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Soon after snowmobiling started, manufacturers started searching for more powerful and lightweight engines. Europeans had lightweight 2-stroke water pump engines, but these lacked the power manufacturers wanted. Most were just single cylinders.
Manufacturers tried for more speed with the use of two engines, no matter how big the overall engines became. Many early 1-cylinder engines were around 292cc, but tech advanced and soon three-cylinder 795cc engines, that were also free-air for more power, began to be offered.
In 1967 Polaris and Fugi Heavy Industries from Japan made more powerful, dependable, lightweight engines similar to the German JLO engine. However, Polaris soon figured out using a shorter stock and smaller bore with multiple cylinders delivered more power and ran smoother with more RPM. In 1969 Jerry Reese made a 2-engine speed-sled using two 792cc Fugi engines, totaling 1584cc. He would start them on gas, then switch them to run on alcohol. Alcohol was used to make the engine run cooler, making more power.
Days of X-sleds past
In 1970 Polaris Race Department’s designer Darrel Courtright supervised the use of a similar motor and the building of the futuristic X-2 snowmobile. The assembly was done in a record time of three weeks. The X-2 was powered by two 795cc 3-cylinder Polaris Star engines. The X-2 was to run at West Yellowstone, Mont. at 7,000 ft. elevation, and thinner air, so less power. Mike Baker drove the X-2 to a speed of 109 mph and a new speed record. This X-2 is in the Polaris Experience Center in Roseau, Minn now.
Polaris was ecstatic with the X-2, and wanted to beat those results with a new X-3 sled. Headed by Marley Duclo and Polaris driver Mike Baker the X-3 was designed so low to the ground that Baker had to lay on his belly with his feet to the rear of the sled. A canopy was used for less wind resistance, but it was hard to see where you were heading. You had to look between two carburetors for your forward sight. Polaris was determined to beat the last speed record.
The X-3 had a specially made tunnel and bulkhead, a ski stance of 53 in. and a long body of 161 in., but a height of only 35 in. A standard Power-Slide rear suspension and 15-in. cleated track were used. Polaris added a parachute too so if the track blew out at high speeds the X-3 would have some kind of braking.
The drive axle was extra-long and came out both sides of the tunnel to mount twin chain cases. Two 795cc 3-cylinder Polaris Star free-air engines were leaned forward with the carburetors almost sticking straight up. Usually the front engine runs clockwise and the rear engine runs counterclockwise. To do this you have to turn the pistons around and the cylinders too. You also have to change the timing of the rear engine so it will run the same direction as the front engine. The front engine drives the left chain case and the rear engine drives the right chain case. Power is run through a standard Torque-O-Matic clutch system.
It was a remarkable design, but since the X-3 was only 5 in. off the snow, the front end would scoop up snow slowing it down and making it hard to see.
I made a special carrier to pick the X-3 up from ROSCO, a Polaris distributor in Roseau, co-owned by Gene Fichter. He bought both the X-2 and X-3, but didn’t scrap them. I have always dreamed of owning a sled with this much history. Gene made my dream, and this story, possible.