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gary_in_neenah
10-18-2013, 01:04 PM
I saw this article in SnoGoer and thought it might be of interest to the Vintage guys on John Dee. I have no experience with the John Deeres but as a child I recall a promotion that if you bought one of their new tractors you got a free snowmobile. I also remember the Green Bay Packers coaching staff wearing John Deere snowmobile suits on the sideline in the early 70's, Dan Devine/Bart Starr era. Well, I guess the color scheme worked.

So, jump in the Time Machine and set the dial for 1973.

Timeline: 1973 John Deere JDX Snowmobile
By David Wells
October 15, 2013
Filed under Snowmobile News, Vintage Sleds

When Deere and Company began developing a snow machine in 1969, it joined many others by copying market-leader Bombardier’s successful layout with the engine atop a welded steel tunnel and bogie wheels underneath. Introduced for the 1972 model year, the initial John Deere snowmobiles were well-built and reliable, but hamstrung by the inherent ride and handling limitations of Bombardier’s now outdated concept.


The John Deere JDX snowmobile was a musclesled masquerader.
The market was moving toward better performance, so Deere again followed many other brands by adapting the outmoded template for its new JDX series. Two versions were available for 1973: the top-of-the-line JDX 8 with a CCW 440 engine and a Salisbury 850 drive clutch; and the JDX 4 with a Kohler 292, a Salsbury 780 drive clutch and a bit less standard equipment.

Performer or Pretender?
As the new flagship of the line, the JDX series was promoted in John Deere sales literature as having “superior performance and distinctive styling.” Superlatives were flung around like macaroni salad in a food fight, always a good indication of a bunch of baloney. “From ski tip to snow flap, the JDX 8 is a totally new sled,” read the brochure. “The ultra-low silhouette, bold ‘blitz-black’ color, and unique trim treatment suggest eager speed and agile handling.”
But observation of the ‘73 Deere spec sheets and new model photos would lead you to believe that there was no difference between the carryover Model 500 green machine and the JDX models except for color, a lower windshield and ski shocks on the new additions to the line.

Actually that wasn’t quite correct because the JDX 8 did get a similar but completely different engine. A 438cc CCW KEC 440/21 motor replaced the 436cc CCW KEC 440/4 powerplant of the Model 500. Bore and stoke were slightly different, the 438 got a slightly bigger carb, and the final gearing was changed. Rated at 38 to 40 horsepower (depending on SAE test method) instead of the 36 hp engine in the Model 500, the slightly hotter engine helped justify a $100 price premium for the JDX 8 over the green machine.

But with the old style chassis and bogie wheels, this was a very tame ride compared to the new 55 hp Arctic Cat El Tigré 400 and 440, or any other of the emerging free air Stock racers. Even worse, many directly competitive fan-cooled machines, like the lighter weight 46-horsepower Chaparral SS/III 440, the 44-horse Northway Interceptor 440 and the racy red Rupp Nitro 440, had the power and the handling to blow the JDX into the weeds. Plus, all these competitive machines had slide rail suspensions and disc brakes, and most had Capacitor Discharge ignitions, too.
Performance-oriented sled magazines largely ignored the new JDX series. But Invitation To Snowmobiling tested JDX 8 and had some unusually candid observations. They called it “sporty but not overly quick,” noting that it finished next to last among seven machines in their time trials. And although ride quality was rated slightly above average, the review noted that one editor was thrown off the sled by an unexpected bump while side-hilling. Worse, with the second highest center-of-gravity of all 21 machines tested, the JDX 8 was anything but stable. Testers said it was agile, but also called it “touchy” and “demanding” in the turns despite the standard carbide runners. The archaic 4.25-inch external band brake with the drum on the secondary shaft wasn’t impressive, either. “The JDX was next to last in stopping distance of the eight machines tested,” the publication reported.

On the plus side, the magazine found the JDX 8 to be the second quietest sled among the 21 tested that spring. They lauded the flip-up hood panel for easy refueling and the safety spill tray atop the steel gas tank. Other positive comments covered numerous additional safety features and service provisions including an under-hood trouble shooting decal and Deere’s excellent dealer service.

But in the end, Invitation To Snowmobiling went on record with a rather negative summation. “The machine offers distinctive styling and, in some areas, superior performance. However, we can’t give it a top-grade rating because balancing the JDX on uneven terrain or whirling through tight turns with it demands inordinate skill.”
Lesson Learned

The maladroit JDX series hung around for a couple more years with some upgrades to areas like clutching, and with yet another model, the seldom seen 399cc JDX 6. But even financing with deferred payments and deferred interest plus a free snowmobile suit with the sled couldn’t make the JDX series a winner on the sales floor.
The lesson was obvious. A black paint job, a short windshield and a couple extra horsepower just did not make a performance sled. The JDX was obsolete at introduction and doomed to failure no matter how well Deere executed and promoted the out-dated design.

But unlike several of their snowmobile competitors, Deere and Company would not repeat this mistake with its next consumer performance sled. The 1976 Liquifire was a thoroughly modern machine that could hold its own against the best from the rest of the industry.

Sidebar
1973 John Deere JDX 8
Manufacturer: Deere & Company, Horicon, Wisconsin
Engine: 438cc Kioritz/Canadian Curtis Wright KEC 440/21 axial-fan-cooled case-reed twin with one Walbro WDA-34 diaphragm pumper carb and a single exhaust.
Ignition: Magneto and breaker points
Power Output: 40 hp @ 6,750 RPM
Clutches: Salsbury 850 drive and John Deere driven
Chassis: Painted aluminum tunnel & belly pan with chromed steel bumpers and fiberglass hood
Dry Weight (claimed): 386 pounds
Front Suspension: Triple-leaf springs with hydraulic shock absorbers
Rear Suspension: Trailing arm bogie type, with 15 polyurethane wheels on 6 trucks
Ski Stance: 28-inches
Track: 15.5- by 118-inch steel-reinforced molded polyurethane;
Brake: External band drum type
MSRP: $1,435

skiroule
10-18-2013, 04:35 PM
Good read, Gary. With the stealth black paint and big block JDX8 letters it certainly looked like a more high performance machine than its John Deere Green relatives.

Performance aside, I still think they look kind of cool and wouldn’t mind having one as a piece of snowmobiling history. I’ve run across a few that were very modestly priced for their condition and I’ve been really tempted to pick one up. I think my goal must be to see how many vintage sleds I can accumulate with “X” in the model name - still keeping an eye out for a Johnson JX.

As you mentioned, John Deere really upped their game just a short time later. Bearrassler would have the real details but they went after the Winnipeg – St. Paul 500 with a vengeance and I’m pretty sure they won it at least once. Also, it seems like John Deere was one of the last non-“big four” manufacturers to bow out of the snowmobile market.

My favorite John Deere marketing product is still the space-age “wet look” green snowmobile suits. Nice – equally at home in the disco or on the trail.

Bradzoo
10-18-2013, 07:32 PM
Nice read Gary, I like reading a lot of the old info, but coming from a RED family we could never own anything "Green", if it didn't say International or Rupp on it you better not bring it home. That being said they did have some nice sleds in the Liquifire and the Trailfire, and I believe Kelly is right they remained into the early 80's if memory serves me.

Bradzoo

gary_in_neenah
10-18-2013, 07:32 PM
You are correct Ski, they did win the 500!

In 1974, a factory sponsored cross-country race team was assembled to go along with the introduction of the 295/S, Deere's first purpose-built snowmobile for cross-country racing. The team would eventually be known as "Enduro Team Deere". The team had many wins, the most notable being the 1976 Minneapolis - St. Paul International 500. Brian Nelson brought home the trophy on his Liquidator. His sled is currently on display at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Germain, Wisconsin. 1977 was the last year for the factory program. Instead, Deere offered support and incentives for independent racers.

and more from Wikipedia...

The slogan "Nothing Runs Like a Deere", still used today by Deere & Co., started with the John Deere snowmobile line in 1972. From 1978 to 1980, JD used the slogan "Big John - Little John." In 1980, another new slogan was introduced: "Ride the new breed of Deere".
In 1980, John Deere was the official supplier of snowmobiles for the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York.

In 1982-1984, the snowmobile market was in a downward slide, and the driving force behind the snowmobile program (Executive VP Robert Carlson) had left the company. This made ending the snowmobile program an easy decision for Deere. The parts supply and all snowmobile-related resources were sold to Polaris. There was an understanding that Polaris would continue where Deere left off, selling snowmobiles and parts to the Deere dealers that were interested. This never worked out.
The Snowfire was the last production snowmobile on the market to have a free-air engine, and the last snowmobile in production for John Deere.

fish633
10-20-2013, 10:14 AM
We owned a jdx-8 for several years.Most of what the authors said was not true.That sled handled like it was on rails.Just a bias mag article,back in the day,the manufactuerer that spent the most on advertising always won the "shoot out".As far as the liquifire and trailfire those are just re-badged kawasaki invader/intruders.

skiroule
10-20-2013, 11:18 PM
For the curious, this is a JDX6 that was recently advertised for sale in Lansing, MI and for all practical purposes, is identical to the 8 in appearance.

According to the magazine article, the 6 is somewhat more rare than the 8. The pictured sled also has the slide suspension which was probably an improvement over bogie wheels, although it was pretty nice to not have to rely on snow for lubrication. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think this is a great looking sled.

http://i1290.photobucket.com/albums/b537/Anderski1/Vintage%20Misc/JDX_1_zps1e177ad2.jpg

Ironically, in the mountain segment it's desirable to have a machine that is easy to lay over. Maybe the mountain sleds should adopt the tunnel mounted engine again.

jr37
11-09-2013, 05:29 PM
Looks like I will be adding a John Deere to the stable. Made a deal on a 1980 Trailfire 340 today, will get it Monday. Good condition, but not perfect. Will be for my boys to run around the yard. Will probably want to add a throttle block, because I really didn't want a 340. I would have liked a 250, 290, or 300, but this one is very close to home and the price was fair. I'll post a picture next week.

bearrassler
11-09-2013, 09:00 PM
A friend of mine had a 1980 Trailfire 340 and I rode with him a lot in the early 80's. If I remember right that sled got about 25 to 28 MPG on the trail. We took his sled and my Centurion on our first backpack trip in 1982, about 600 miles in two days with an overnight in Brainerd MN. That was a long ride on leafers.

hickslake
11-13-2013, 11:36 AM
I was a teenager in the Civil Air Patrol around this time. One of the adults in the squadron brought in a promotional video of a cross country race to show the cadets after the weekly meeting. If I recall correctly, i think it was filmed by competitive manufacture to John Deere in anticipation of winning the race. I remember two things from the video. A John Deere won the race, and one of the John Deere sleds crossed the finish line with one ski. The the sled with one ski may have been the same sled that one the race.

Bradzoo
11-13-2013, 12:07 PM
I was a teenager in the Civil Air Patrol around this time. One of the adults in the squadron brought in a promotional video of a cross country race to show the cadets after the weekly meeting. If I recall correctly, i think it was filmed by competitive manufacture to John Deere in anticipation of winning the race. I remember two things from the video. A John Deere won the race, and one of the John Deere sleds crossed the finish line with one ski. The the sled with one ski may have been the same sled that one the race.


That would be the 1976 I-500 with Brian Nelson winnig for John Deere big write up on it on Vintage Sleds last month, here is a link to one of the video's



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAsVcCov1Pg

Bradzoo

skiroule
11-14-2013, 10:37 AM
Watched Part 1 (and Part 2). Those guys took some abuse! I loved the narrator's comment about the one driver's "unique stand-up riding style". How things have changed.

wheels006
11-26-2013, 11:51 PM
I have an 83 JD Sprintfire 340. I believe there were not many made, but honestly don't have much of a clue. I plan on semi restoring it for my kids to use. In a few years I will actually restore it. Is there any info anyone has on this sled? I rode it for a few years on the lake just screwing around and it was a great sled. It is liquid cooled. Lots of fun. It replaced a 73 yamaha GS340, which was a beast of a sled. That yammi made it through 26 grandchildren and God knows how many windshields! Learned lots of new words from Grandpa when dealing with that!:-)

jr37
11-27-2013, 04:30 AM
I have an 83 JD Sprintfire 340. I believe there were not many made, but honestly don't have much of a clue. I plan on semi restoring it for my kids to use. In a few years I will actually restore it. Is there any info anyone has on this sled? I rode it for a few years on the lake just screwing around and it was a great sled. It is liquid cooled. Lots of fun. It replaced a 73 yamaha GS340, which was a beast of a sled. That yammi made it through 26 grandchildren and God knows how many windshields! Learned lots of new words from Grandpa when dealing with that!:-)

Go to jdsleds.com, you should be able to find all you need there, or it's a good place to ask.

momoney2123
11-27-2013, 08:55 AM
Whenever I hear john deere and snowmobing I think of this northwoods classic...great song lol. Let it snow

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nhQrVyIa2JU

jr37
11-28-2013, 04:45 PM
Here's my new Deere. Not even close to perfect, but good enough for the boys (and myself) to beat around the field with.431134311443115

skiroule
11-30-2013, 10:38 AM
I think it's cool jr. Besides, you have theme song now. Pretty neat that your kids can say that they rode a leafer when they were young.

I'd love to have a sled with a deer on the side someday if I could get it past inventory control at home.