The SnowToaster: 1961 Thiokol Trackmaster

1961 SnowCat

Short of your own personal tank, I can’t think of many vehicles that could go places this 1961 Snow Cat couldn’t! And it’s actually been modified to be even more capable than when it left the factory. Located in Lynnwood, Washington, this go-anywhere vehicle is up for auction here on eBay, where bidding is up to $2,300 but has not met the reserve. The Snow Cat has been used lately to transport snowboarders and was substantially refurbished by the previous owner (not the current seller). That person nicknamed the Snow Cat the “Snow Toaster” and posted several videos on YouTube. It’s powered by a Ford 300 cubic inch inline 6 and backed by a rebuilt C4 automatic transmission. The controls are a little unusual with twin sticks similar to a tank or zero-turn mower. Seeing as I live in the flat part of North Carolina, I don’t really have a need for this one, but what about you? Any of you have a cabin in the mountains you just have to get to?


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  1. Blindmarc

    Reminds me of “the shining’.

  2. JW

    Awesome but not practical. Sadly I would have to pass.

  3. Dave Wright

    I have owned several of these in various models. Thiokol, made in Logan UT later became LMC. These are simple hearty machines but no tank, the body is aluminum and is surprisingly light weight. Many were built for the USAF and used by crews maintaining remote radar sites. The tracks are driven by pneumatic tires clearly visible in the photos. It drives fine on hard surfaces without the tracks. These are wonderful on unmaintained back country roads in the winter although they are not amphibious like the earlier Military Weasel that used Studebaker running gear.

  4. ste

    Scatman Caruthers used one in The Shining to get to a hotel in the mountains. We all know how that worked out!

  5. RickyM

    Just love the way that this is just parked on a regular suburban driveway as if it is the normal thing to do ! Brilliant…….

  6. 1969Deuce

    Although I’ve seen them sitting without tracks, I never realized that they ran fine on tires alone. Without tracks to maintain, it opens up the off-the-pavement uses. I wonder if the engine and transmission listed are original issue.

    I’d probably look up some photos and return it to Strata Blue with markings and find some places for off pavement exploring.

    Surprised the bidding remains low. Wonder where the reserve is set

    • Dave Wright

      Yep……..sounds all original. They are commonly selling for 10-12000 these days. They are quite expensive new but these older ones have been depreciated out several times by the power companies and the like that owned them so there value is lower than it used to be. The new ones are very sophisticated and more capable compared to these older machines.

  7. Chris A.

    With the 2014-2015 winter fresh in my memory, this is looking really good. With this in my driveway there would be no missing work excuse on a blizzard day. Were these also called “Snow Cats”?

  8. Dave Wright

    Snow cat is a generic term for them…….there were several manufacturers with different designs, Tucker was another brand that is an interesting machine, they have more automotive type steering and individual tracks at each corner. They were built in Oregon and have been in and out of production for decades. Now you can buy Tucker type tracks that will bolt onto your 4X4 pickup. The modern Thiakol ( now LMC) is probably the biggest U.S. Player in the market today but offshore brands are appearing more and more. Thiakol sold the company after the Challenger disaster where there booster rocket was shown to be the cause. The rocket division is now called ATK.

  9. tedd

    HMMM reminds me of the vehicle on the old show Lost in Space

  10. Peter

    Re: the idea that these could run without the tracks, I respectfully question that, and suggest that maybe other “sno-cat”-type vehicles may have had “no-track drive” capability, but not this one.

    I believe the pneumatic tires are just “bogies,” i.e., un-powered, free-wheeling tires, to provide “flotation/support” for the tracks.

    Here’s the easy way to do this:

    1. In one undercarriage shot, you can clearly see the (single) driveshaft, coming off of the back of what looks like a 4×4 transfer case–driving to ONE differential, the bottom of which is just visible in the same pic.

    2. In another undercarriage shot, you can clearly see the tensioning mechanisms between the pneumatic tires, that tighten the tracks–notice the TOTAL ABSENCE of any halfshafts, chains, or other method of providing drive to the “bogie” wheels/pneumatic tires. (I suspect that the horizontal cylinders that resemble hydraulic cylinders may contain coil springs, to allow the tracks to tighten and loosen as the vehicle traverses uneven terrain—I suspect that they would do this by pushing on the parallel-linkage mechanisms between these cylinders).

    3. No other drive mechanisms are visible.

    Now, this next bit is a bit more nuanced, but here goes:

    IF the rubber tires are (somehow) actually engine-turned, then how could they possibly provide the sufficient motive force, in wet/icy/slushy/snowy conditions? By the tiny bit of traction that SUMMER TIRES could apply to 1″-wide steel channels, spaced 4-5″ apart?

    I humbly submit that the sheer square FOOTAGE of track surface is FAR greater than the traction-surface available to the rubber tires, running across 1″ steel channels, spaced 4-5″ apart.

    In other words, which would slip first, when embedded in mud/snow: the MASSIVE, CLEATED tracks, or the VIRTUALLY-TREADLESS, SUMMER tires, running across (wet) 1″-wide steel channels, spaced 4-5″ apart?

    But even IF they somehow COULD do that, then why have the (obviously-bulldozer/tank-style) drive cogs in the rig at all?

    Now consider “tire scrub.” Ever backed up a trailer with just TWO axles? This vehicle has FOUR.

    Granted, skid steers deal with tire scrub, to steer, but those have just TWO axles, and I believe most (but not all?) skid steer tires are solid rubber. Just how long would normal, pneumatic, SUMMER tires last, scrubbing around in turns?

    Again, I don’t doubt that some, similar types of these (generically-called) “Sno-cats” might have “no-track mobility,” but not this one, IMHO.

    But if I’ve missed something here, I would dearly appreciate someone explaining how these rubber tires are being driven, if the tracks are removed, as I cannot see ANY drive mechanism to the tires.

    Nevertheless, it’s one helluva cool vehicle.

    And yes, I’ve wanted one ever since I saw “The Shining,” myself!

    Thanks for posting.


    Like 1
    • 1969Deuce

      I’m hereby enlightened.


  11. Fireman Dan

    I live in Colorado between Aspen and Vail at 8000 ft .I have had the the privilege of operating several versions of snow cats old and new. They are truly unstoppable. I missed out on a free one abandoned on Snowmass Mtn 10 year’s ago .the guy put in a new battery topped off the fluids and drove it off the mtn. I would love to own one.

  12. robert wilkes

    These cannot drive without tracks the sprockets at the rear drive the tracks the tires just roll inside for suspension!!

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