Mercury is one of the most well-known marine engine manufacturers on the market. The company offers a wide range of high-quality outboard and inboard engines. But it’s a lesser-known fact that Mercury in the early ‘70s produced snowmobiles as well. If you want to learn all about the history of Mercury snowmobiles, this post is for you. What’s more, you can also find out where you can buy one!
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know about these amazing vintage sleds under one roof.
Mercury Snowmobile History
Mercury was the market leader in the marine engine industry in the mid-‘60s. Its engines were well-designed, durable, and offered outstanding performance.
The company began to show an interest in the snowmobile industry around 1966. At that time, there was a huge boom in the snowmobile market, which attracted about 100 new players into the business.
The company put together a complete team in the U.S. for a thorough market research. They purchased several sleds from various manufacturers and took them apart, examining each one.
Based on this research the company started to design and build a brand new sled from scratch.
As a result of this effort, Mercury entered the snowmobile market in 1968 by introducing the Model 150E.
It’s a fun fact that although Mercury started manufacturing snowmobiles its name was changed to Mercury Marine. This was because Carl Kiekhaefer, the president of the company resigned in 1970, and at that time the company’s official name was still Kiekhaefer Mercury.
Deviating from market practice the company called these machines “Snow Vehicles” rather than snowmobiles.
Although only about 400 were made of the 150E, the manufacturer ensured that at least one was delivered to each northern Mercury dealership.
The first Mercury snowmobiles were powered by a 250cc chainsaw engine, which was borrowed from the heavy-duty Mercury KB7-B two-man chainsaw.
Since this power source was not specifically designed for sleds, it was prone to overheating which led to constant reliability issues.
This is why you can see large holes on the body of most Mercury 150Es! Mercury quickly realized the issue and installed extra vents on both sides of the hood. This resulted in better airflow and improved cooling but couldn’t eliminate the engine issues.
What’s more, the vehicle suffered from various handling and clutching problems as well. On top of that, working on the machine was quite hard.
The new Mercury 220 debuted in 1969, which was closely followed by the 250. Their design was based on their predecessor but had more advanced features.
Electric start and reverse systems were available for both models as an option. The latter featured a pretty simple design, which was taken from early Mercury outboard engines. The key to this system was the drive clutch, which was able to move in both directions.
This means that if you wanted to put these sleds into reverse, you had to stop the engine, flip a switch to change the direction of the clutch and then restart the engine.
The Mercury 220 and 250 also featured a Thunderbolt ignition and a single headlight. The gas tank was mounted on the rear while the storage was under the seat.
The engine of the Mercury 220 was a 399cc power source that delivered a moderate 22HP. Although the hood of the machine was quite long, the engine was placed very close to the dashboard.
Unlike its smaller brother, the Mercury 250 was powered by a 436cc twin, which offered 25HP.
Although this machine was more powerful it was also significantly heavier than its little brother. It was no coincidence that the manufacturer didn’t mention the weight of the sled in the manual!
To handle this increased weight, the sled was manufactured with a special track, which was reinforced with a metal cable. Unfortunately, this design had a huge drawback as sitting in the cold for a while caused the track to stiffen.
The stuck track blocked the engine, which caused the sled to start hard. You had to place the rear of the sled on a stand, open the hood, and move the shaves by hand.
Unfortunately, this issue with Mercury snowmobile’s tracks wasn’t good for the company’s reputation and caused a lot of headaches for owners as well.
The Mercury 200 was very similar to the original 150E, but it was powered by a single cylinder 292cc engine. Surprisingly, this power source was manufactured by an outside engine supplier.
In 1971, the company introduced two new models, the Rocket and the Lightning. Both of these machines were powered by a CCW (Canadian Curtiss Wright) engine.
The Lightning had a 399cc twin with an electric start while the Rocket was powered by a 340cc power source.
Unlike their predecessors, these sleds were more lightweight and livelier. What’s more, they also featured a more modern design.
The all-new Mercury Hurricane was unleashed in 1972. It featured a powerful 644cc twin engine and a well-designed body. It was fast, sporty, stylish, and proved to be reliable!
Unlike its outdated brothers, the Hurricane came with an optional side-rail suspension system. In contrast, previous models were manufactured with a “bogie-wheel” suspension system.
Meanwhile, Carl Kiekhaefer, the founder of Mercury left the company, so the name was changed to Mercury Marine.
The legendary Sno-Twister debuted in 1974, which was designed for racing purposes. This adrenaline-filled sled was powered by a 400cc engine. The success on the racetrack encouraged the manufacturer to design a trail version of this sled, and the widely popular Trail-Twister was born.
The machine was positioned as a performance model for advanced sledders. The model was available with 440cc, and 340cc fan-cooled twins that offered a performance of 40-50 HP.
The Mercury Trail-Twister was available from 1975 to 1976 and became instantly popular among performance-minded buyers.
But to the greatest regret of many fans, Mercury left the snowmobile market in 1976.
Mercury Snowmobile Models
Without claiming completeness, some of the most well-known Mercury snowmobile models were as follows:
- Mercury 150M
- Mercury 200M
- Mercury 220M/E/ER
- Mercury 250M/ER
- Mercury 340 S/T
- Mercury 440 S/T
- Mercury Rocket
- Mercury Lightning
- Mercury Hurricane
- Mercury Sno-Twister 400
- Mercury Trail-Twister 340
- Mercury Trail-Twister 440
Mercury Snowmobiles for Sale
Let’s face it, the antique Mercury snowmobiles from the early years are very outdated. But believe it or not, vintage Mercury snowmobiles are still popular especially among younger buyers.
There’s no question that there are many advantages of vintage sleds!
This is why you can still find some well-maintained Mercury snowmobiles for sale on Craigslist, eBay, or other snowmobile classified ad sites.
If you are considering buying one, you can’t go wrong by visiting some dedicated Mercury snowmobile forums. Besides some potential deals you can find a ton of great info on these forums!
When Did Mercury Enter the Snowmobile Market?
Mercury started manufacturing snowmobiles in 1968. The first model was called the Mercury 150E.
When Did Mercury Leave the Snowmobile Market?
Mercury left the snowmobile market after the 1976 season.
Why Did Mercury Stop Manufacturing Snowmobiles?
Mercury probably ceased its entire snowmobile line because it wanted to focus on its marine division. When the founder Carl Kiekhaefer resigned in 1971 the company name was changed to Mercury Marine. This actually indicated the direction in which the company wanted to move.
What Years did Mercury Make Snowmobiles?
Mercury snowmobiles were in production from 1968 to 1976.
Mercury was one of the most remarkable players on the snowmobile market in the ‘70s. Mercury sleds were arguably heavy and bulky machines, which underwent many changes over the years.
The most popular models were the Hurricane and the latest Mercury sleds, the Trail-Twisters.
Although these machines were very popular among buyers, Mercury left the snowmobile business in 1976 to focus entirely on its marine engine division.