1969 Ski Whiz Massey-Ferguson

Plowing into the sled market

RELATED TOPICS: VINTAGE
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Massey-Ferguson Inc., one of the world’s largest farm machinery makers decided to enter the booming snowmobile industry in 1969, introducing two Ski Whiz models.

Not surprisingly, the first snowmobiles used the familiar Massey-Ferguson tractor logo on the hood and dash. (See bottom right image.) These were great looking sleds and used JLO 2-stroke engines from Germany that put out 17.5 horsepower from the 297cc motor and 23.5 horses from the 372cc motor, which even offered electric start as an option.

A different approach
Massey-Ferguson set out to design a front-mounted engine snowmobile like Arctic Cat built at the time. But M-F took a different approach, by reversing the engine’s cylinder to have the carburetor facing forward to draw cold air in for more power.

In addition, Ski Whiz was designed with a screen in the hood’s front to keep out snow and ice, allowing clean air to reach the carburetor. To do that, the exhaust had to curve around to the front over the drive clutch and out the belly pan. This meant that the heat from the muffler had to be shielded from the carburetor to prevent vapor lock. Vapor lock occurs when the carburetor and gas get too warm and the fuel turns to a gas and cuts feed pressure from the fuel pump. In turn, that means fuel doesn’t get to the carburetor and the sled loses power.

Years in farm machinery design no doubt helped M-F as it also fastened the heat shield to the hood so that when raised it allowed good access to the carburetor for service.
 
Additionally, the hood was easily removed with two pins to pull and a light wire to disconnect, then off popped the hood. Very smart!

When I first started the Ski Whiz from my collection in our front yard, my wife thought it sounded like her grandmother’s old pulley driven washing machine. The sled’s 372cc JLO certainly has a sound all its own. When idling, it goes “CAPOONK-CAPOONK!”

Unique features
Ski Whiz’s had some other unique qualities. The 1969 models had twin sealed-beam headlights to increase a rider’s fun in the fields and on the trails at night. The sleds also used a 15.5-inch wide by 130-inch long polyurethane track, one of the longest tracks for its time, putting a 44.5 inch footprint on the ground to create better traction and flotation.

For brakes Ski Whiz’s used the stationary driven clutch sheave as the disc and mounted a set of movable brake pucks to stop the sled. This worked well because you never were going that fast.

Ride was nice too with three sets of bogey wheel assemblies in the rear suspension. When ridden hard you had to put a bungee cord between each assembly to hold them from flipping over.

Ski Whiz featured rear torsion springs tucked under the track too with adjustable screws for torsion spring setting to fit different riding abilities.

Overall the sled’s design, with its low center of gravity and 31-inch stance, made for excellent handling and side hill stability.

The sled was equipped with a six-inch thick foam seat that was 40 inches long. It not only was comfortable, but also provided seating for two adults and a child. There also was a stylish backrest with a handy storage compartment, and a fuel tank in back that held 4 ¾ gallons of gas.

Styling is always debatable, but the Ski Whiz had its own special character that was loved by some, but not so much by others.

Massey-Ferguson stuck with the sled market for most of the 1970s, but ultimately left after the 1977 model year - the end of the road for Ski Whiz.

Near the end M-F dealers were throwing in one or two new snowmobiles when a farmer bought a grain combine. That’s why you might find a Ski Whiz in old farm machinery sheds with very few miles on them.
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