In our latest installment of “My First Sled”, we take a look our first snowmobile: the 1979 Polaris Apollo 340. The 1979 model year was Polaris’s 25th anniversary and it was the debut season for the Apollo (which replaced the SS 340). It was situated in the ’79 line-up between the entry-level Gemini and the two-up Cobra. The Apollo was a no-frills machine marketed an economy sled. It was lightweight, moderately powered and nothing short of bullet-proof.
We took delivery of our brand new Apollo in late August of 1978. We did not receive adequate snow cover until November 22nd (yes we remember the date) and that wait was likely the longest 3 months of our life. Once we were given sole access to this poor machine, it spent its existence at full throttle for every ride thereafter. As an aspiring motocross rider in the summer, we used the Apollo as a winter means of getting our jollies. So the Apollo saw service that would be more akin to sno-cross than to the family trail riding for which it was designed. How we didn’t break this machine clean in half is a testament to the durability that Polaris built into their sleds at that time.
The heart of the Apollo was the fan-cooled 333cc, twin-cylinder engine built by Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan. Fuji made snowmobile engines for Polaris from 1968 to 1998. This little engine wasn’t going to win many drag races on the lake, but it got up to speed very briskly and was a very competent “corner to corner” performer on the trails. This engine was fed whatever pre-mix oil was handy and was never prepared for storage, yet it started like a champ every time. It withstood a dozen seasons of persistent abuse and the only wrench it ever saw was for the occasional spark plug change.
The relatively short length of the Apollo chassis made for lighting-fast handling on tight trails, but the rider paid the price on choppy terrain. The tight chassis and low-travel suspension meant that the Apollo was skimming along the tops of bumps, rather than absorbing them. We didn’t care much about finesse or comfort those days, so it didn’t much matter.
Pros and Cons of the Polaris Apollo 340
Durability- By all rights, our Apollo should have been on the scrap heap by 1981. The only issues we ever had with it were a worn chaincase bearing, a broken rear suspension bolt and worn brake pads. It went strong through a dozen years of relentless thrashing and came back for more.
Reasonable Engine Torque- The 333cc Fuji engine wasn’t a rocket, but it offered very serviceable power that made riders on bigger sleds have to sweat to keep us in sight on the trails.
Brakes- The hydraulic disc brakes on Polaris sleds from that era was among the best in the industry and hauled the little Apollo down from speed in a heartbeat.
Choppy ride- Long travel suspension wasn’t a consideration on family sleds in those days. On hard pack surfaces the ride was rough and unstable.
Poor traction- The 1979 season was the first year that Polaris equipped their sleds with all rubber tracks. This was definitely a step forward, but the shallow lugs were not effective in deep powder or on icy surfaces.
Looks- As much as we loved that Apollo, it had a face only a mother could love. Polaris gave the Gemini, Apollo and Cobra a decidedly homely form. Contrast the Apollo with the racy Arctic Cat Jag from that era.
Specifications for 1979 Polaris Apollo 340
- Engine: 333cc Two-Stroke, Twin Cylinder by Fuji Heavy Industries- EC34PM-03 – 3
- Cooling: Fan-Cooled
- Bore/Stroke: 61.78mm X 55.66mm
- Carburetor: twin Mikuni VM-26
- Recommended Gas/Oil Mix Ratio: 40:1
- Ignition Type: Magneto
- Horsepower: 32
- Top Speed: Approximately 60 mph
- Trail Fuel Range: Approximately 180 miles
- Clutch: Polaris
- Brakes: Hydraulic disc
- Track Type: 15” width, all rubber
- Track Length: 142” pitch length, track length on ground 42”
- Rear Suspension: Steel slide rail
- Front Suspension: 3 leaf spring with shocks
- Fuel Capacity: 7 US gallons/5.8 Imperial gallons/26.5 litres
- Height Without Windshield: 31”
- Length With Skis: 101.75”
- Width: 31.5”
- Dry Weight: 364 pounds
- Wet Weight: 410 pounds
- Suggested Retail: $1549US/$1849 in Canada
- Options: Speedometer, tachometer, gas gauge, electric start, saddle bags, trailer hitch, cover
We have fond memories of the time we spent on this vintage Polaris. Its longevity and plucky performance leaves us with a strong respect for Polaris products to this day.