Attempt #1: Mini Snowcat called "Frankencat"
Originally, due to budget, I bought this to try. For $300 why not.
- built by aerospace engineer. very ingenious and unique vehicle
- 2 snowmobile channels/tracks
- 20HP garden tractor engine and transaxle
- cheap. $300 on craigslist
- light and handled deep snow well
- finicky small engine.
- carbureted. Major loss of power at elevation
- chain driven. chains stretch and pop etc.
- hard to start. took 10 minutes of trying with starting fluid each time.
- you have to trailer it back and forth
- you freeze your butt off driving it
- no cargo capacity
- can't fit 4 people
- really tricky to drive since homemade
- easy to tip backward. possible to flip forwards as well.
Attempt #2: Argo8x8 with Supertracks
- powder extensions and ice cleats
- 20HP kawasaki liquid cooled v-twin engine
- Lowest ground pressure
- good torque
- great for hunting. but I am not a hunter.
- amphibious. but I don't have any need to take it in water.
- not street legal so I can't park on side of road. also don't want it to get stolen.
- needs hardtop enclosure. too cold and windy when arriving at 10pm in the dark on a friday night to use the cabin
- reliability. small engines are not my favorite.
- VERY wide (82") with tracks so does not fit on most trailers
- heater basically does nothing.
- you smell like gas and exhaust after using it
- loading on and off trailers is a pain. You can to strap it down for transport. Often your ratchets are covered in ice and hard to get off when arriving.
- Its near the max my jeep can haul and not fun driving in winter conditions with it on a trailer. Towing is slow, unsafe, uses tons of gas.
- I have a snowmobile trailer I haul it with. I could add an enclosure on top of it and use it like a garage and leave it up there. I have permission from a neighbor at the bottom of our road to store it. But it would be so heavy I could barely haul it with my jeep. Probably would have to borrow a pickup truck. If I have any breakdowns that require brining it home, I need to borrow a truck. Also, probably would have to hire an excavator to unburry the trailer so I could pull it back onto the road if it was mid-winter.
Attempt #3: Tracked 4x4 Vehicle
Recently I started thinking about a tracked 4x4 vehicle. But tracks are very expensive new. Mattracks cost $10-40k. Even the less expensive brands cost $9000 or more.
Some people home build tracks, but it seems to take them a lot of trial an error to come out with something reliable that works well. I don't have the time for that right now. There are not many full size used tracks out there. But, there are many more ATV tracks..... and they are 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of full size tracks. Then I noticed people putting ATV tracks on Samurai's! So I started researching. And thus, the start to this project. If I can get this to turn out well, I will switch to this platform and sell my Argo. If not, I'll sell the tracks and the 4x4 vehicle, and keep my Argo. I figure its worth a shot. It will take some time, but its not as daunting as building tracks from scratch.
Benefits of a Tracked 4x4 Vehicle (compared to Argo):
- people who are not familiar with Argo's are intimidated to drive it. Argo's steer like a tank, have throttle like a motorcyle. Braking is through the handle bars also. You need to know how to use it, start it etc. Not like a car where you hop in and go. Everyone knows how to drive a car
- Heat and regular seats to sit in. An enclosed cab.
- lock it and leave it on side of road so when we get there, jump in and go up to cabin. No hauling back and forth to my house. No garage or enclosed trailer needed.
- MAINTENANCE. I can't even find a place that specializes in Argos near Denver. Just put the wheels back on the vehicle and drive it to town for service. Its a car. Any service shop anywhere can work on a car.
- Towable. I can put a towbar on the front of a car, put the wheels on, and tow it between my house and cabin or for service. No trailer needed.
Vehicles Considered: Light 4x4 or AWD Vehicles
- Rav4 1st Gen 2-Door
- Jeep YJ, TJ
- Jeep XJ
- Jeep Liberty
- 2016 Jeep Renegade
- Isuzu Vehicross
- Subaru Justy
- Isuzu Amigo
- Suzuki Samurai
- Suzuki Sidekick
- Geo Tracker
- Chevy Tracker
- Carburetors could be a problem at this altitude. It causes major power loss issues if you are not jetted properly for 11,000ft. I had to rejet the Argo. I am throwing out any carbureted vehicle and considering only Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI). That means only 1991-1994 Samurai's from what I gather.
- solid axles and articulation would be nice, but are not as important as in regular 4-wheeling I think. Independent Front Suspension (IFS) might be ok.
- having 4 doors would be great, buts not a deal breaker. We can live with 2 and put 2 people in the back
- ATV Tracks (smallest, lightest, cheapest)
- UTV Tracks (medium size, weight, cost)
- Full Size. I was considering American Track Truck Dominator or Dominator XT
Advice from snow track manufacturer:
- Lighter is better to help float over deep powder and drifts
- AWD is not as predictable, and capable overall as 4x4.
- lockers are important to not get stuck
Advantages of Full Size Vehicle Tracks (Like American Track Truck)
- direct bolt on to many vehicles
- bolt patterns match vehicles so no adapters required
- can even have dual bolt patterns drilled so you can put on two different vehicles you own. Or a friends.
- anti-rotation etc is meant to work with vehicles
- can handle more weight. Hopefully will not wear out quick due to too much weight on bogey wheels etc like in ATV tracks
- can have ice studs molded into tracks for traction
- larger footprint, allow for more flotation
- taller, so its like putting on a tall lift. Allows more powder and drifts to pass under vehicle compared to ATV tracks
- Allows use of heavier more capable vehicles such as jeeps.
Con's of Full Size Tracks