Creating a Mountain Special on a Budget

Transform an FST Switchback into a mountain stomper

Story by Matt Allred, Photography by Matt Allred, Created Mar 26, 2009
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Fourth guy. As I roll my head over my shoulder there he is, fourth guy.

Kim Steele, Idaho Falls, Idaho, is a visionary snowmobiler. Historically, he purchases 6, 7 or 8 RMKs from his favorite dealership, Action Motor Sports in Idaho Falls, and with the help of this sponsoring dealer, creates aftermarket power candy. But, like you and me, Steele is a working-class stiff. So, his RMKs, though amped-out, are built on a budget.

This winter, Steele broke from the 2-stroke ranks and prodded his sponsoring dealer to locate a turbocharged 4-stroke Polaris FST Switchback. Phone calls were made and Action Motor Sports located a 2008 FST Switchback at Polaris’ Roseau facility, which, strange of all things, was a media/PR sled from the ’07-’08 season. The magazine-returned stocker was in good condition and perfect for Steele’s vision.

I will return to ‘fourth guy’ shortly.

The Project

Innovator Kim Steele stands by his FST Switchback-to-FST-RMK conversion.

Know that the 2008 FST Switchback is not light on its feet and just about all wrong for mountain riding as it’s sewn into the non-Raw chassis. Additionally, the FST’s 136-inch track length and itty bitty one-inch paddle track would never propel the 596-pound machine up a steep-n-deep slope. These were facts Steele knew and chose to work with.

Said Steele, “I wanted to take a factory turbocharged 4-stroke and with little invested-money, see if I could turn it into a viable mountain sled. The key here was going to be value for my money.

“My 2008 FST is a 755cc twin cylinder 4-stroke Polaris with a factory-installed turbo. It builds 180-hp for four wide-open-throttle seconds and retards down to 140-hp when nailed down in sustained wide-open-throttle.”

Once he had the sled, Steele swapped the front suspension’s coil over shocks for new Air 2.0 shocks; the same shocks used on Polaris’ RMK Dragon. These shocks were donated by Action Motor Sports.

To keep the heavy front afloat, Steele shopped online and located a pair of 10-inch wide ski-skins from Al's Snowmobile Warehouse for US$99.00.

Making Changes

After the shock trade, he dumped the track. Continuing his online shopping, he was able to find a new Maverick 153-inch track sporting 2.25-inch paddles. This track came from a Yamaha Nytro MTX; price, US$200.00. The track install required 3.0 pitch drivers for an additional $140.00. He also added a Starting Line Products (SLP) slide rail extension.

However, he was not satisfied with the FST’s ride. To combat this, he went internet surfing and purchased a Mountain M-10 rear suspension for US$800.00, making the US$40 SLP rail extensions a loss.

What started out as a “flatlander” Switchback was made mountain-ready with a long Maverick track, a power boost and weight reduction.

He ripped the stock 25-pound exhaust silencer from the chassis and dropped it into a garbage can. Steele visited his favorite automotive muffler shop and ordered an Aero Turbine muffler; price, US$49. With an additional US$20, he bought some U-bends to install the muffler, made some simple mods and installed the six-pound muffler that gave him a weight savings of 19-pounds.

To combat underhood heat, he installed a US$20 SLP heat shield over the boost tube.

For leverage, Steele installed a US$50 Power Madd three-inch handlebar riser block with mountain strap; no cable mods were needed.

Lookin’ Good

Kim Steele spiced up the stock FST look with custom powder coating and decals.

To give the FST Switchback, now retro FST ‘RMK’ a unique cosmetic appeal, Steele commissioned Ace Powder Coating of Idaho Falls to powder coat the rails, tunnel and other parts. This coating set him back US$90. Action Motor Sports tossed in a set of Dragon decals to sharpen up the look. A skid plate and hand guards for US$130.00 completed the FST’s mountain appeal.

The final piece to Steele’s project came from an ECU reflash. Polaris’ race department handled the reflash for US$50, which allowed the turbo to spin up to 18.5-pounds of boost at wide-open-throttle for an estimated 165-170 continuous wide-open-throttle.

Fourth Guy

We return to ‘fourth guy’. As I, with two other riders hauled through the steep-and-deep on either a turbocharged Apex or Nytro MTX, or Cat M8 153, fourth guy Steele and his FST ‘RMK’ was always there, cinched up behind us. Though not a deep-powder player like a mountain-specific sled, Steele’s FST ‘RMK’, when following the tracks of these other leading sleds, was capable of exceptional mountain maneuvering. And when conditions were right, the FST hauled its booty up and over many mountains usually reserved for riders on RMK Dragons, M8s, Summits or Nytro MTXs.

Is this a snowmobile I would boondock on day-in and day-out? No. Am I impressed with this sled’s current output and potential? Yes.

Kim Steele blasts his 170-hp turbo up a western mountainside.

Here’s the point. If you are a flatlander with a FST Switchback and desire to ride the Rockies, not in the same fashion as an extreme mountain rider, but enough to tantalize your senses, then this FST Switchback-to-FST-RMK is your ticket. With minimal cash outlay (of course the sky is the limit), you can soundly be the best ‘fourth guy’ in your group.

Steele said, “This machine was an awesome project. It turns heads where I go, and when I ride down the trail or blast up a snow-covered hill, onlookers hear the turbocharged 4-stroke, and are baffled to hear it singing from a Polaris. In the end, was it worth it? Yes. In a straight line race, it is fast, and it holds its own in the mountains. While it's not a boondocker because its girth holds it back in deep snow, it does everything remarkably well considering what it is and its original intended use. My hope is Polaris will take this torque-happy, hard-pulling, extremely reliable turbo 4-stroke and its awesome RAW chassis, meld the two together, and create a sweet mountain ride.”

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