Project Viper - Where Did Your Baby Come From?

Nov. 01, 2005 By Matthew Baynard
No this isn't a biology lesson for the sledding community, it's about where the Project Viper snowmobiles came from. The off-road.com Vipers are my babies, and I wanted to talk about how we bought them and why we chose to buy them where we did.

Selecting a dealer is like a marriage in that you hope the relationship lasts a long time and its mutually beneficial for both parties. That's a key point for someone looking to buy a sled. You want the dealer to be around and benefit you as a consumer. The point of sale in most cases being the point of service and the point of accessories too. As such, you should check out the service department and the parts & accessories departments.

Many readers think that since we're an e-zine, that we don't use a local dealer for anything and that we only buy from the Internet. While we live on the Internet and we do buy some items from the web, we're primarily dependant on our local dealers to support us and the Off-road.com Snowmobile Online snowmobiles. The local dealer will always be the purest form of support for your sledding needs. The dealer is also the one who is going to help you on a Friday night when you have a weekend ride planned too. Remember that one.

Before we talk about who we selected for the dealer to sell and support our 2002 Project Vipers, lets talk about why we selected them. The same guidelines we used should help you also. Here's a few points that are key, any dealer that doesn't have all of them, should be passed by. Only six points, but they're six key points.

The Dealer Key Factors According to Snowmobile Online @ Off-road.com
A Showroom If the dealer doesn't have a showroom, he's either not really a dealer or he's not large enough to be able to afford a floor plan of snowmobiles. Chances are he wont have a service department either. It's nice to be able to 'kick the tires' of any new sled that you might want. This isn't likely however, since the real popular sleds seem to run out the doors.
A Service Department No service department, means RUN out the door and find another dealer. This guy is a disaster waiting to happen. More than anything, a good service department will separate an OK dealer from a truly great dealer. Keeping your sled properly serviced is the key to more hours on the trail and not on your sofa. I truly believe that no one should do their own service unless they have the experience to do so. Basics are OK, but you should visit the dealer at the start and end of each season to make sure everything is in running order.
A Parts & Accessory Department You're going to need parts sooner or later, so a nicely stocked one is a real plus. The same goes for accessories, since we all like to make our sleds personal. We need helmets and clothes too. Don't be upset if he doesn't stock all the aftermarket items, no one does, it would be inventory suicide. The ability to get what you need quickly is more important here.
A Good Reputation This is a very subjective item, but its still important to mention. If everyone you talk to refers to the same dealer in a negative manner, this could be a red flag. You need to make a judgment call, are they just upset customers that no one could make happy, or do they have a legitimate beef with the dealer. Remember, don't believe everything that you hear. But word of month is more often true than not.
A Well Stocked Vending Machine I'm always on a diet at home, so a good fat and sugar filled vending machine is key to a happy dealer visit. They need to sell Coca-Cola too, I just hate Pepsi. The Sticky Bun is also vital to a good vending experience.
A Personality I like to have a dealer who has a bit of personality too. Staff that have a good disposition and are easy to deal with, can be the most important aspect of a dealership. Again, it can mean the difference between an OK experience and a great one. People are after all, the real key to a dealers eventual success or failure. The sales staff is the dealers litmus test too.

If you compare any dealer to these six points,maybe only five if you're not a vending machine connoisseur, you should be happy with your decision. If you haven't noticed, PRICE was not on the list. Let me explain why, like everything, we are dealing with a zero-sum game. A dealer has 'X' amount of money to run his business with. If he puts his margin in one location, he has to remove it from another. An example is that one dealer is say $250.00 USD cheaper than all the rest in his area. He is dealing with the same general cost of labor as everyone else and his cost of goods is set by the manufacturers. How does he do it? He provides a bigger discount since he is taking that money from somewhere else in the dealership. That could mean that parts and accessories are more, or he hires one less mechanic so repairs take longer or cost more. What seems cheaper, may not be cheaper in the long run. No one is cheaper because they're great guys, they're cheaper because they can make the difference up in other areas of the dealership. That's why the cheaper dealer is not always the better dealer. Be leary of the dealer who is just a sled pusher, unless that's all you want your dealer to be. Something to think about.

After you've selected the dealer, signed on the dotted line, and it's time to pick your new sled up....

Once you've signed on the dotted line and the wait for the snow checked sled is over. You have to venture back to pick up your baby. It's like bringing home your first kid home from the hospital. You drive twenty-five the whole way and annoy everyone. By the second or third you're doing seventy-five down the highway to get home before the start of the game. But not the first tow home. You avoid every pot hole and manhole cover. You don't want her jostled around on a trailer. You can't wait to get home and have the buddies over and go Ooooh. You're so proud. I sat on my new Viper every night just dreaming of snow.

Did you give any thought to what the dealer actually did once he unloaded the sled? More than you think. The Viper's come pretty much assembled less the skis, windscreen, and removing some suspension braces on the skid. The dealer doesn't have tons of parts to put on, but he does have a 1/2" thick six chapter assembly manual from Yamaha. You can buy one by ordering part number 8EK-28107-01.

The dealer doesn't have to assemble, he has to check the adjustment of just about everything from the carburetion settings, throttle cable tension, track tension, power valves, oil injection, ski alignment, and anything else you can think of.

It's all set at the factory, but the dealer is supposed to check it all again to make sure it's delivered as expected by the manufacturer to the consumer. The trip from Japan via cargo container and truck to the dealer can be rough at times.

Not only does the dealer perform all the adjustments, he needs to give you a tour of the sled in detail too. All the basics, how to start and stop the engine, break in periods and procedure, oils to use, and any special features like reverse need to be covered. These are all the things that a good dealer does. It's doing these types of services that we selected the dealer we did. We watched them do just this for a customer picking up a new Polaris. It nice to have a dealer do more than hold the door for you after you've just forked over seven to eight thousand dollars for a new sled.

The sad truth is that most dealers don't do much pre-delivery adjustments or go over a new sled with a customer. We still like these services and you should make sure you're dealer does them before you buy. If they don't, maybe they shouldn't be your dealer any longer. The manufacturers all tell the dealers that they should be performed.

So where did Off-road.com and Snowmobile Online decide to go and buy the Project Vipers?

For the Project Vipers, we had planned on the sleds being on the east coast and wanted to keep them at the upstate NY office. OK, its a big garage that we hide toys in. As such, we started looking at dealers in the upstate area around Old Forge, Speculator, Johnstown, and a few other area towns. We wanted the dealer to be close to our remote office during the winter and all the requirements mentioned above had to me met. We wanted this to be a location that we could deal with, we're not always the easiest to deal with, and needed an overall great dealership to meet our needs.

After visiting several dealers and looking at all the variables and even price. We selected where we'd get our new babies, I mean Vipers, from.

And the Winner Is?

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If you enlarge the image you can see Dave Waters all the way in the back at this desk. He's normally there and he's the secret weapon at Fast Forward. Also a major reason we selected Fast Forward. Remember the Personality factor for a dealer?
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Fast Forward Motorsports of Cobleskill New York was our choice and it was not an easy one. We visited more dealers than we wanted to, but we felt we needed to go to extremes. Overall, Fast Forward was the obvious choice and they met all the requirements that we had set and then some.

The location was perfect and only a short distance from our offices, OK garage. The location was also right off the Route 88, which is my commuting route to the snow in upstate NY.

Fast Forward also had one of the largest service departments that we've seen. With several full time mechanics on staff we knew that we wouldn't be waiting for a repair when we needed to be out on the trails. They can also service any brand snowmobile, which was good since we never know what we'll find in the Snowmobile Online trailers. The service department is so large because the location was once a car dealership. The showroom is equally large with more than enough room for not only snowmobiles, but dirt bikes, street bikes, ATVs, a gas powered bar stool (a future test is sure to follow), and even Yamaha jet boats. A man's paradise no matter the season!

I should also mention that Fast Forward sells Polaris ATVs and snowmobiles too, so maybe next years Polaris project sleds will come from the them too.

Overall we couldn't be happier with our choice and we've even sent in our Snowmobile Online contributors as spy's to check them out. Sometimes we get better treatment as the editors of a enthusiast site (yes, we occasionally get some respect because of what we do), but they all reported back with two thumbs up and one actually received a better deal than us! We'll be talking to Mr. Water's about that.

We look forward to continued work with Fast Forward and once the Project Vipers are done, I'm sure they'll be on display for their annual open house and a few other events. We'd also like to host a dealer ride and bring along some great toys for the customers of Fast Forward. We'll keep you posted on that and when the open house is too.

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Dave Water's is on the left with the Editor in the middle. One of Dave's sales team joined us for the picture. The day was rainy, but picking up our Vipers made the sun come out.
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The show room was still filled with bikes and the gas powered bar stool. The sleds had just started to arrive and we got the first two Yamaha's out of the crate.
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Our Vipers were flanked by ATVs, motorcycles, and a boat. All we needed was snow, but it was 70 degrees and I was in shorts. Winter was a long way off and I wanted to tear up the trails.
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My brother Tom was also along for the pickup. Tom is also the care taker for the remote office, the garage, and my wrenchman. I may be faster, but I'm no mechanic. :)
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You can contact Fast Forward and Dave Water's for your next baby at:

Fast Forward Motorsports
Barnerville Road
P.O. Box 340
Cobleskill, NY 12043
(518) 234-8888

 

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