Area51 Project - Mike's 1989 Argo 6x6 Reunion:
This project is a reunion rebuild, dad bought this particular machine brand new in 1989 from Avalon Services Ltd. which was the only local Argo dealer in St. John's at the time. Our family enjoyed many, many awesome trips and memories over the years, but as the machine was used less and less dad sold it in 2014. In May 2019 the machine came back up for sale in central Newfoundland so I headed out over the highway to bring the Argo back to town and restore it to its former glory and beyond. My plan is to keep the style, form and function simple and true to its roots but upgrading a few things here and there to reflect convenience & features of the newer machines. Scroll down to see the project overview, for more in depth look into aspects of the build click on the project page links below.
I was only 11 years old when dad brought home this amazing machine. There weren't a lot of them around back then and side by side ATV's weren't even an engineer's dream. An Argo was the perfect choice to take the whole family out in the woods with ease, to say Dad was proud to have this impressive machine home in the driveway is a huge understatement!
We made a lot of great memories with this machine, moose hunting, rabbit snaring, trout fishing, overnight camping, hauling out moose for family/friends, and helping out at many many Boy Scout Camps & Jamborees.
Our Argo was never afraid to work, often tasked with carrying building/repair materials and tools into the Wesley Boy Scout camp at Dog Pond, Foxtrap as seen here pulling up alders around the camp with yours truly at the controls.
The Argo helped out at many provincial Boy Scout Cuboree's and Jamboree's assisting with Site Services in a wide variety of roles from running outdoor PA speaker wiring, performing road maintenance, as well as carrying tools, supplies, and volunteers all over site.
As I got older the Argo made quite a few appearances with the Shed-Headz crew in the early days of cabin trips especially before I purchased project Foreman in 1998.
My Re-Purchase in May 2019:
In May 2019 Mark French texted me a link to an ad on NL Classifieds of a very familiar looking Argo for sale in Lewisport. Sure enough it was dad's old machine so I quickly contacted the seller and negotiated an extremely good deal as the machine was not currently running and in need of TLC. The winter tracks and convertible top were also included in the deal.
Although the machine didn't run and some of the engine shrouds had been removed to diagnose the no start problem, all the pieces were there and the unit was generally in good shape.
The original steel handrail fabricated by a family friend in 1989 was still with the machine although not installed at this time.
This 1989 6x6 featured the venerable Briggs and Stratton 16hp L-Head (horizontally opposed) twin cylinder engine with electronic ignition. This model, like all Argos of this era used twin sticks for braking/steering. Ours featured mechanical disc brakes while the Magnum models used a hydraulic assist set up.
It took quite a bit of work to wrestle the dead machine onto the trailer using a variety of heavy duty straps and a come-along, but dad and I got the job done and I headed back to Torbay with my prize in tow. I can honestly say that I felt as proud to re-purchase this machine today as dad felt when he bought it brand new in 1989.
Summer 2019 Repairs Begin:
At some point in the last couple years the machine sat with standing water inside the body which rusted the chains. The drive chains were in need of replacement when dad sold the machine so it isn't an unexpected set back. I soaked the chains in red Rust Check for a couple weeks while waiting for parts which really helped later when I eventually moved the machine.
The windshield glass is cracked so I will eventually have it replaced, for now I removed the glass and frame and placed in storage which will make working on the engine much easier. Both brakes were severely out of adjustment, there is an easily accessible adjuster on each side but the left side was maxed out. This was easily corrected by removing the firewall panel and properly setting the primary adjustment on each brake calliper.
One problem I found was in the winch wiring, both the portative and negative wires were pinched and chaffed between the Argo's frame and winch support bracket which was a very dangerous situation.
The damaged wiring was completely cut clear and removed. Unfortunately the old Superwinch X2 (2000lb) winch is currently seized and not working. Next I traced out all the Argo's wiring confirming it against a wiring diagram and was pleased to see that it was electrically correct and still fully intact and not tampered with.
As mentioned earlier, I bought the machine not running. The previous owner suspected a defective ignition coil, so I set about my own diagnosis to confirm. First I removed the carburetor for inspection and found it to be quite dirty inside. The main jet was completely clogged so it was great to have checked it off prior to trying to start the machine.
A thorough cleaning in the parts washer finishing with aerosol carburetor cleaner and compressed air had the carb looking great. At this point I reassembled the carb, intake and magnetron ignition coil using factory specs to properly set the coil's air gap against the flywheel. At this point I confirmed the previous owners original diagnosis and ordered an OEM replacement coil.
After a week or so my new coil finally arrived and its much more modern and compact than the 30 year old part its replacing.
With the new coil properly installed, a temporary fuel source connected to the carburetor & a temporary loaner battery from project Foreman I was completely surprised when the 16hp power pack fired up after only 2 revolutions and ran perfectly smooth! These old Briggs & Stratton engines are quite robust.
With the machine running well I finally backed it off the trailer under its own power.
Next I removed the tracks by cutting one of the heavily corroded pivot pins on each side to separate the tracks. Replacement pins are not expensive and readily available from the dealer.
With the tracks out of the way I removed all 6 wheels to service all the outer wheel bearings and to paint the rims. I chose a modern dark grey paint to match paint used on new Frontier model Argos and cover the god awful neon orange applied by the previous owner.
With the machine still in the air Mark French dropped by and we replaced broken drive axel shear pins, two each in both centre axels. This machine has had both front axels and one rear axel replaced with modern non-shear pin axels leaving me with 3 old style axels to contend with.
It's now quite convenient being able to move the Argo around my property under its own power storing it out back and bringing it into my "full as an egg" garage to work on it.
My next round of repairs began with an oil change. Years ago dad and my uncle installed a barbed fitting on the lower oil drain bolt of the engine and connected a length of fuel grade hose with another barbed plug. This prevents oil from leaking out but lets us easily drain engine oil into a pan laid in the driver foot well with no mess or special oil pumps necessary.
This week I also picked up a temporary battery for the Argo, my lawn tractors battery is on its last legs but still getting by, so the replacement has found a temporary home in the Argo.
With the engine running well I cleaned most of the engine tin shrouds and prepped them for high heat engine paint in gloss black. This is an air cooled engine with a mechanical fan mounted to the flywheel. These tins direct fanblown air around the cylinder heads to keep them cool in all operating conditions.
The original dealer sticker is still intact on the breather cover!
When paint was dry I installed the mechanical cooling fan, spacer, pulley (which is used with a rope as an emergency auxiliary starter) and finally all of the engine shrouds.
Next I installed the air breather box and properly connected the 3 breather vent tubes.
With the old, noisy, slow Superwinch currently not working, I took out two old WARN winches to see if I could repair one. The first was my old winch from Project Foreman which stopped working a couple years ago. I found the electric motor seized but with gentle persuasion I managed to get it taken apart without damage. I cleaned heavy corrosion from the armature and got it spinning freely by hand.
For more information on the Winch Rebuild check out the Winch Rebuild page.
With the electrical system finished (coming up below) I spooled my rebuilt winch with brand new cable. This cable came on the new Pro-Vantage 2500 winch installed on Project Foreman where I chose to use my Warn synthetic winch rope instead. The winch was wired with 6awg cables and contactor so I should be good for over 2500lbs pulling force.
This week more of my parts started to arrive including a new ignition switch & keys, replacement OEM style LED headlights, new Argo nameplates & gearshift tags, new style 2" receiver hitch, red LED gearshift light and finally a proper new style 1/4 turn gas cap.
My new style OEM fuel cap with rubber seal is a welcome addition to the leaky, cork sealed, chained up conglomeration installed by the previous owner.
Coming up soon will be installing my recently arrived parts, removing the seat to remove & clean the gas tank so I no longer have to use a temporary fuel can, repair the outboard motor bracket and later the big job of replacing all 8 drive chains and probably a few wheel bearings as well.
June 17 Update:
On Friday I had some free time and free space in the garage while Project Foreman was on display at Honda One so I hauled the Argo into the garage to continue repairs. First up was to install my newly (EBay) acquired missing rear engine shroud lost by the previous owner. Luckily there are lots of these engines out there as they were used in many machines from Argos to Lawn Tractors. The used replacement shroud fit perfectly and will allow the rear cylinder to be properly cooled by concentrating fan blown air over the cylinder head.
Next up was installing my new OEM style LED replacement headlight bulbs. I found these online on a fantastic Argo parts web store argoadventure.com, and acquired a bunch of other parts there as well including replacement name tags, receiver hitch and gas cap. Shipping was reasonable selecting the FedEx option and extremely fast.
The new headlights are absolutely amazing, they draw less power, are much brighter and were direct plug and play. Also nice (& unusual) for led lights they are not polarity sensitive.
Working my way through my parts pile, I installed my new ignition switch sourced locally from our local dealer Argo Sales & Service. The previous owner lost the key but thankfully this switch was reasonably priced and a direct replacement. The only change I will need to make is to re-label "Winch" with "Lights".
Next I began installing replacement label plates starting with the well worn gear shift label which was riveted in place with 7mm by 1/8" aluminum rivets.
Next the cracked up, scratched up "Argo" name plates were removed and replaced with beautiful new OEM replacements sourced from argoadventure.com.
Next I installed a new feature, a red LED gearshift light (black rectangle thing above) which makes shifting at night much easier and is a feature found on many new Argos.
With most of my new parts installed it was time to finally give the machine a proper cleaning inside and out using hot water, Spray Nine and Castrol Super Clean. After it dried I treated all surfaces with Maxima SC1 plastic restorer.
Friday evening I got back to work rebuilding my Warn winch. I was very happy to find the original fairlead in the bottom of the machine when I picked it up in Lewisport. This is a cast brass hawse style fairlead, and it's safe to say they don't make them like this anymore. A quick cleaning with a wire wheel had the fairlead looking great!
On Sunday evening work resumed and Ronnie dropped over so we got another couple hours punched at the Argo.
Tonight we finally got the front seat removed, followed by the gas tank. The seat plywood base was in rough shape and will be replaced when I make a new thicker seat bottom and modern high backrest.
Next the gas line & filler neck were disconnected and the tank wrestled from its mounts which wasn't too hard for two people but would be a PITA tackling alone.
1.5 gallons of very old stale gas were transferred to containers for safe disposal later, then the tank was rinsed with fresh gas. There was still some varnish remaining in the bottom of the tank so a half can of Seafoam and 500ml of fresh gas were added, allowed to soak then shook around and dumped into my disposal container. This worked extremely well and now the tank is perfectly clean!
August 5, 2019:
Its been a very busy month in Area 51 working on project Argo. Two major steps have been completed, the first was replacing the rusted out steel subfloors front and back, the second was building a complete new electrical system to safely run modern accessories.
The original steel subfloor was attached in one piece welded directly to the inside frame rails before the chassis was installed into the Argo body at the factory. Water and rust had taken its toll and the floor was completely let go under the drivers feet, the previous owner had installed 3/4" hard wood to bring the height back up. lol Please check out the Steel Floor Replacement page for more pics on this part of the project!
While working on the floors I also tackled fixing up the rusted out outboard motor bracket.
The sides were in good shape but the original plywood on the rear held water and rusted out the steel below.
I quickly cut out the damaged section and cut a new piece of 3/16" steel to replace it.
A few welds later and it was looking as good as new.
New 3/4" plywood was cut to fit, edges rounded with my router and then sanded smooth.
After the 4 mounting holes were drilled I coated the pieces liberally in Danish oil to seal and weatherproof the plywood. I let the first coat sit for 30 minutes then reapplied letting it sit 15 minutes before wiping off the excess.
The cured pieces were attached with new 5/16" galvanised carriage bolts, same as OEM. I will probably give the plywood a couple coats of Varnish to add a little extra water resistance.
The OEM trailer hitch was rusty, when I chipped away the rust I was shocked to see just how bad it was!
The bolt heads were non existent so I had to get creative with my grinder to finish them off and remove the old hitch.
The new OEM 2" receiver hitches install with 4 bolts, but the frame support inside my machine was too narrow. Even if I was able to weld in additional support, the bolt holes would be directly into the welds which is nearly impossible to drill.
Since the original hitch only used 2 bolts I drilled the new hitch to match the machine which is just as strong as this machine was designed for.
This new hitch will provide a great rear tie down point and rear pull point if needed. Its much shorter than the old hitch so departure angle is greatly improved.
Gas tank support bracket coated with bed liner.
Next on the painting projects list was to refinish the handrail that dad and his buddy custom fabricated 30 years ago.
The handrail was in great shape but was covered in 30 years worth of paint so I completely stripped it down to bare metal with a flap disc in my grinder.
A few light coats of bed liner later and the handrail looks amazing!
Next on the miscellaneous odds and ends list is painting up various brackets, mainly brackets and support arms for the windshield which were chipped and corroded.
The wing nut for the air breather was missing when I picked up the machine so I found a decent replacement in my bucket of miscellaneous nuts and bolts.
However, when I removed the old rusty front steel floor I found the original cast aluminum air breather bolt under the floor! It must have been missing for quite some time but the grease preserved it perfectly!
The original electrical system was pretty basic, it used glass tube style fuses in holders scattered all over the place, and key on accessories were switched mechanically through the ignition switch. As I would be adding more and modern accessories to the machine I wanted to rebuild the electrical system using relays and a centrally located power distribution centre. For more detailed pics of the new electrical system check out the New Electrical System page for the full story.
The new power distribution centre consists of 2 fuse panels. The first 4 port panel is for Constant Power which includes charge feed in from the voltage regulator, 12v power to the ignition switch, and a 30 amp feed through a relay to energize the second fuse panel only when the key is on. This way there is no load through the ignition switch anymore and all of my accessories will power off when the key is off for safety and to prevent accidental running the battery low.
Quick after photo on top and before photo on bottom of the Argo's electrical system.
With electrical out of the way I decided to start building a new front seat. The old one consisted of one layer of plywood covering only the centre section. I wanted the new seat base to go full width for strength and comfort.
I needed 2 layers of short plywood to reach the height needed for the last full width piece.
T-Nuts were embedded into the bottom layer of plywood just like the OEM seat except I upgraded to 5/16" hardware.
I coated all sides of each piece with wood preservative to help prevent mould, mildew and rot.
New seat base temporarily installed as it will be removed later when I begin drive chain replacement.
New air cleaner element and foam pre-filter arrived from Argo Adventure and installed.
Next came one of the most important parts of the build, replacing all 8 drive chains as the old ones were original, severely stretched and were seized when I got the machine from being underwater for a period of time. For lots of pics and the full story please check out the Drive Chain Replacement page for more information.
While working on the drive chains I replaced the broken bilge pump with one Dad sent in from his old boat. The new unit works great!
With drive chains complete I decided to recover the front bench seat myself. I added another 1" of high density seat foam to the old 2" foam with contacted cement and laid this inside the old seat cover which was still in decent shape.
A bunch of stainless steel staples later and the seat cover was installed and looking great.
Someone previously did some work on the old seatback and installed carriage bolts which were impossible to hold still when tightening the seat back. I stripped off all the bent over nails and removed the carriage bolts.
The bolts were replaced with proper T-Nuts which allowed me to use standard stainless steel hex bolts to attach the seatback. I also raised the seat back mounting holes 1" to account for the additional foam in the seat bottom.
Stainless staples now properly attached the vinyl cover to the seatback.
A brand new 1/4" automotive grade rubber fuel line was installed from the engine right back to the tank to replace the old very hard plastic line. The new line was covered in flexible wire loom to prevent abrasion inside the Argo body. The wire harness for fuel gauge and rear Red LED cabin light were fished through front to back at the same time.
Next up was re-installing the gas tank, attaching the filler neck with new clamps, connecting the new fuel line and connecting up the new fuel gauge.
A brand new inline fuel filter was installed to protect the carburetor and provides a great visual indication of fuel flow.
Gas tank, seat and hand rail permanently installed.
Drain plugs were in great shape so they were cleaned up and reinstalled.
While working on the drive chains I found this round cover under the left side center chain. It turned out to be a a part of the air cleaner assembly so I gave it a quick sand blast and coat of high heat paint and installed it in the air cleaner housing.
My last order from ArgoAdventure.com included this fantastic blank service decal which I filled out and installed on the underside of the engine cover.
After my first preliminary ride to test the new chains I made a final adjustment to the idler chain tension (which has to be manually adjusted at the gearbox) and performed a gear oil change on the gearbox using new 75w90 Lucas synthetic gear oil.
Getting ready for new Rubber!
While waiting for tires I did size up how to mount a gun boot easily in a way that can be quickly removed after hunting season. I like gun boots as they keep your firearm clean and free from damage/scratches. The key to using them is to stuff a rag ( I use a full old t-shirt) around the end of the stock to keep the gun from moving and beating around inside the gun boot.
My installation was simple, I removed one bolt for the outboard motor bracket and replaced it with a 5" long bolt to go through the gun boot mount and outboard motor bracket. The nose of the boot tucks under the left side rear seat. This location allows easy access to cargo and still lets me remove the floor pan if necessary.
New tires have arrived. The Goodyear Runamucks were well worn with hardly any tread remaining, had numerous tire plugs, and two were unable to hold air. The Runamucks are discontinued and the new Carlisle Argo tires are brutally expensive at $245 per tire so I sourced these Duro 243's from Honda One for $70 each after a bunch of research and reading on good replacement Argo tires.
I also picked up 3 brand new 8" Argo wheels to replace 3 of the worst/rusty original rims.
The new tires look great, have lots of traction, skid steer well, but the only downside is that they don't swim well.
On September 20th I finally got for a great 3 hour ride to really give the machine a good test. I did some trail riding, mud ripping, steep hill climbing and deep water floating and the machine worked very well. Check out more pics from my September 20th Rip.
On September 22nd we headed down the shore for a dual Argo Moose Scouting Adventure which also went very well. Check out more pics from the September 22 Scouting Trip. A couple minor issues came up, I need a new compression nut on the right steering lever adjuster as the old one backs off, which is a pretty simple fix, and I need to make a final adjustment on the air idle screw when the machine is hot.
In November I began getting the Argo prepped for winter by test fitting the Argo accessory convertible top. The top is about 15 years newer than the machine and is very similar to the tops on current machines. For more pics of the top set up and repairs check out the Tracks & Convertible Top page.
After a busy fall moose scouting, moose hunting and even hauling out Roger's moose it was time for a quick basic 10 hour service consisting of inspection, oiling the drive chains and greasing the bearings. The Argo recommended interval is 25 hours but I want to keep the chains in awesome shape by lubing them more frequently at 10 hours. This Castrol chain lube was recommended by our local dealer Argo Sales & Service.
While shopping one day I came across this 2.25" Stainless Steel exhaust tip in the clearance bin at Canadian Tire for $10. Dad had installed a large 2" exhaust pipe years ago and this stainless piece really cleaned up the look!
While moose hunting we were driving in pre dawn darkness and coming out of the woods in the dark. I found that my upgraded LED headlights were really only effective for about 40-50 feet. When I built my new electrical system I prewired and installed the switch and relay for an auxiliary light bar so now was the time to upgrade!
The mounting points for this 22" Duraseries LED light bar from NL Lightbars (not a sponsor) actually lined up perfectly with two aluminum body rivets. I drilled out the rivets, enlarged the holes, and installed the bar with Stainless Steel hardware. A quick two wire splice and the light was in service.
Upgraded LED replacement headlight bulbs only.
Upgraded LED replacement headlight bulbs plus the 22" Light Bar.
In December it was time to get the problematic carburetor sorted out. When I purchased this non-running machine in May 2019 one problem it had was the carburetor. It was full of caked in dried up crud. Disassembly and standard aerosol carb cleaner seemed to do the trick and I got the machine running. However while operating the machine moose hunting last fall I would constantly have to fool with the choke to keep it from stalling, even at wide open throttle, and the only adjustment - idle air mixture - seemed to have little effect. It also didn't seem to make full power.
I ordered a full carb & fuel pump rebuild kit from Argo Adventure and tracked down a tin of Kleen Flo 651 professional strength carburetor and metal parts cleaner. This stuff is amazing and breaks down everything not metal. With the carb truly clean and freshly rebuilt the machine now runs like new. It starts easier and only requires choke to start when cold, and the idle air & isle speed screws work as they should. Huge improvement to the drivability of the machine! For the complete story check out the Carburetor and Fuel Pump Rebuild page.
With the carburetor rebuilt it was time to dig out my 13" plastic tracks and get them ready for installation. I knew there were some broken segments so French and I set about repairing them one evening. I had to order a couple more segments so installing them would come a little later in January. Please check out the Tracks & Convertible Top page for lots of pics and information on installing tracks on an Argo ATV.
Lastly in addition to my tool kits, 12v air compressor, etc, I now have an awesome top handle chain saw to add to my Argo adventures. I will swap this saw between my Bike & Argo, it's a super compact awesome little saw.
This unit is an eBay direct from China CS2500 top handle chain saw. It's 25cc, 2-stroke with auto oiler and a 12" bar. It runs awesome and has already been tested on a windblown tree blocking a trail!
Tracks installed one day after our crazy Snowmageddon blizzard in January 2020
French and I logged a lot of hours on the machines this winter with many ice fishing trips and exploratory runs looking for even better, more remote ice fishing ponds.
Spring riding got a little tangly as brooks opened up and the snow got loose and slippery.
April 12, 2020. Still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic we are all spending the majority of our time safe at home avoiding exposure to this terrible virus that has gripped the entire world. On the bright side it allowed me a lot more free time to get some maintenance completed on project Argo after an awesome winter of tracked Argo Adventures with Mark French. Check out the 2020 Project Update and Repairs page for update on current repairs, and scroll below for more pics from my 2nd year of ownership!
Moose hunting fall 2020 saw dad operating his old machine for the first time in many years as we successfully filled his tags.
Our moose hunting season ran longer than usual as we had more licenses to fill this year than most years so we logged quite a few hours on the machines. One of the benefits of an Argo is the ability to take more and larger equipment with you for those amazing backwoods cook-ups!
After an awesome albeit long moose hunting season it was time to get Project Argo ready for winter. That started with a thorough cleaning inside and out followed by some routine maintenance including a 25-hour oil change service, and a 10-hour inner & outer bearing grease and chain lubrication. I also sorted a minor repair, a nuisance ever since the rebuild which was a small oil leak around the transmission shifter. I tool apart the shifter and replaced the rubber seal on the shifter shaft which seems to have fixed this minor issue.
Next up was the installation of Tracks, Windshield and Convertible Top, same process as last year, but I do have some additional pics on my Mike's Misc Garage Projects 2021 page. I also have a HOW TO article on installing Argo Tracks.
After our January 22nd Blizzard I logged some fresh powder snow miles on the machine and thoroughly enjoyed a couple runs from our house in Torbay breaking trails in 30+cm of fresh powder. The Argo continues to work and run very well.
The only complaint I have about my $6 Chinese windshield wiper is that I found it was missing a large portion of the upper part of the windshield. I sized it up and decided to shorten the wiper arm and install a longer blade. I also removed one bend so that the wiper is inline with the wiper arm instead of cocked.
I drilled out the single steel rivet and pried open the clasp on the larger part of the arm to release the flat bar.
I simply cut 2-3/4" off the end of the bar, mimicked the original bend and re-drilled the holes.
I reinstalled the flat bar into the wiper arm, installed a new steel rivet, crimped over the clasps and applied a fresh coat of paint. I also swapped the 16" wiper blade for an 18" blade and am much happier with the coverage.
Lastly I finally custom cut some Shed-Headz livery for project Argo including the site name along the top as well as an official Pussy Magnet decal (designed by Crew Member Matt French).
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith