Doug Holicky has been collecting snowmobiles for most of his 34 years. “When I was a teen, my uncle had a Massey-Ferguson, and when I was 16, I had one of my own, and had them ever since,” says Doug.
The New Prague, Minn., man’s first Massey-Ferguson was a 1971 500 SST that another guy was scrapping out. “My uncle said if I wanted to build one, here was my chance.”
It had a hood, framework and skis, but no engine. He paid $15 for it at the salvage yard. Eventually, he found an engine and parts and put them together to make it work. He even sewed the seats. His reward was almost immediate.
“I was 17 at a snowmobile show, and people offered to buy it from me right there. That made me feel good,” says Doug.
Tractor Company Sleds
Massey-Ferguson began manufacturing snowmobiles in 1968.
“Compared to other snowmobiles of the era, they didn’t come out too great,” says Doug, an auto mechanic. “They weren’t racy, they weren’t fast, and like others in the ’60s and ’70s, snowmobiles weren’t generally made for recreational use, but for going out to feed cows or hunting in the woods. Massey-Ferguson advertised as work machines and for outdoor fun. Not performance like Scorpions, Ski-Doos, and Arctic Cats. The Massey-Fergusons were geared toward the farmer, and not top of the line.”
My MF Collection
Doug has 15 MF snowmobiles, and nine of them run. The others wait for him to work on them, but he doesn’t restore every machine he gets.
“Maybe some cosmetic painting, but if they look nice, and are original mechanically, like a couple of mine, I won’t paint or polish,” he says.
The others are taken apart bolt by bolt to assure they are mechanically sound, and have good drive tracks, wheels, engines and suspension.
“If they’re sound, then they’re reliable,” says Doug. “I do drive every one of them.”
Doug and his wife, Lori, showed the soundness of his machines, each driving a Massey-Ferguson snowmobile on a one-day 120-mile fundraiser ride for St. Jude’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.
“They performed flawlessly,” says Doug. “The trick is to know your snowmobile inside and out, and it will treat you well and give you a good ride.”
Doug’s rarest Massey, a 1976 440 liquid-cooled three-cylinder Massey-Ferguson Cyclone, is identical to a 1975 Scorpion Brut, the last of the Brut-style sleds. Scorpion bought Brut in the mid-1970s.
“I knew about that particular Cyclone for a few years, and urged others to get it, because I couldn’t afford it, and I would have been glad to see someone else get it,” says Doug.
Eventually, Doug bought it for $600. “One of the best opportunities I ever had, and I’m glad I took it,” he says.
Taken apart, everything looked original. Doug added a belly pan and skis, a spindle, springs, and a new hood.
“Just cosmetic stuff, really,” he says. “Mechanically it was okay. The chaincase cracked later, but I put on a new one. I try to still keep them original.”
Finding parts is the hardest aspect of restoration. “The engine is critical, and finding parts for it is hardest,” says Doug. “Engines have to be stout, with new seals, kept up to code, good and reliable.”
Getting them to run on today’s gas, without detonation or blowing up, is a challenge.
“You have to really detune the engine by raising the port timing to lower compression, and retard the timing a lot,” says Doug. “I run good 2-cycle oil in them, with the carb real rich, and know how to tune them on a cold day or a warm day.”
Sometimes a little lead additive keeps them going. New unleaded fuel doesn’t combust like the old fuel, and causes problems like vapor lock.
“The new fuel is hard on the rubber in carburetors, too,” adds Doug. “I’m just trying to get the fuel back to where it was in the ’70s.”
Doug would like to complete his collection of MF snowmobiles by adding the Formula models 1, 2, and 3.
“I have a 4, and had a 2 in bad shape that I sold so another guy could make his 100 percent,” he says. “Otherwise, I have pretty much every model number. Basically every body-style ever made.”
Most people who see them say they didn’t know Massey-Ferguson made sleds. They also claim the MF Storm is a Scorpion, and it is, Doug says. Trail-A-Sled Inc., a Scorpion manufacturer, built sleds for MF from 1976 to 1977, based on Scorpion models.
The 1977 MF Storm and Scorpion Sting are the same, as are the 1976-77 MF Whirlwind and Scorpion Whip (just different headlights). The 1976-77 MF Chinook and Scorpion Little Whip are also twins.
“One reason I collect MF is because I grew up on Scorpions,” says Doug. “I like the MF name, and because Scorpion parts are easier to find. I get the best of all worlds.”
Doug’s biggest challenge was getting his 1977 Chinook up to speed.
“It started as just an aluminum tunnel,” he says. “Finding the hood was a huge deal, because these plastic hoods are all cracked and busted. I had to buy a whole snowmobile to get the red hood.”
Getting original decals and finding parts took some two years.
“Finding parts means shopping for the best deal on the internet, through friends who don’t collect MF (fortunately for me), or just driving around and looking,” says Doug. “I turned down several opportunities to finish the Chinook because I couldn’t find a good deal.”
With all the parts on hand, setting it together and getting it running took two weeks.
“If you have everything laid out and the time, it’s really not that difficult,” he says.
Sometimes Doug has to make his own parts, or alters others to fit.
“You have to figure out a way to make it work,” he says. “The best way is to have a metal lathe and tool shop so you can do a lot of repair, flux welding and the like. Without the resources, you have to improvise.”
Windshields are hard to find, so Doug traces them and makes them himself.
“Maybe making some of these things isn’t ‘original,’ but it is cost-effective,” he admits.
Tracks can be improvised, he says.
“Tracks were, for the most part, one-size-fits-all. Those from John Deere 400, 500 and 600 sleds have the same dimension as Massey-Fergusons. Just change the drive socket pitch, and the tracks will fit. The tracks make a JD imprint in the snow instead of MF, but that’s fine.”
To change drive sprockets, “just pop a couple of pins,” says Doug. “If you’re not prejudiced to any brand, the sled companies in the ’60s and ’70s bought parts from the same places, so you can get what you need.”
Doug Holicky's Massey-Ferguson collection includes:
- 1968 380
- 1970 500 SST
- 1972 Formula 4
- 1973 400 WT, not restored
- 1974-75: several models, but none restored
- 1976 Whirlwind
- 1976 Cyclone
- 1977 Chinook 440
- 1977 Storm 440 (last year and last model for MF)