Vintage

Brut snowmobiles 1972-1976

Water-cooled triple a key to high performance

By Les Pinz
Published: September 16, 2011
Time flies in the snowmobile world. It seems like just yesterday that Brut introduced its water-cooled snowmobile to the industry.

I was lucky to attend Brut’s 40th anniversary this summer in Brooten, Minn., where more than 45 Brut snowmobiles were on display with owners and former employees telling tales and renewing friendships.

It was back in 1971 that a group of ex-Polaris employees started Brutanza Engineering in Brooten. John Bohmer from Brooten asked Gerry Reese about buying a small snowmobile company in North Dakota. Instead, Gerry and his cohorts decided to build their own snowmobile. Their idea was to build a high-performance snowmobile using a three-cylinder water-cooled motor.

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Omar Christianson, Charlie Baker, Mike Baker, Gerry Reese, John Bogmer, Gene Skarpness.

 
Brut Begins
At the time we were using water cooling in some race sleds as it keeps a motor at a controlled temperature for maximum horsepower and durability. The Brut folks figured to run the motor around 180 F when outside temps were -40 F to 40 F. They laid the motor down to create a lower center of gravity, which was possible because being water cooled it did not need to be upright for air to flow over the cylinders.

Brut advertised that if you wanted your snowmobile to be the fastest on the block, buy a Brut. It proved so fast that even some race associations were thinking of banning them from cross country races.

The Brooten inline triple, which was designed exclusively for Brut, also came with breaker-less CDI ignition for better starting, and longer plug life. Each engine was hand-made at the Brooten plant from parts manufactured in Japan. Sometimes the owners had to come in at night and put together enough engines for the next day’s snowmobile production.

Brut’s Power-Pac ties the engine, drive clutch and torque converter into a single power unit, eliminating misalignment of drive belts and effectively reducing vibration. The engine ran so smooth and had such a distinctive tone that it could be heard for a mile.

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Bruts were strong. To show the strength of Brut’s aluminum tunnels, designers tested them by backing a flatbed single-axle 11,000-lb. truck with a ¾-ton van on its deck onto a ramp and then onto the twin tunnels. The tunnels held the entire weight with no side buckling whatsoever.

In their first season Bruts came with a radiator to cool the motor, but the radiator was big and costly. Through its race efforts the engineers developed coil tubes in the tunnel. That worked, but they had trouble with rocks penetrating the tubes. The engineers tried an aluminum extrusion to run the water through and it worked great. For the 1973 model year cooling changed to coils and an extrusion.

Bruts also had a fully adjustable progressive shock slide-rail suspension and one-piece molded reinforced Polytrack that worked well in all snow conditions. But the Polytrack had drive nubs for maximum propulsion, nubs that animals would eat off in summer. Gates, the track maker, then had to put something in the tracks to deter animals from munching on them.

For 1972 Brutanza made 580 Brut 440cc sleds at a list price of $1,595. That grew to 600 Brut 440cc sleds for the 1973 season at $1,745 and some 294cc twins at $1,545. For 1974 there were 299, 294cc and 25, 340cc models made. Not many racers were produced, but some enduro sleds were made with different pipes and seats for racing.

No snow and no gas
A lack of snow and an energy crisis during 1973-74 created a tough sales market. In January 1974 Scorpion Snowmobile Co. of Crosby, Minn., acquired Brutanza’s snowmobile line.

For the 1974-75 season Scorpion made about 500 Bruts with Mikuni carburetors for better starting and running. For 1975-76 Scorpion had a deal to make snowmobiles for Massey Ferguson. The Brut was renamed Cyclone and used a 340cc engine, selling for $1,898 and a 440cc version sold for $2,129.
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5 stars
JOHN LUNDBERG from MINNESOTA said:
Is it just me or is there a lot of Brut in Bullwhip? IE: liquid cooling, extruded heat exchanger, lowered CG, speedometer and tachometer behind the windshield, seat design, low aggressive profile. From an engineering perspective it seems logical to me that the advanced technology developed in Brooten went to Crosby with Gerry Reece and was (at least in part) used in the development of the Bullwhip. The timing seems right for that scenario. At any rate, Bruts were way ahead of their time in as much as the 1972 LC 44 revolutionized the industry as the first production liquid cooled snowmobile. I would love to have one in my stable. Great article!
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