Cut It Out
Making tough decisions
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Bret Rasmussen asked me with his plasma cutter in hand as we both hovered over a brand new Arctic Cat King Cat. Bret realizes how hard it can be to start cutting away perfectly good material, and in essence, instantly diminishing the value of a snowmobile.
Now this wasn't just any old hole we were going to cut. This was about an eight-inch hole in the side of the bulkhead where most sleds would have a jackshaft attached to the driven clutch. This is something that wouldn't go unnoticed.
Every year when I start a project sled, there is always the process of removing parts. It seems that in about every sled I've done, we've removed the pipes, suspension, clutches, carbs, seat and even the engine. I often think about those people working at the snowmobile factory, who just days before, were attaching all these new parts with such precision and care ... only to have me dismantle their work without a second thought.
But it's one thing to remove parts. After all, they can be easily bolted back in place and nobody would ever be the wiser. But how do you put a chunk of aluminum the size of a frisbee back into a hole without leaving some sort of evidence that major surgery has been performed?
And we're not talking about some cheap toy. With a retail price of more than $10 Gs, you have to think twice about "elective" surgery. But then, not every day do you get to use a plasma cutter. So there are some positives to off-set any risks.
We weren't cutting holes just to be cutting holes (although this was a plasma cutter). We were creating a hole in the bulkhead to prepare the King Cat to receive an Arctic Diamond Drive system. We're talking cutting edge technology in the snowmobile industry. So it makes some sense if you're going to be on the cutting edge, you have to do a little cutting. And it's not like if you screw up you can easily replace the bulkhead. (I'll pause for a moment for those of you who have actually replaced a bulkhead to stop laughing.)
Bret had carefully taken the time to lay out the template to mark the exact location and outline the hole. We were at that point of no return. It was now or never, do or die, crap or get off the pot . okay, enough of the clichés, enough stalling.
"Last chance," Bret remarked as he donned his cutting glasses and leaned into the sled. "Speak now ... " After all, he was cutting into a $10,000 bill.
Just like a warden looking one last time at the phone on the wall before flipping the power switch on a convicted murderer, Bret gave me one last glance.
"Just one request," I blurted, almost too late to make a difference. "Save me a drumstick."
Boy, can those plasma cutters make a hole.