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BackTracks: 1968 Scorpion Trail-A-Sled 300

The TAS 300 helped stamp out boring winters
1968 Scorpion Trail-A-Sled TAS 300 snowmobile Jay Stanger
The 1968 Scorpion was the Wankel engine-powered tool that Trail-A-Sled hoped you’d use to stamp out those boring winters.
Rotary engine snowmobiles are rare, but I found one at the Scorpion Reunion in Crosby, Minn., last February, and like many surviving sleds, this one had a good story behind it.

This black and red beauty was a 1968 TAS 300 with a 303cc Wankel rotary engine. TAS stands for Trail-A-Sled, the company that made Scorpion sleds.

Wankel engines were invented by Felix Wankel, a German, in about 1919 when he was only 17. Felix patented his design in 1936, but didn’t get much done on his project until after World War II. It wasn’t until 1957 that a prototype was tested. Wankel was working for German car maker, NSU Motorenwerke AG (later part of Volkswagen), at the time.

Wankel engines became available for the 1968 snowmobile season in the form of a 303cc putting out 19 horsepower at 5500 rpm and weighing 56 lbs. Wankel also made a few 606cc twin rotary engines that were to make about 35 hp at 5500 rpm, but problems with the center seal held them up on this model.

The problem with Wankels? They created a lot of heat from the engine and exhaust. When running at night you could see their exhaust glow cherry red. They also tended to burn too much fuel and had poor emissions. Wankels also had a special sound with a lope like a John Deere tractor. Yet using only a small HL Tillotson carburetor they made good power and started easily.
1968 Scorpion Trail-A-Sled TAS 300 snowmobile with Wankel rotary engine

This Scorpion’s story? Originally it was sold at Percy’s Auto Service, a Pure Oil gas station in Virginia, Minn. Its list price was $1,145. And as you can see in the photos, the carburetor was right in front of the driver with the exhaust coming out down by the tunnel with a makeshift guard to keep the heat away from the driver. If the carb ever leaked it would be a nasty situation.

Few were made in 1968, and fewer remain. Mike Sailer of Gilbert, Minn., found this one in Virginia then took it home, cleaned it, and got it running. In 1996 he took it to Milbank, S.D., for a vintage show and Ed Webb of Paynesville, Minn. bought it. But in 2018 Jay Stanger of St. Cloud, Minn., saw Ed’s collection and fell in love with this great little Scorpion. He had to take it home.

Jay proudly showed it at the Scorpion reunion. In addition to the Wankel the sled touts a 15- x 118-inch all rubber track, a double drive made by Scorpion. The track was made so you could take it back to the factory and have it repaired.

It also has three sets of bogey wheels for a nice ride, along with a 3-inch thick seat with the Scorpion logo molded right into the red vinyl. Scorpion also made its own drive and driven clutch.
1968 Scorpion Trail-A-Sled TAS snowmobile logo

The TAS 300 also has a 5-gallon gas tank in the front belly pan, and a detachable fiberglass black hood with twin red stripes. With a steel tunnel this sled came in at about 300 lbs.

The brakes consisted of a leaver and pad pushing against the driven clutch, while the sled was 30.5-inches wide with a ski stance of 29 inches. That made it easy to take exploring off trail.

Scorpion used this engine again in 1969, but the cost and the application just didn’t work out. Yet Scorpion was a popular Midwest brand, having 136 dealers just in Minnesota at that time. To be a dealer you only had to buy 3 Scorpions and a few parts. For that Trail-A Sled gave you a 10-mile radius exclusive selling area. Those were the days!

Minnesotan Les Pinz is a vintage sled expert with an extensive collection. He is a former snowmobile racer, a member of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame and an AmSnow test rider.
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