Raider Snowmobiles were produced by Leisure Vehicles, Inc. from 1971-1975. Leisure Vehicles, Inc. was founded by Bob Bracey, who had assisted in developing the legendary Ford Mark IV Le Mans race cars a few years earlier, while an engineer at Kar Kraft.
Raider snowmobiles are unique for their use of a rear mounted engine, twin track design, and cockpit seating, all of which were revolutionary ideas for the snowmobile industry in the 1970s.
The first production model year was 1971, though the sled had been in development since 1969. There were two 1971 models, the Raider and the Roamer. The 1971 Raider featured a single cylinder JLO 2-stroke engine in the beginning of the model year, but later may have switched to CCW. The 1971 Roamer featured a 10 hp Briggs & Stratton 4 cycle engine. The production numbers are unknown, but it is believed that approximately 50 '71 Roamers and 50 '71 Raiders were produced. 1971 Raiders and Roamers featured a twist grip throttle, which was found to be hard to control in bumpy conditions.
The 1972 Raider was significantly redesigned from the 1971 model year. It was larger, longer, featured redesigned tracks, longer skis, and rear shocks, along with the leaf sprung rear skids, and many more Raider specific manufactured parts. For the 1972 model year, there were four Raider models; the 290, 340, 400, and 440. The number represents the size of the CCW engine for each model. The most common seem to be the 400cc, followed by the 290cc. This was probably due to engine availability. Most have electric starting. Some '72 440 models have been found with Hirth engines. 400 models are most often found with a standard tachometer; and 440 models came standard with a tach, and a speedometer.
There was a limited production Raider built in 1972 and intended for racing called the "Bandit". Production is thought to be around 100 units. All were put together at a separate facility from the LVI factory. It had a lighter weight body, front ski shocks (the first time on a Raider), and a different hatch design, that had air scoops instead of a passenger seat. The body is black and white, and it has a single wide white plastic snow flap, with "bandit" lettered in black, and black and white stripes on the front. Most Bandits were built with Hirth fan cooled twin cylinder engines, but a few have been found with CCW engines. Bandits were to be built in 340, 400, and 440 models, but at least one 650 fan cooled Hirth powered Bandit has been found. The Hirth powered Bandits have been found with twin carbs, and two small round Donaldson mufflers. The Bandits were intended for racing, but were found to be too heavy to be competitive. All were built by hand, so each is a little different. The only Bandit seen in Raider advertising is in the background of one artists rendering of a 72 Raider on snow.
In 1973, the Raider snowmobile was again completely redesigned. There were two models available in 1973, the 34TT and the 44TT. The 34TT featured a 32 hp, 400cc CCW engine. No one knows why the 34TT is not called the 40TT or alternatively, powered by a 340cc engine. It must heve been a last minute change, or the fact that the 400cc engine was more readily available. The 44TT featured a 36 hp, 440cc CCW engine. There are also a few '73 Raiders that have been found with older '72 style 340cc CCW engines in the stripped down version that would be called the "Hawk" in 1974. The engine on the 1973 design was tilted to allow for the longer intake on the newer CCW engines, with a larger carburetor. This had the added benefit of lowering the center of gravity, and reducing vibration.
The 1974 Raider Snowmobiles experienced a few revisions from the 1973 model. The biggest changes were revised graphics on the snowmobile. The 1974 model year also marked the change of the Raider lineup into three distinct models, the Hawk, Eagle, and Double Eagle. Most 1974 Eagle Raiders are actually unsold 1973 Raider 34TT and 44TT model inventory. Many 1973 Raiders had gone unsold due to industry wide overproduction, poor snow in most of the midwest, and the OPEC oil embargo. Raider dealers were sent an "upgrade kit" with new 1974 style decals, the black front applique, and a new 1974 owner's manual. The dealer service bulletin reminded dealers to "be sure to remove the 1973 owner's manual & replace it with the 1974 owner's manual". The 1974 Hawk was a stripped down Raider model. It had no gauges, no electric start, no front ski shocks, no brake lights, no hinged gas door cover, and no passenger seat. It came equipped with a 340cc CCW engine, with the '72 Raider style smaller intake and carburator, and '72 Raider wiring and chrome brake and throttle controls, and the '72 style dash mounted toggle light and high beam switch. The '74 Hawk seems to have been a way for LVI to use up left-over '72 Raider parts, and at the same time, have a cheaper entry level sled. The 1974 Double Eagle was again a completely new, redesigned sled. It was slightly larger and used a more advanced coil sprung rear suspension technology than the Hawk and Eagle models. It also featured an injection molded body, hatch and pan, and a wider front ski stance. This final redesign was intended to reduce the total number of parts needed to build the machine, and therefore speed up production.
The 1975 model year was to see the end of Raider production. Very few 1975 Raider snowmobiles were manufactured, and included a revised 440 Double Eagle that was now burnt orange, as opposed to harvest gold as seen in 1974. The 1975 "Eagle" that was now light blue and powered by a 340cc engine. There was no "Eagle" bird decal on the light blue '75 340s, though they are still known as the '75 Eagle for some reason. All 1975 Raiders were now powered by Kohler AS/2 fan cooled twin cylinder engines with CDI ignition. John Deere had negotiated an exclusive contract for CCW/Kioritz engines, forcing LVI/Raider to find a new engine source.
Leisure Vehicles had intended to create a two-person, side-by-side Raider designated as the Twin Eagle for 1975, but only a few prototypes were built.
1975 was a tumultuous year for Leisure Vehicles, due to a poor snow season, increasing emission and noise level restrictions, the departure of Bob Bracey from the company, and an industry wide shake-out and contraction. As a result of these problems, and many others, the company halted production on the Raider.
Bob Bracey said that total Raider production was about 20,000 units.
- American Snowmobiler 2003 obituary of Robert (Bob) Bracey
- Raider Twin Track Snowmobiles (collector's page)
- Sledneck Review (includes section on Raider Snowmobiles)