|The Fox Trac Sleds|
|Wednesday, 09 June 2010 21:36|
The Fox Corporation of Janesville, Wisconsin, was well into the mini-bike and go-kart business when recreational snowmobiling arrived on the scene. People then involved in the business at the Fox Corporation were Stanley Fox and sons, Fred and Robert, until the business was sold in 1968. The white-trimmed orange snowmobiles that currently qualify as "antique" include the 1964, 1965 and 1966 model year Fox Trac sleds.
To make things appear simple back then, the same Fox Trac lines were carried for three years with minor annual improvements. The 1966 RT-10 (rubber track, 2-cycIe 10 h.p.) model with aluminum hood and bogie wheel suspension was the significant departure from all other Fox sleds to that date and was in line with the Ski-Doo influence. Fox Trac built both front and rear engine sleds in the three-year time span. All, except for the RT-10, were steel tracked with rigid slide suspension, 4-cycle powered and colored bright orange.
Based on recent Antique Club replies, Fox Tracs are found from California to New York. They were demonstrated during 1964 at St. Paul and Eagle River in competition. A large rear engine sled also was shipped to the South Pole for expedition work. Kohler powered Polaris Sno Travelers and the Fox Trac 512 series worked side by side.
Fox model designations compare somewhat to those of the red Arctic Cats. For Fox Trac, the 100 and 200 series sleds were, respectively, the standard and stretched version of the front-engine design. The 300 (400 included) and 500 series were the medium and large rear engine sleds. Engine size is coded as follows: model 140 had a 4 h.p. engine, the model 380 had an 8 h.p. unit. We'll cover some of the characteristics of the 1965 ,, 140-B recreational model, along with comments on the 1965 380-B rear engine machine.
The Fox Trac model 140-B (B = 1965 model year designation) was a visually updated version of the original 1964 model 140. The 40 'snow tractor' design is unique to snowmobiles and makes the sled appear to be much older than it really is. It resembles a square hooded riding lawn mower surrounded by one-inch double tube crash bars.
Depending on the model year, a 4 h.p. Briggs, 4 h.p. Lauson, or 6 h.p. Lauson engine was available. Top speed was in the 15 m.p.h. range. Drive train was an unusual double reduction chain drive with a centrifugal clutch. No belt or expandable pulleys were used. This resulted in a lot of torque and also a low top speed.
Another unusual feature was the motorcycle twist grip throttle control. A kill button was mounted on the hood. Brakes and lights were not available. The front suspension was not sprung. However, the 8-inch wide skis did pivot. A small square handlebar bolt on windshield was standard equipment. What the drive train lacked in power and durability was well compensated for in the strong tubular chassis, the rigid slide rails and a 17 1/2-inch wide superbly cleated track. Also under the 2-inch thick seat was a lengthy storage box. Two-up riding was possible if one of the people had real short legs.
As one Indiana model 140 owner wrote, "It was also prudent to carry a spare chain much as we carry spare belts on snowmobiles today. When the chain got slack (which didn't take too long), it would hang on the sprocket tooth and sometimes break." Some early 140 models were also susceptible to moisture in the points, and at below freezing there was no spark. Weatherproof ignition systems worked well. Such were the problems 14 years ago.
At a price of $470 the Model 140-B was economical to buy. but had its performance limitations.
The story on the rear engine Fox 1965 model 380-B has shown it to be extremely dependable. Owners who have run it hard say it is one heck of a workhorse. The 380-B is not unlike an Arctic model 170 or Polaris K-80-D SnoTravel-er. All three are proven machines that can be used for fun or work.
The 410 Fox Trac (10 h.p. version of the 380 chassis) tended to bog down in soft powder. The added power of the 10 h.p. block was offset by the better flotation of the lighter 8 h.p. Kohler engine.
Heavy sleds at 525 pounds, they were a beast to steer on winding trails. Body English help was marginal, but it's always worthy to have tried. The steering wheel effort required arm muscle and tipsiness was thrown in for excitement. The experience of operating one of these "antiques" is a good reason to own one.
As recently as January 22, 1978, a 1964 Fox Trac 140 and a '65 model 410-B made parade laps on the Eagle River race track as part of a 20-sled antique parade. This compares, in a sense, to Fred Fox (LeMans Corp.) entering competition at St. Paul and Eagle River in 1964
The 260-B stretched chassis model was introduced in 1965 to give better flotation for soft-snow riding. When the 1966 RT-10 and 1967 RT-250 sleds were marketed, Fox Trac had a truly conventional front-engine sled that worked swell.
To date, 18 Fox Trac owners have joined the Antique Snowmobile Club of America. Their bright orange sleds, with unique construction, present a curiosity that produces some interesting questions.
The critical headache about the old orange sleds is trying to determine a 1965 from a 1966 model. The literature simply says it's as easy as telling the
Reprinted with permission, This article originally was published in Iron Dogs Tracks, the official newsletter of the Antique Snowmobile Club Of America.