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In the late ‘70s, Chrysler started the development of a snow-ped for the U.S. Marine Corps. However, after testing the prototypes, the organization didn’t like the machine and canceled the contract.
Chrysler didn’t want its valuable development time to go to waste, and it had invested in the infrastructure to produce the snowmobile. The brand decided to take its latest innovation to the consumer market.
Unfortunately, the company's financial situation by 1982 was dire, and it had to sell all the machines and parts to a liquidator, as reported by Hagerty.
A brief history of the Chrysler Sno-Runner concept
Hagerty said that according to some sources, before the U.S. Marines were interested in the snowmobile project, an inventor approached the Japanese Kioritz company with an idea. Kioritz built eco-friendly chainsaws. The idea was to use the two-cycle engines at its disposal to make a simple snowmobile.
The company agreed to produce the snow bike. But it only picked up a few thousand sales, so they decided to part ways with the inventor. That’s how the snow bike ended up with Chrysler.
Chrysler seized the opportunity and pitched the idea to the U.S. Marines. But the organization wasn’t impressed with the snowmobile's performance.
Chrysler was experienced at creating tracked vehicles, having built the Pershing and Sherman tanks during the Second World War. Unfortunately, this didn’t exactly translate into being able to build a good snowmobile.
Chrysler Sno-Runner specs
According to Motor Trend, the Sno-Runner is a single-passenger snow bike that’s powered by a two-cycle Marine engine from Chrysler. This single-cylinder engine has a capacity of 134 cc. When riding in snow, it can reach speeds of up to 25 mph.
Its mono-ski design seemed to work perfectly. However, the use of just one front skid really slowed down the snowmobile.
Chrysler built two models of the snowmobile. The higher-performance version used a two-stroke Power Bee 820 single-engine that came with a Tillotson 320A carburetor. The engine was rated at 11 horsepower. The standard performance model had two gasket heads, a low-flow exhaust system, and a lower-rated carburetor. This version was rated at just 8 horsepower.
Both machines had a total run time of about an hour, with the higher performance version providing smoother and more consistent rides in deep snow. The K15T clutch and the modified drive chain gave the higher performance model better traction and fewer maintenance issues.
Where did the snowmobile go wrong?
The snowmobile had several issues which prevented it from picking up speed. The first was the placement of the exhaust system. The exhaust tended to cut the power down when the engine was running.
The vehicle was also relatively weak and felt wobbly if a heavier rider used it. The extremely thin frame and its front skid negatively affected the riding experience, especially on uneven surfaces.
It was only reliable in perfect conditions, such as in thick snow and on flat ground with no debris. Otherwise, there was some chance that the snowmobile would derail, causing the rider to fall.
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