A brand new, old snowmobile
Roddickton man finishes project to recreate his youth
As Ford Hancock stands in the garage doorway he can’t help but flash a smile of pride as he looks at the latest accomplishment sitting in the driveway.
The Roddickton-Bide Arm man hadn’t long gotten back from a trial run in the new, yet old, snowmobile, which he completely rebuilt from the salvaged chassis up.
And other than a small hiccup with the transmission when in reverse, the inaugural run couldn’t have been a better day. It’s one he’d been anxiously awaiting since back in May 2015, when he first unearthed the chassis near Main Brook and towed it some 50 kilometres back to Roddickton.
The 76-year-old had taken on the project as means of recapturing his youth - he and his family had a 1951 Bombardier snowmobile when he was 12 years old.
When Hancock first spoke with the Northern Pen about the project in October, he had the chassis, belly pan, suspension, tires, steering column, cab framing and a 292 Chevy engine in place.
But there was still a lot of work to be done.
By Christmas, Hancock had a plywood cab in place, fibreglassed and painted. The tracks, along with other work were tackled in January. He even made his own set of skis (one-foot wide, 52 inches long) to help the snowmobile navigate in the snow.
“I couldn’t get any, so I took the measurements off one my brother has, and cut them myself,” said Hancock. “The biggest challenge was curving the skis. I welded one end of the skis to the side of an old 200-gallon tank and we bent the skis into proper shape.”
And by February everything was pretty much ready to go, or so he thought.
A motor that appeared to be in find working order refused to start.
“It certainly made for a lot of trial and temptation to get it working again,” he said.
He hauled the motor out of the snowmobile and sent it to Corner Brook to be rebuilt.
Returning to the snowmobile, it was still causing him trouble.
“She’d start up right away, go for two of three shots on each cylinder and then she’d shut off,” he said. “Heave in a drop a gas and the exact same thing would happen again.”
Hancock then started looking into how the engine was getting its fuel, changing the tanks and lines, and adding a new $350 carbonator to make sure everything was working as it should.
When that didn’t work he focused on the distributor, but the answer was a lot harder to find that one might think.
“I’ve had a lot of good mechanics stop by, one worked with highways for more than 30 years, and we still couldn’t figure it out,” he said.
When a nephew came by to try a distributor from a snowmobile owned by Hancock’s brother, it worked fine.
Knowing this was the cause, closer inspection revealed that a distributor wire, inside the rubber and out of sight, was broken.
He was able to get it repaired in St. Anthony, thanks to Don Acreman, who restores old vehicles. The engine now works like a charm.
“If I didn’t run into the trouble with the engine, I could have had her out at least a month ago.”
But that’s in the past now and not something Hancock wants to dwell on. Instead he’s content having his cabbed snowmobile in working order.
With the snow beginning to get scarce, he managed to get the snowmobile out for one run, and it accomplished exactly what it was meant to do.
“To get back behind the wheel brought me straight back to my youth,” he said.
He’ll put the snowmobile back in storage and hope for an early winter.
“I never been the kind of person who wanted to see snow, but now I do.”
Ford Hancock sits behind of the wheel of his recently completed cabbed snowmobile. The Roddickton-Bide Arm man started with just a salvaged chassis back in May and got the snowmobile out for its first run Tuesday.
While he was able to pick up old parts here and there, the majority of the work - including cab, doors, vents, hatches and even the skis - were made by Hancock.
The Northern Pen’s first visit to Hancock’s Roddickton garage, back in October, shows the framework in which he would build the cab around.
If it weren’t for engine trouble -- mainly the distributor - Hancock figures he could have been using the snowmobile for at least a month.