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

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  #1  
Old 01-14-2018, 01:36 PM
Blackfoot Tucker Blackfoot Tucker is offline
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Default Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Last year I started a thread called Testing "Thundercat" and I uploaded a few pictures, which were taken from videos. Here's a link to that thread:
http://www.forumsforums.com/3_9/show...ing+thundercat

There are a fair number of restoration threads on the forum with some truly top-notch craftsmanship. I think forum member Weatherby started the trend and set an incredible standard. More recently, Pontoon Princess and sno-drifter have brought that level of quality to the Tucker world, and even the Tucker factory has entered that realm. Restoration, be it cosmetic, mechanical, or both, certainly requires a great deal of work (and money!), but the vehicle's concept has already been proven by the manufacturer.

Thundercat is not so much a restoration, but rather a "resto-mod". Honestly it's the most comprehensively modified Tucker I know of, and when you start modifying - you enter uncharted territory. The farther off the reservation you go, the more imperative it is to test the vehicle to see if those modifications work, or if they need further refinement, or perhaps they don't work at all. I think the inclination is to baby the machine - at least at first, but that isn't really testing, per se. If there's a problem, we want to find it - and that means using the machine harder and making it work. My snowcat buddy and I think it's wise to make the modifications, test the machine, and only when we're satisfied with its performance do we take it all apart for media blasting, paint and upholstery. It takes a lot longer to do that. These videos are part of that process.

The first time we took the machine out was May 29, 2016, and we brought it to almost the top of what is known as Mirror Lake Highway in Utah. The elevation was between 10,400' and 10,800'. In a normally aspirated engine that elevation robs about 30% of an engine's power - due to the lower atmospheric pressure.

You will not find these videos by searching. They are what youtube calls "unlisted". Due to someone "wanting to be me" (trying to steal my identity) I'm gun-shy of some social media. Another forum member has urged me to post these, and this is the method I thought I'd try.

Here are the first two videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hYcYW8-vH0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38X-n4d_bHU

A few things I'd like to point out:

1.) If you listen closely you can hear the Allison automatic transmission upshifting and downshifting on-the-fly. Realize if it were a manual transmission you might be able to upshift, but a downshift would require coming to a stop.

2.) Listen to the tracks... and what you don't hear. This Tucker has the damper wheel modification/upgrade. It uses smaller diameter wheels to support the tracks on both sides of the drive sprockets. If you listen to other youtube videos of rubber-belted Tuckers without damper wheels, you'll hear a "clackety-clack" sound, which is the grouser bar track guides contacting the hyfax on the track support system.

3.) You'll also occasionally hear a rattling/ringing sound. A previous owner welded trailer tie-down "D rings" to all the carriers. That was to facilitate easily securing the Tucker to a trailer. That method works great, but you get the rattling. We subsequently cut off the D rings and installed a weld-on shackle clevis on each carrier...no noise, but you have to remember to keep shackles handy.

I'll upload more videos soon...
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  #2  
Old 01-14-2018, 01:59 PM
wbuffetjr1 wbuffetjr1 is online now
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Blackfoot,

This is awesome!! Looking forward to more!
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Old 01-14-2018, 02:19 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Awesome, if there were ever any doubts about manual vs auto transmissions this video shows why autos rule. I believe I detected some drifting in the corners from the high speed.
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Old 01-14-2018, 02:19 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Blackfoot, having seen countless builds of just about everything under the sun, from backyard builds on zero budget to muilti million dollar pebble beach concours restorations, and then, hot rods, custom one off dream concept car, riddler winners, etc.

my grouser to you, your have done the nearly impossible, actually built a tucker sno-cat into a fabulous well thoughtout machine, excellent craftsmanship.
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Old 01-15-2018, 09:06 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

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Originally Posted by Pontoon Princess View Post
Blackfoot, having seen countless builds of just about everything under the sun, from backyard builds on zero budget to muilti million dollar pebble beach concours restorations, and then, hot rods, custom one off dream concept car, riddler winners, etc.

my grouser to you, your have done the nearly impossible, actually built a tucker sno-cat into a fabulous well thoughtout machine, excellent craftsmanship.
Wow! PP, I am humbled by your kind and generous words. And coming from you - they mean so much more. Thank you!

In all honesty the lion's share of the credit goes to my snowcat buddy, Scott. I tell people with complete sincerity that he is the brains and talent, and I'm the one with the bonehead ideas. We've all heard the term "book smart". Scott is the antithesis of that. Though his formal education stopped when he graduated from high school, he is quite literally a mechanical genius. Unbelievable knowledge, skill and talent.

We might be leaning against a workbench looking at Thundercat and I'll get an "idea". I'll suggest it to Scott, and he'll ponder it for a bit and reply "We could do that...", and another chapter of project creep begins. There have been a lot of chapters....

As I write this Thundercat is in a whole lot of pieces up in Idaho getting painted. Scott and I look forward to carefully assembling it when we get it back. After it's done I'll post some photos, and perhaps highlight the modifications we did.

Before I post the links to more youtube videos I'll say the first day of testing revealed two problem areas. (I mentioned this in the other thread, but I'll list them here so no one has to search that too.)

The steering system did not work properly. At normal speeds it was fine, but at slow speed it took way too much effort to turn the steering wheel. One rule of Tucker operation is you never turn the wheel unless you're moving. Once you are moving, it shouldn't be an issue, but in our case it was. I reached out to Jeff Godard at Tucker and he suggested we bring the steering system up to their current production configuration. That involved increasing the hydraulic pump output volume, increasing the output pressure, increasing the flow through the priority valve cover and installing a dual cross-port relief valve between the orbitrol and the steering cylinder (that was to prevent over pressuring the system).

The other problem was the engine wanted to overheat. This was very frustrating as the radiator we had installed was specifically recommended for the application by the Technical Support department "experts" at Griffin Thermal Products. Scott and I spent a whole lot of nights over the summer and fall following their suggestions trying to figure out why it wasn't adequately cooling the engine. At one point we thought perhaps there was a head gasket leak and that was causing the issue. So we pulled the top of the engine apart and took the cylinder heads to a machine shop. They were fine, so back together it went.

On December 11, 2016 we took Thundercat back out for round two of testing. Back in May we could drive up Mirror Lake Highway and unload very close to where we we wanted to do the testing. But in December the highway was closed with a gate across the road, so that meant driving Thundercat the 15 miles or so to the testing location. There was lots of new snow to play in!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IptAGjCaxSM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDFEaVE_9Eg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13tcrWkZdIE

I put this in the youtube notes by the third video: I stopped filming Scott in the second video because I thought he was stuck. In fact he wasn't, and by the time I got my phone going again in the third video he had driven the Tucker out of the hole and was headed back down the hill.

More videos soon...
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Old 01-15-2018, 09:55 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

nice work---I don't know all the mods. you did----if your still running the old transfer case I would try to tame down the back shift---if u watch the clip where it back shifts going up hill you can see the track spin---on hard ground I think your going to have trouble-----what ever your shifting that tranny with if you have an after market programer seems like you can back down the hard shift----In my area clubs using tuckers the weak link is transfers--tie rod ends and frt. springs ----tie rods and springs because of the poor plow set up
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Old 01-16-2018, 01:38 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Love the videos! So much for Tuckers being slow!


I am looking forward to a write up on the entire Thundercat build!
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:17 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

What engine is in the Thundercat?
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Old 01-17-2018, 10:26 AM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

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Originally Posted by PJL View Post
What engine is in the Thundercat?
That's a fair question, but honestly I wanted to wait until we've got it fully reassembled before I divulged any details about the various modifications.

Please understand and bear with me...
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Old 01-17-2018, 11:33 AM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

I forgot to mention that between the first two days of testing one of the things we did to try and make the Griffin radiator work was to add an engine oil cooler. We had previously installed a Derale Hyper Cool transmission cooler. These are a remote mount, stacked plate cooler with a thermostatically-controlled electric fan. So we added a second one for the engine oil. Both of these coolers are mounted horizontally to the Tucker frame underneath the rear cab floor.

But the second day's testing while fun, was only partially successful. The steering system worked perfectly (Thank you Jeff Godard!), but the engine would still overheat. Repeatedly stopping to let the engine cool was very definitely getting old. The weather the second day had intermittent snow showers and we used the windshield wipers a few times. We thought they were mediocre - at best. So while we were glad to get the steering working, we still had radiator problems and we felt we needed to address the wipers.

I called Griffin Thermal Products again and was disappointed by their response. We had determined the specific radiator they recommended and sold just didn't cut the mustard. They offered to sell me a new radiator at a "discounted price" that was more than I could buy the radiator from Summit Racing. Rather than taking some responsibilty and treating me like a valued customer, they saw me as a resource to be exploited. Some Internet research showed the aluminum radiators made by Ron Davis Racing Products consistently got great reviews so I contacted them.

Scott and I carefully measured the area and determined we could just barely fit in a Ron Davis radiator that was slightly larger than the Griffin product. It also had larger electric fans that pulled more airflow through the radiator. So I ordered one of those. When it arrived a week or so later we both were very impressed with the quality of the craftsmanship. The people who made it knew what they were doing and took great pride in their workmanship. If you appreciate really nice welding, you see it almost as a work of art. Of course that meant coming up with a new method of mounting the radiator to the Tucker, and a new overflow tank as well.

We also took on the task of improving the wiper system. One of my personal pet peeves are poorly designed windshield wiper systems. Some automotive companies really sweat the details and design excellent wiper systems; ones that cover a great deal of the windshield and are optimized for driver and passenger viewability during inclement weather. Further, their wiper parking system parks the wipers in the right place - mostly out of view. Other companies tend to consider the wiper system as an afterthought and come up with a sub-optimal system. The former are typically companies like BMW, Lexus and Mercedes.

Scott has a CAD system at his shop, and we used the Tucker windshield measurements (16.5” high x 48.5” long) and developed three completely different designs: one using pantograph wiper arms, one where the wiper arms are at 90º at the left and right windshield edges and then rotate in and down toward the center, and lastly an improved design of the basic Tucker system. Without boring you with the details, our analysis was a redesigned Tucker system would be the best solution.

The Tucker wiper system has an electric motor, a linkage mechanism, two wiper shafts and their wiper hardware (arms and blades). By moving the shaft placement and modifying the linkage system, the area of the two wiper arcs was substantially increased. Our CAD analysis showed the Tucker system had a theoretical arc of 85º. Our redesigned system has a theoretical arc of 110º. I used the term “theoretical arc” because the system has a certain amount of slop in the linkage system, as well as the wiper blade “flop" at each end of it’s range of motion. Those are not accounted for in the CAD design. Put differently, our modifications add 29.45% more swept area. Perhaps more importantly driver and passenger viewability is substantially improved as the swept areas are more optimally positioned within the windshield area.

The hard part was the design work. The actual modifications are pretty easy. Our redesign used only parts that came on the machine, so this is basically a zero cost upgrade…just your time in doing it. If you look at the videos try and get a look at the windshield to see the wipers parked out of the way.

So we loaded up Thundercat for more testing. January 14, 2017 was a typical Utah "bluebird day". Bright sunlight and not a cloud in the sky...and it had snowed recently! Once again we took Thundercat to the same location.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW6p0vTewoY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIzPtPumTY0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt9yiT5fOLc
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Old 01-17-2018, 01:57 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

What an awesome place you have to play around and the cat is also awesome. That would sure piss off a few xcountry skiers around here. Looking forward to the details on this. Thanks for the videos.
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:22 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

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Originally Posted by Sno-Surfer View Post
What an awesome place you have to play around and the cat is also awesome. That would sure piss off a few xcountry skiers around here. Looking forward to the details on this. Thanks for the videos.
I mentioned in the winter they put a gate across Mirror Lake Highway. The road actually goes from Kamas, UT to Evanston, WY. I'm almost certain there's a gate on the Wyoming side that gets closed, too. There's a large parking area by the gate on the Utah side and it's a popular spot for snowmobiles. You can use the road to get some incredible back country snowmobiling areas (been there-done that). The road is groomed in the winter and in addition to snowmobiles, it's common to see xcountry skiers and snowshoers on the road as well. Other than the groomer, it's rare to see a snowcat there. When we see someone on skis or snowshoes we slow down and give them a wide berth and they usually wave as we go by. On one of our trips there was a tree across the road. No problem for us to hook on and pull it out of the way.
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Old 01-17-2018, 09:31 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

That is one impressive build. How fast you going in the powder?
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Old 01-17-2018, 09:47 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

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That is one impressive build. How fast you going in the powder?
I honestly don't know.

Before we tested the machine the third time I downloaded a GPS speed app on my phone. On the way back to the trailer from testing Scott and I decided to see what kind of speed we could get. I think we reached 18 MPH, but it was somewhat disconcerting. Going that speed the tracks and grousers have a lot of rotating mass and they were throwing snow everywhere, especially onto the hood. The track belts are original, 37 years old at the time, and have some weather checking. It seemed putting that kind of stress on them was perhaps not wise.
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Old 01-17-2019, 02:44 AM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

What gear ratio do you have? My 1644 has 6.17 with the new process 5 speed Havent tested it yet im thinking of a re gear maybe 4,88
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:21 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

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Originally Posted by bobby wilkes View Post
What gear ratio do you have? My 1644 has 6.17 with the new process 5 speed Havent tested it yet im thinking of a re gear maybe 4,88

The ring and pinion ratio is 4.88:1. Every Tucker I've owned has had that ratio, so someone must have special ordered the 6.17:1 gears. What engine is in your Tucker?
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:03 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Awesome job! I can’t wait to see this Tucker at the finishline!
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:35 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Good info right here. Glad I took the time to look because my 1988 / 1644 (3 door) has the Cummins and Allison in it. Originally geared at 6.17:1 but re-geared last season to 4.56:1 and as of yet have not tested. Looking forward to the fuel savings and not so much the speed for obvious reasons. I figured top speed at 18 - 20 mph, so Blackfoot you just confirmed my calculations. (I hope)
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:22 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Love those videos..
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Old 01-17-2019, 10:16 PM
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Default Re: Tucker videos uploaded to youtube

Thanks for the kind words...

After getting the Vail 'Cat done we have resumed working on Thundercat. While the Ron Davis radiator did a great job of cooling the engine, getting that issue fixed resulted in another problem; hydraulic fluid overheating.

Scott and I discussed possible solutions as we took the snowcat apart prior to sandblasting and painting. It went to Idaho in July 2017 for the blasting and painting process. We got it back almost exactly a year ago (January 2018), though the knucklehead who did the sandblasting damaged the firewall. That was very time-consuming to repair.

Hopefully we'll have it all back together in the next 4-6 weeks.
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