole with straight sides below and to the right of the largest round hole (for the tachometer). That’s for the ignition switch. The switch has straight sides and if installed in a hole cut accordingly with straight sides, the switch doesn’t rotate if you turn the key in the ignition switch with too much force. Yes, it’s a small detail, but it’s an improvement over the factory round-hole method. We also changed the outside corners from sharp, square corners to rounded ones. There are 14 switch holes for rocker switches, and four of them are spares for future system “growth”. Since this machine is destined for Colorado, maybe some under-cat "mood lighting"?

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The various changes to the electrical system require significant re-wiring, and as pictured above, there are a lot of extraneous holes in the fire wall. Those all get welded closed, and this Tucker’s dash panel, like so many others, has a number of extra holes, eleven to be exact. Scott welded those closed. Incidentally his technique is to use a length of flat brass plate that he clamps directly behind the hole. Using a mIg welder, he slowly fills in the hole (to minimize heat-related distortion) and the steel welding wire won’t attach to the brass. The back side isn’t perfectly flat, but it works reasonably well.

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  #54  
Old 06-13-2019, 11:17 AM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Just an observation regarding lockers: Tucker started installing Hy-Torq diffs in the mid '60s. These diffs were made with over running sprag side gears. The differential action was that in a corner, the outside axle would free wheel. The Hy-Torqs were only factory installed in one end of the cat. Our 543 had the triangular grousers with the tapered cleat ends. Our operating conditions were from very deep snowfalls to boiler plate ice. The cat was never operated on paved surfaces so the tapered cleats were as OEM. The purpose of the taper was to prevent side slip on ice, and it works very well. On super hard ice the cleat marks would be about 1/4 inch long. Needles to say, traction was beyond what carburetors of the day would handle and what operators of the day could muster kahonas. The problem with this setup is that in a corner the axle with the locker wanted to go faster than the axle with the open diff. The failure was that the front cross member failed. Fortunately, this was in the era of bolted in vs. welded front trunion cross members. We could ski to the crippled cat with tools, cross member, and jack to repair it. Moral of story, only engage lockers when necessary. Also, an open diff is very useful for side hilling and as a safety to prevent rollover.
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Old 06-13-2019, 01:54 PM
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Default Re: "Snowzilla": A Comprehensive Tucker 1643 Project...

Having used ARB and E lockers in wheeled and tracked vehicles. Being in the conversation with track inc folks in regards to locker use in our grooming equipment. Lockers in tuckers are for Getting out of what ever situation you may have gotten into.

My $.02 is about Knowing whether or not you are unlocked.
our experience is with Heavy terra tracked tuckers and operators that doesn't understand common mechanical operations such as differentials.
Lock up in a straight line. unlock in a straight line. don't try to lock while one (wheel or pontoon) is turning and one is not. when you unlock, in addition to the switch saying it is unlocked you need to feel it unlock in the seat of your pants so to say. If you feel bound up ( not in the cheese way) stop and back up a bit. Both style of selectable locker mentioned use substantial force to lock the side gear. both use a simple fairly weak spring to unlock.
we have turn table and track failures due to lockers not being allowed to unlock. It would be easy to blame one operator or the other. but in a day of common sense not being so common, just follow the instructions that come with the device and you will be fine.

I personally like the air based systems.

the air will leak over time. this air vents the differential in a positive manner.
On board air can assist other brand snow cats with repairs ;-)
there are multiple ways to get pressurized are into a locker.
in an Armageddon catastrophic failed seal you can pump grease in it and it will work.

If you fail a coil, slip ring or brush. or your alternator quits. You have to pull the cover off the diff to push it in with a screw driver and It will pop right back out again.

Most of the knuckle head videos on You tube have the break downs and stucks way far away from common sense. stack the deck in your favor and keep the common sense close to the situation.
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