Area51 Project - Mike's 1989 Argo 6x6 Happy Reunion:
1989 Argo 6x6
Briggs & Stratton 16hp L-head Twin cylinder
Belt Driven clutches
Standard Argo Transmission
Twin Stick Steering/Brake Levers - mechanical brakes
22x11x8 Goodyear Runamuck Tires
Full length skid plate
WARN 2500lb Winch
LED OEM Style Headlights
Upgraded ignition coil
2" Receiver Hitch
Outboard motor bracket
Argo accessory windshield & canopy
Argo standard plastic tracks
This project is a reunion rebuild, dad bought this particular machine brand new in 1989 from Avalon Services 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 so I headed out over the highway to bring the machine 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 of the newer machines.
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. The Argo was a perfect choice to take the whole family out in the woods with ease, and to say dad was proud to have this impressive machine home in the driveway is an understatement!
We made a lot of great memories with this machine, moose hunting, rabbit hunting, trout fishing, overnight camping, hauling out moose for family/friends, and helped out at many many scout camps & jamborees.
This Argo was never afraid to work, often tasked with carrying building/repair supplies 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 Cuborees and Jamborees assisting with site services in a wide variety of roles from running outdoor PA speaker wiring, to toting tools, supplies, and volunteers all over the site.
As I got older the Argo made quite a few appearances with the shed-headz crew in the early days of cabin trips before I purchased project Foreman in 1998.
In May 2019 Mark French texted me an ad on NL Classifieds with 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. The winter tracks and full canopy were also included in the deal.
Although the machine didn't run and some of the engine shrouds removed to diagnose the problem, all the pieces were there and the machine 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 unit 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 brakes while the Magnum models used a hydraulic 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 comealong, but dad and I got the job done and headed back to Torbay with my prize in tow. I can honestly say that I felt as proud to purchase this machine today as dad felt when he bought it brand new in 1989.
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 installed new drive axel shear pins, two per side 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 quite convenient being able to move the Argo under its own power around my property 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 completing 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 a 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 its 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.
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.
The larger problem of why it wouldn't work is that the wires joining one set of brushes to the upper wire post detached. I managed to salvage a set from the 2nd parts winch I had in the garage successfully rebuilding my winch motor with good used parts.
I put the motor back together and bolted it to the left side gear case and tested it with booster cables. It now it works very well!
With the electric motor running well I disassembled the rest of the winch and ran all the gear sets through my parts washer to remove years worth of old grease, dust and mud.
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.
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 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 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 its safe to say they don't make them like this anymore. A quick cleaning with a wire wheel had the fairlead looking great!
Next I began reassembly of the winch starting by bolting the electric motor to the left side gear case. I then coated the entire inside of the gear case with Moly High Pressure grease using a small parts brush. The planetary gear set was packed with grease and reinstalled.
With the motor side complete I moved on to the other side where I dry fitted all the pieces first before coating/packing them with moly grease and reassembling them.
With the unit fully reassembled I connected the winch to a battery with booster cables and checked operation in both directions and tested the free spool switch. All is now working well. A neat feature of this generation Warn winch is that the 2000lb and 2500lb models are the exact same winch. The heavier version uses slightly larger gauge wiring and a contactor with mini handlebar mounted switch instead of smaller gauge and the old style huge rotary switch. Dad happened to have an extra 2500lb wiring kit in Bay Roberts and dropped it off! Now I will have a 2500lb winch on the Argo!
Janes stopped by and removed the old X2 Superwinch. I test fit the new winch on the machine with the old fairlead bracket in place. The Superwinch was held to the machine with only 2 bolts while the Warn uses 4 in totally different locations so the brackets will have to be drilled.
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 disposal container. This worked extremely well and now the tank is perfectly clean!
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.
Subfloor Replacement and Metal Fabrication Work:
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
I used my grinder to remove as much as the old floor as possible mainly to inspect the plastic body which is hidden by the old steel floor and the full body skid plate. Although dirty it was in great shape. It was hard to get the grinder tight enough for complete removal but this proved beneficial in holding the new floor supports in place while welding.
The new floor supports were made from 1/8" 3/4 x 3/4" angle iron, the rear brace had to be taller so I could weld it to this cross member for extra support.
The side supports were notched to fit easily around the inside axel bearings and wont interfere if they ever have to be replaced.
I kept the floor good and wet while welding to prevent hot slag from burning into the plastic body. The whole job was completed with no fires!
My welding skills using my 220v stick welder and thin steel are not pretty but it got the job done.
I added an extra brace made from two pieces of angle iron welded into a T shape to add extra support directly below the drivers feet.
I originally planned only to replace the front, but upon closer inspection I decided to replace the rear as well which is super easy to do now while the gas tank is out.
Again there was a fair amount of crud below the floor which was removed before construction began.
With welding complete I backed the Argo outside to give it a good cleaning before painting the frame began.
The new floor pans were fabbed from 1/16" sheet steel which is a little heavier than the OEM floor. Its also available from my supplier in part sheets unlike diamond plate which only came in 4x8' sheets.
After sanding I hit the floors with Etch primer and let cure for a couple days.
Chassis painting complete with trusty oil based gloss black Tremclad brush on enamal.
Once the primer fully cured I hit the panels with many light coats of Duplicolour Truck Bed Coating which is the replacement product for the blue can Duplicolour coating I used on Project Foreman's Racks & bumpers.
I decided to use steel pop rivets to attach the floors. Welding them would damage the paint in a place I couldn't re-paint once installed and rivets drilled on 4" centres should be good and strong. I chose steel vs aluminum rivets to prevent corrosion due to dissimilar metals. Once installed I coated all the seams and rivets with Fluid Film which is a rust preventer that will run and protect all seams in the new floor.
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.
Next on the list was fixing up the winch fairlead bracket. The previous owner bent and twisted the fairlead pretty good and I couldn't get it straight. I simply cut off the bent up piece and fabricated a new one welding it to the original bracket which bolts in place under the winch.
These holes were a PITA to drill but I got the job done and tided up the remaining oval opening with my grinder.
Before reinstalling the bracket and winch I installed a 5000lb rated hook to the front of the machine. This bolts directly to the winch support structure inside the machine and will provide a great tie down point, front tow point and hook point if using a snatch block.
Test fit complete.
The OEM Argo brass fairlead was re-polished and coated with clear enamel to keep it looking good. Its a real nice and unique piece to have back on this machine!
Bracket painted and permanently bolted to the machine with new grade 8 bolts and locktite.
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.
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 with a flap disc in my grinder.
A few light coats of bed liner later and the handrail looks amazing!
On the miscellaneous odds and ends list is painting up various brackets, mainly brackets 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!
New Electrical System:
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.
First up on this project was replacing the rusted out 12v accessory plug dad installed decades ago. I also moved the choke lever over to the right to accommodate the new plugs.
The mounting plate for my new EBay dual accessory plugs fit the nook absolutely perfect, as if it was designed just for this machine!
The new plugs are weather resistant with nice rubber caps on each.
The left houses dual USB charging ports and the right is a standard cigarette style 12v plug in.
My next EBay purchase was a replacement Voltmeter to replace the defective one in the machine, unfortunately this is what arrived. LoL The seller was great and re-shipped a Voltmeter and threw in a sending unit for the fuel gauge at no charge.
The new Fuel gauge was installed to the left of the Voltmeter.
I started rebuilding the harness using the OEM wiring to the voltage regulator, ignition coil and headlights but wrapping them in protective wire loom and neatly ty-wrapping it in place.
I completely removed all the old dash harness which consisted largely of the old winch controller wiring. I began building the new harness ty-wrapping everything to keep the wire lengths nice and neat while I terminated the connections at the gauges and accessory plugs.
When all the connections were soldered and heat shrank I removed the ty-wraps and replaced them with tape before installing protective wire loom.
Loom was installed then the whole harness neatly bolted to the body using rubber lined wire clamps and stainless hardware. I Utilized left and right side engine bay grounding points to keep the harness neat and more organized. Colour codes such as using red wire for positive, yellow for relay switched power and black/brown for grounds keep the whole system tidy. Wire size was determined based on load and a fuse size chosen based on wire size.
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.
The fuse panels & relays were mounted in a locking plastic weather resistant enclosure which I riveted inside an old alarm panel. This provided structural support and a place to mount the winch contactor.
The blue switch on the left controls the heater fan used when the canopy is installed, the two blue switches to the right control the bilge pump and a future LED light bar which is completely pre-wired.
Interior red LED lights front and rear and gauge backlighting is wired to the main headlights, although they may end up on their own switch if I find them too bright with the Canopy installed.
Quick after photo on top and before photo on bottom of the Argo's electrical system.
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith