Tucker 1544 IRAN Project

Blackfoot Tucker

Well-known member
GOLD Site Supporter
I suspect some will know what IRAN means, and others may not. It’s actually an acronym, and the letters stand for Inspect and Repair As Necessary. That's the plan for this machine. Unlike Thundercat, which was a long-term project with (almost) no limits, or Snowzilla, which turned into a customer specific machine with massive “project creep", the intent for this one is mostly repair and maintenance, though we are contemplating some upgrades which we think will improve the functionality and user-friendliness. In addition, the Tucker will get both new exterior paint and interior refurbishing. It’s anticipated this will be our last Tucker project, though I must confess I’ve said that before.

The subject of this thread is a 1986 1544, originally purchased by the Montana Power Company. Over the years Tucker typically makes design changes that improve the machine, and later models have these upgrades that earlier machines lack. This particular Tucker was nicely optioned when it was ordered, and features the Chrysler Industrial 360 CID V-8 (instead of it’s smaller 318 CID sibling), an Allison AT545 four-speed, non overdrive automatic transmission, as well as a Warn model 8274 8,000 lb front winch. It also has damper wheels on the carriers instead of the UHMW plastic track slides. (I believe by 1986 Tucker had made the damper wheels standard equipment, but I’m not certain.) Some of the other changes include a one-piece tilting hood (rather than the butterfly style), improved door hinges and latching mechanisms, the relocation of the steering control valve to inside the cab, a smaller diameter and thicker cross section steering wheel and new seats and interior upholstery. Honestly, these are worthwhile improvements, and they make for a nicer machine. However, Tucker made some changes to the frame design and the front seat support structure which were not good at all.

In different threads I've highlighted some of the issues we discovered after acquiring this Tucker, and they included frame damage caused by water intrusion, and some problems with the cylinder heads. In many cases when buying used vehicles, one uncovers unknown issues, and realistically that’s almost to be expected. This one is no exception. But Scott and I believe when we sell a machine our name is on it, and that means it is sold in “no excuses” condition. That doesn’t imply everything is new, but rather everything works as it should, the machine has been fully serviced, and a purchaser should be confident they’re buying a quality machine.

Here’s a link to the frame water intrusion: http://www.forumsforums.com/3_9/showthread.php?t=81441

And a link to the cylinder head problem: http://www.forumsforums.com/3_9/showthread.php?t=82427

We decided to tackle the frame damage first. We’ve done frame modifications before, so this was not really a big deal, though it is somewhat involved and it needs to be done right. I have not the slightest clue why, but Tucker welds the rear bed to the frame. This makes access a whole lot more difficult and when we built a new bed for Thundercat, we made the bed bolt-on. In this case we knew the frame needed repairs and so the frame was sacrificed to try and remove the bed essentially intact. Removal was done with an acetylene torch used to cut the frame. Literally as we lifted the now detached bed we saw what caused the damage to the two vertical frame support members under the rear cab wall. People who have read some of my posts know I take Tucker to task for ill-considered manufacturing processes, as well as poor quality workmanship and (lack of) quality control. What we saw I think can be accurately described as the worst seen to date. My father was a very smart and highly educated man. He had high standards and was not one to mince words. When I saw what Tucker had done I’m almost positive he would have said “How could they be so stupid?"

Okay, with that buildup.. I’ve got you curious and this picture tells the tale. What you see is the rear cab wall with the aluminum skin riveted to the framework. Note the vertical post and how it’s open at the top. Any rain water or melting snow or just water from washing the machine will flow down the cab wall and enter that tube. With no drain hole, the water has no place to go and will just sit there. When it gets cold enough, it will freeze. What moron thought that was a good idea?

IMG_2634.jpg

Here’s another view from further out.

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I know some Tucker employees visit this forum. This is your chance to call me wrong and explain how leaving a clear and open path for water to enter, and not leave, a structural frame member is a sound manufacturing process. Go ahead Tucker…



Here’s a pic of the bed after the frame sections had been cut off. You can see most of the frame remnants on the floor. We discovered a couple more Tucker boo-boos here as well. One of them you can see in this photo and the other you can't. Notice the way the frame is put together with two cross members supporting the expanded metal decking. Now look at the expanded metal and the orientation of the diamond shapes. The long side of the diamonds are parallel with the supports. WRONG! The supports should be parallel with the short side of the diamonds. If you’re thinking “Yeah, but this way you can use one piece of material and there’s no seam in the expanded metal mesh”, you’d almost have a point. I say “almost" because you can buy the mesh with the long side of the diamonds parallel with the long side of the sheet or perpendicular to them, though it’s not as easy to find. Alternatively, the sheets come in different sizes and one could cut the needed shape from a larger sheet (though that might cost a few bucks more).

IMG_2636.jpg

The cross members are basically steel building C purlins. We think they were a good choice on Tucker’s part, but the execution was flawed.

Here’s a photo. Note how the purlin is short of the bed rail on top, and is not welded to the vertical leg. (The photo got rotated during upload.)

IMG_2667.jpg

The purlins should extend all the way from one frame side rail to the other, and should be welded to the vertical leg of the side frame rails for maximum strength. (The vertical leg appears horizontal in the photo above.) To do that requires just a little forethought, because if you weld the perimeter together first, and also weld in the pockets for the sideboard vertical posts, you can’t then slide full width purlins into position past the bottom flange of the side rails and/or the pockets. You’d have to cut them to the proper length and put them in position before welding the second side frame rail to the front and rear frame rails. That rather basic concept eluded Tucker. We have no objection to their choice of expanded metal decking, or C purlins for the bed. But the way they installed the materials needlessly sacrificed strength, and it’s not like they saved any money by doing it this way.

I’ve been trying to come up with the right words to describe Tucker’s approach to the bed’s construction. To put it politely, it’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

 

olympicorange

Active member
…. very good questions, BFT... a couple of thoughts come to mind, things that are common in the equipment ( or really any mass manufactured item ) world, …. is the ''attempt '' to appeal price wise to the consumer/buyer. in competition with rival brands. thus Q/C suffers. my CRS challenges me every day, I surely cannot remember the economic status of the mid '80's … but perhaps '' product'' sales were down, competition was high, Tucker personnel change was a''muck'' (Q/C), was the company on strike?? ,... a lapse in engineering/design, etc, etc, etc,...I really don't know...just some things I've seen in the trade. I kmow it sounds like i'm defending one of my favorite brands, but just some thoughts.... I like your invite to ''Tucker'' to ''chime'' in... I;m all ''Ears'' ….
 

Pontoon Princess

Cattitute
GOLD Site Supporter
…. very good questions, BFT... a couple of thoughts come to mind, things that are common in the equipment ( or really any mass manufactured item ) world, …. is the ''attempt '' to appeal price wise to the consumer/buyer. in competition with rival brands. thus Q/C suffers. my CRS challenges me every day, I surely cannot remember the economic status of the mid '80's … but perhaps '' product'' sales were down, competition was high, Tucker personnel change was a''muck'' (Q/C), was the company on strike?? ,... a lapse in engineering/design, etc, etc, etc,...I really don't know...just some things I've seen in the trade. I kmow it sounds like i'm defending one of my favorite brands, but just some thoughts.... I like your invite to ''Tucker'' to ''chime'' in... I;m all ''Ears'' ….

just adding my $.02 and do not speak for the factory,

having seen and touched a tucker sno cat from every year of manufacture, starting with 1942 and ending with 1974, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, quality control and or quality of construction, was never up to standards, just good enough to get it out the door,

I should add without hesitation, brilliant design, but very poor execution.

fyi, I know for a fact, that far too much of BT's time is spent, fixing the issues from manufacturing, than anything else when rehabbing a machine

as for the good or bad times of the economics in the USA and or the World (recessions/depressions), I do not think they ever were concerned about the retail price of the machine.
I never saw any affect on the quality of the machine, always poor. might add INHO, tucker built the machines to maximize profits and drive down costs of manufacturing, to the point, have seen good solid quality parts be discontinued the next year due to higher cost of the quality part only to be replaced by a cheaper part, much like 1 step forward and 3 steps backwards

Hallmark of tucker construction is poor welds, low grade steel/aluminum, low end castings, questionable fit and finish, don't think I need to continue, you get the picture. when restoring, you will finish all that was not done and correct the fit and finish, costly but worth the effort, they are not prefect, but nothing can match a pontoon tucker in the snow.

And then, the History, nothing like it in the snow cat world...
 
With no drain hole, the water has no place to go and will just sit there. When it gets cold enough, it will freeze. What moron thought that was a good idea?

I never saw a square tube tube turn into a round tube until I worked on a Tucker. All natural hydroforming!
 

Blackfoot Tucker

Well-known member
GOLD Site Supporter
As part of the frame repair process we needed to remove the rear aluminum skin from the cab’s steel rear frame support structure for access to the frame to make repairs. To give Tucker some credit, we discovered that they were now using closed end blind rivets, which was a pleasant surprise. But the joy was short lived as once all the rivets were removed, and we peeled away the skin from the frame, we saw the usual galvanic corrosion caused when raw aluminum is riveted to raw steel. More sloppy Tucker workmanship. But…it got worse.

Here’s the needless galvanic corrosion.

attachment-1.jpg

When Scott cut the bed off he sacrificed frame parts that we knew would be replaced to save other pieces that we wanted intact.

This is where Scott cut the rear crossmember as part of the bed
removal process.

IMG_2630.jpg

With the bed removed you can see the two vertical posts at the rear of the frame in the lower left of the photo. We needed to remove the parts of the rear horizontal crossmember that were welded to the two vertical posts which support the bed in the rear.

IMG_2631.jpg

The technique is to carefully grind away the welds until you see a small line, which is where the two pieces of steel meet. You continue to carefully grind away to expose that line all the way around. At that point you can pry up the horizontal crossmember remnant leaving the vertical tube intact, and at the correct length.

At the left side you can see that small line that separates the horizontal crossmember from the vertical post.

attachment.jpg

After exposing the line all the way around and starting to pry off the horizontal crossmember's piece.

IMG_2663.jpg

Once the horizontal crossmember parts had been removed, we could look down inside the vertical tubes. Notice in the photo above the configuration of the various frame members as well as some gussets for additional strength. You can also see the factory installed pintle hook, which is what one would tow something from. Presumably, one would want to make that area of the frame really strong. (Yes, I’m setting you up for something...)

Now let’s look down inside those tubes.

Here’s the left side (the last of the horizontal tube has been pried up to be vertical).

IMG_2666.jpg

And the right.

IMG_2665.jpg

The diagonal lines you see are where Tucker didn’t weld the frame components together. It’s welded on the other three sides that you can see, but not on the top. Like the situation with the bed, this seems to needlessly sacrifice strength. Scott suggested maybe they put all the parts in a jig and weld them up there, but would it really be that hard to add the two vertical posts after you’ve welded the joint on top? I have a hard time understanding Tucker’s rationale. Scott and I are far from perfect, but we genuinely strive for excellence. Sometimes we don’t achieve it, but it’s not for a lack of trying. Sometimes too, we’re not satisfied with our work product - and we’ll throw it away and start over. But the concept of accepting mediocrity is one we can’t abide by. I think it’s the manufacturing equivalent of “everyone gets a trophy”.



 

Pontoon Princess

Cattitute
GOLD Site Supporter
May I suggest, end the drama, sleepless nights and the misery of owning a Tucker

Buy a Snow Track!!!

and you too can have one of these very hyper kewl key chains


fyi, love to see these machines be built again, maybe the new version could be powered by Subaru, just saying...Squirrel
 

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Pontoon Princess

Cattitute
GOLD Site Supporter
As part of the frame repair process we needed to remove the rear aluminum skin from the cab’s steel rear frame support structure for access to the frame to make repairs. To give Tucker some credit, we discovered that they were now using closed end blind rivets, which was a pleasant surprise. But the joy was short lived as once all the rivets were removed, and we peeled away the skin from the frame, we saw the usual galvanic corrosion caused when raw aluminum is riveted to raw steel. More sloppy Tucker workmanship. But…it got worse.

Here’s the needless galvanic corrosion.

View attachment 118691

When Scott cut the bed off he sacrificed frame parts that we knew would be replaced to save other pieces that we wanted intact.

This is where Scott cut the rear crossmember as part of the bed
removal process.

View attachment 118692

With the bed removed you can see the two vertical posts at the rear of the frame in the lower left of the photo. We needed to remove the parts of the rear horizontal crossmember that were welded to the two vertical posts which support the bed in the rear.

View attachment 118693

The technique is to carefully grind away the welds until you see a small line, which is where the two pieces of steel meet. You continue to carefully grind away to expose that line all the way around. At that point you can pry up the horizontal crossmember remnant leaving the vertical tube intact, and at the correct length.

At the left side you can see that small line that separates the horizontal crossmember from the vertical post.

View attachment 118694

After exposing the line all the way around and starting to pry off the horizontal crossmember's piece.

View attachment 118696

Once the horizontal crossmember parts had been removed, we could look down inside the vertical tubes. Notice in the photo above the configuration of the various frame members as well as some gussets for additional strength. You can also see the factory installed pintle hook, which is what one would tow something from. Presumably, one would want to make that area of the frame really strong. (Yes, I’m setting you up for something...)

Now let’s look down inside those tubes.

Here’s the left side (the last of the horizontal tube has been pried up to be vertical).

View attachment 118697

And the right.

View attachment 118698

The diagonal lines you see are where Tucker didn’t weld the frame components together. It’s welded on the other three sides that you can see, but not on the top. Like the situation with the bed, this seems to needlessly sacrifice strength. Scott suggested maybe they put all the parts in a jig and weld them up there, but would it really be that hard to add the two vertical posts after you’ve welded the joint on top? I have a hard time understanding Tucker’s rationale. Scott and I are far from perfect, but we genuinely strive for excellence. Sometimes we don’t achieve it, but it’s not for a lack of trying. Sometimes too, we’re not satisfied with our work product - and we’ll throw it away and start over. But the concept of accepting mediocrity is one we can’t abide by. I think it’s the manufacturing equivalent of “everyone gets a trophy”.




again, again, and again, you have detailed the built and issues so well, thank you, you and Scott are a true asset to the snow cat community
 

Blackfoot Tucker

Well-known member
GOLD Site Supporter
I'll admit that after seeing more craptastic Tucker workmanship, and so-called "engineering", on this machine, my allegiance to Tucker is wavering. But, I'm not yet ready to throw in the towel. I think once we get Tucker's numerous mistakes sorted out, it will be a nice snowcat. For those following this thread, there are several more "chapters" that will highlight some of Tucker's truly lousy design and production "quality" as featured in this Tucker. Trust me; you haven't seen the half of it!

After looking at Utah Wilson's Snow Master for potential purchase, I spent some time considering the complexity of swapping in a Subaru WRX engine. I thought that would make for a seriously cool machine! But I ignored my own advice: "If you find a nice snowcat at a good price, don't dither" and then it was sold.

A few months later a Tucker 1643 was listed on ksl.com and Snowzilla was born....
 

Cidertom

Chionophile
GOLD Site Supporter
For all their faults, I still think of Tucker as king of steep and deep. Many tuckers are still treading where few else can go.


I don't think Tucker got the entire production run of "what were they thinking" Many of our cats have ample portions of that. The ST has the same aluminum over steel issues. And the "almost sealed" tube freeze issues. I've seen issues with Thiokol along those lines as well.



I'm not excusing poor design, workmanship or material, just exposing our industry has 'issues'.



To me what's surprising, is the number of units still around that can be rebuilt,



and there is enough of us to do the job right.
 

The Sweet Wbj1

Active member
I have to agree with Cidertom. Even with all the Tucked up short cuts that Tucker took I still wouldn't want another machine. It just means Snowzilla will be ALMOST as good as a SnowTrac once you have corrected that stuff.
 

olympicorange

Active member
…….. well said everyone.... I have to agree, as lousy as tucker is, I would have a hard time to jump ship. it really doesn't matter what you work on, they all have their own ''quirks''... in this profession/Hobby...you really have to have patience,... to deal with all the frustrations, that come along with it... guess that's why I have such a large ''solar panel'' ,...lol .. keep up the good work everyone..... thx
 

Blackfoot Tucker

Well-known member
GOLD Site Supporter
Next, it was time to get serious about frame repairs. Scott had cut the left rear diagonal frame member (split due to water intrusion) from the upper, outer frame, the lower, inner frame and the long diagonal brace. The upper, outer frame square tubing was going to be replaced anyway - so there was no need to clean up the residual weld and slag from it, but we did need to remove it from the other two components. On the lower, inner frame, access for both grinding away the previous tube's remnants, as well as being able to weld the bottom of the replacement tube, was limited by the rear fifth wheel plate assembly. We needed to remove the six bolts holding that to the Tucker’s frame so we could lift the machine up in the back and away from everything. This removal process re-highlighted, Tucker's decision to weld the bed to the frame. With the bed removed, we had much better access, but it was still a bit sporty. With the bed in position it would have been even less fun (a PITA). The bolts were very tight. One of the two long ones in the rear simply did not want to come out, and it put up a valiant fight. What won the battle was me holding the end of a three foot length of 1” steel round bar against the bolt (nut removed) and Scott wielding a ten pound sledge hammer to persuade the bolt to cooperate.

I’ll pause for a moment and explain one of Scott’s nicknames is “The Gorilla”. He got this on the golf course, due to the way he (mis)treats a golf ball in the tee box. He can literally whack the cr*p out of a golf ball…to the point you almost feel sorry for the ball (note the word "almost"). I can drive a ball pretty far, north of 250 yards, but Scott is routinely fifty yards closer to the flag. So once Scott started swinging the sledge hammer, the bolt was going to lose…no two ways about it.

Here’s Scott blasting his way out of a sand trap.

47cfbe7aca22d6aa188d63e3bc43ecc8.jpg

And a picture of Scott in his younger days.

E552A154094140718AFB157C40251A8E.jpeg

Here’s a photo of the last vestiges of the damaged diagonal frame member on the lower frame with the Tucker lifted away from the fifth wheel plate assembly.

IMG_2671.jpg

Prior to installing the replacement diagonal support member, Scott removed all the material from the lower frame. He also cut the outside upper frame member 1/2” behind the rear door’s front door post and removed it. To get a full penetration weld between the old and new 2” square tube frame sections, Scott inserted a small piece of 1 3/4” square tube inside the two 2” pieces of square tube. He left a small gap between the two 2” tubes so he could weld all three pieces together creating a very strong welded joint.

Once that was done, the replacement diagonal support member was tack welded in position, as was the rear cab’s rear door post. Once positioning was checked for accuracy, it was welded completely.

Where the new upper, outer frame section is welded to the original frame just behind the center door post/roll bar.

IMG_2677.jpg

Here are the new upper, outer frame rail and the rear diagonal frame piece welded in position. (The rear cab wall vertical support tubes have also been replaced.) We’ve lowered the machine back onto the fifth wheel plate and temporarily bolted it all back together.

IMG_2676.jpg
 
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Blackfoot Tucker

Well-known member
GOLD Site Supporter
and just think, BT could have picked up a sweet snow track for a song, and he whiffed.....

PP,

Utah Wilson's Snow Master required some issues to be fixed and then a fair bit of reassembly. Not having taken it apart, that probably meant a fair amount of head scratching. (I recall there were also some parts that needed to be sourced or fabricated.)

My knowledge of all things Activ/Fischer is minimal, and when it comes to Snow Tracs/Snow Masters/Trac Masters, the most knowledgeable person I know of is forum member Lyndon. I reached out to him and he was very helpful, and generous with his wisdom in providing insight while I considered the purchase.

For someone with Snow Trac experience (and appreciation for the brand) it would have been an easy decision. The value was definitely there, but for me it also meant leaving the Tucker world. Some people are really "in to" Volkswagen vehicles and engines, and others aren't. I'm an aren't, which meant the VW engine would be removed and the ensuing engine swap would make the project that much more involved. I was considering a Subaru WRX engine, which is turbocharged. Would it fit? How difficult would it be to deal with the exhaust system? What about cooling? Could we incorporate an automatic transmission? Would the rest of the drive train stand up to the massive increase in power? What other adapters and other complications would we encounter? And I wanted Scott to embrace the whole concept, or I wasn't interested. These were all considerations, and when weighing everything - it was not a slam dunk.

In life there are always things that got away, and there are other times when you've dodged the proverbial bullet. That might have been a fun project, but it might have been a can of worms, too. But it's probably as close as I'll come to owning a Snow Trac, or one of its siblings....
 

Pontoon Princess

Cattitute
GOLD Site Supporter
PP,

Utah Wilson's Snow Master required some issues to be fixed and then a fair bit of reassembly. Not having taken it apart, that probably meant a fair amount of head scratching. (I recall there were also some parts that needed to be sourced or fabricated.)

My knowledge of all things Activ/Fischer is minimal, and when it comes to Snow Tracs/Snow Masters/Trac Masters, the most knowledgeable person I know of is forum member Lyndon. I reached out to him and he was very helpful, and generous with his wisdom in providing insight while I considered the purchase.

For someone with Snow Trac experience (and appreciation for the brand) it would have been an easy decision. The value was definitely there, but for me it also meant leaving the Tucker world. Some people are really "in to" Volkswagen vehicles and engines, and others aren't. I'm an aren't, which meant the VW engine would be removed and the ensuing engine swap would make the project that much more involved. I was considering a Subaru WRX engine, which is turbocharged. Would it fit? How difficult would it be to deal with the exhaust system? What about cooling? Could we incorporate an automatic transmission? Would the rest of the drive train stand up to the massive increase in power? What other adapters and other complications would we encounter? And I wanted Scott to embrace the whole concept, or I wasn't interested. These were all considerations, and when weighing everything - it was not a slam dunk.

In life there are always things that got away, and there are other times when you've dodged the proverbial bullet. That might have been a fun project, but it might have been a can of worms, too. But it's probably as close as I'll come to owning a Snow Trac, or one of its siblings....

nice try, in making sounds so horrible and all,

squirrel has done the transplant and I should add successfully

the sweet heart deal happened only a couple a weeks ago, (not Utah Wilson's) got a call about a nice nice one for far more than reasonable money, I already have one, so I passing it on to you, knowing you would really appreciate it and have a running machine for this years adventures, yes, a little gas and off you go, ready to use, and it was only 6,200.00, great snow cat value for a ton of smiles per mile on the snow,
 

redsqwrl

Bronze Member
SUPER Site Supporter
All I can add at this time is if the swedes would have access to the Subaru family of opposed four bangers I believe they would have used them.

I just measured up a 2.5 L subaru engine and it clears the chains handily. VW transaxles handle torque and horsepower just fine behind many different power plants in sand rails and over worked VW camper-vans.

in regards to steep and deep, a herring boned grouser shod Snow master and a chain drive tucker climbing expose' would be fun to observe.....

2 groups of 12 People need rides to the top of some steep and deep destination in say 6' of any density snow.

eligible machines must have been available or built in numbers higher than 500 units to eliminate one off customs.

no trailers or tow ropes

Just saying, I can pop some pop corn and grab a couple lawn chairs......
 

Blackfoot Tucker

Well-known member
GOLD Site Supporter
nice try, in making sounds so horrible and all,

squirrel has done the transplant and I should add successfully

the sweet heart deal happened only a couple a weeks ago, (not Utah Wilson's) got a call about a nice nice one for far more than reasonable money, I already have one, so I passing it on to you, knowing you would really appreciate it and have a running machine for this years adventures, yes, a little gas and off you go, ready to use, and it was only 6,200.00, great snow cat value for a ton of smiles per mile on the snow,


PP,

If (which should be in much bigger font) I were to purchase one of those Swedish made machines, I'd want a Snow Master or Trac Master, but at this point we have more than enough projects to keep us busy. If you hear of one of those at a reasonable price, you might (also should be in big font) tempt me into buying one, but it would have to be in a moment of extreme weakness.

"Real time" (my thread posts are always behind) we finished the last of the frame repairs and modifications to the 1544 last night. We still have to deal with the floors and the front seat mounting brackets (which will be discussed in upcoming posts.) I'm quite certain I'll have at least one Tucker operational for the Serenade, and Scott's Thiokol (aka: Porky) is a possibility as well.

I suspect it will go for more than I'm willing to pay, but I'm keeping my eye on the LMC 1200 currently at auction as well.
 
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