1971 Thunder Jet

Update 2017: It may seem like this one has been progressing slowly, but it should start picking up very soon. I've almost got everything I need to proceed with it. I also have even more exciting news about the sled. When I finally started tearing it down, I started by removing the crude steel engine mount setup. Once it was all unbolted, I started cleaning the front end. Using some heavy duty degreaser and a brush, I scrubbed away years of grease, oil, dirt and dust. When I hosed it off, something stuck out. Keep in mind, my sled didn't come with a tag. Reproduction tags are available, but I didn't know what serial my sled came with. I noticed something, when I looked closely, I realized, it was actually a serial number stamped in the front end. That was fantastic news, but it gets even better. Looking at the actual number, 118002, it means that most likely, this was the #2 sled off the assembly line! I try to keep track of the other 71 Thunder Jets around. From what I can tell, there aren't any others stamped in this area. I don't know the whole story, but I'm still looking. See the photos below.

Update 2012: There isn't much to report on the 71 Thunder Jet. I've slowly been collecting parts and pieces for the sled (picture of the newly found engine below), as well as trying to track down the history on the sled. There is a chance that this sled was once owned by Jim Adema. I've gone as far as talking to Patty Senneker (Adema), and she checked with Jeff Schupe (Jim's right hand man), and he said, yes they did do that to one of the chassis, this one looks pretty "rough" but it did look like Jim's work. Isn't it funny how we can still recognize his work, he had a pretty distinctive way of doing things!

I was also lucky enough to track down an original photo of Jim on a 71 Thunder Jet. Take a look at the photo below. I've talked to several guys, and that's the only time they've ever seen a 71 Thunder Jet with that style of decals. There isn't much to go on, but there is one small difference between that sled, and my sled. On Jim's sled pictured, the decals are on the top half of the hood. If you look at my hood, they seem to be on the lower half of the hood. Checking again with Patty, I found out that when they went racing, they would normally go with no less than 4 or 5 sleds. They ran one in every class. So even in 71, they had more than one Thunder Jet. I'd love to confirm this was one of Jim's sleds, but can't quite at this point. I'm always looking for more information.

I picked up this 1971 Thunder Jet in Michigan. My good friend Marc picked up the sled, and stored it for me until I could do the road trip. It looks pretty rough, but definitely has potential. The important part is that I've got the original Moon Gas Tank, and the original seat. I can work with the rest. I don't know much about the history of the sled, but someone made some interesting modifications, some are good, some I don't really understand, but am figuring out. You'll see below...

Unfortunately, the handlebars have been cut, bent and welded. The brake handle was moved to the throttle side as well.

Alright, so the brake was moved to the drive axle. By doing this, they had to lower the drive axle, you can see on the left where the chain is, and on the right where the disk brake is. The belly pan is actually in really good shape.

I'm pretty sure that's a homemade motor mount, I think they ran some sort of F/C single, but I didn't get a motor with it. The criss cross steering is pretty neat!

The original seat is in pretty good shape, there are a few minor tears, but the seat is nice and soft.

Here you can see some more of the modifications, the alluminum is all welded up, the drive shaft dropped, and the disk brake mounted.

Its not shown in these pictures, but there's also a lever on the right hand side that attaches to the suspension. The fellow I got it from said that it was for oval racing. Apparently the driver would hold that pedal down at the starting line and through the straights. It pushed the track down in front, giving more contact space. That way it'd really dig in when you were putting the power on. When you wanted to turn, you let off on the pedal, picking up the front of the track and reducing the contact space so the sled would turn easier and wouldn't push in the turns. Pretty neat, huh? I suspect you could use it for drag racing as well: Put the pedal down on the line for more traction, then pick it up once you get going so there's not as much resistance on the ground?

The hood is in pretty terrible shape, luckily there is repo glass available. That is duct tape on the side too. You can't tell from the pictures, but it is actually re-inforced with 2x4's on the inside.