Another Midnight Blue Express mystery solved!
In photos from the late 1977 races in Alaska and Kinross Michigan, if you look really close, you can see Jerry Bunke leaning over what appears to be an RXL with painted tunnel.
Note this picture, where you can see the now infamous “Black 440X” hanging from the truck.
I asked anyone and everyone involved with the team at that time, and showed them photos.. yet no one remembers Jerry having an RXL with a painted tunnel. This is also the best picture to date of Hulings 1978 340.
I met Jeff Stevens years ago at an east cost snowmobile show, and he showed me the 440X he had. You could clearly see that at one time, the bulkhead was painted black. The first thing I asked to look at was to life the seat.. and sure enough, we could see that it was black under the seat.
Years later I found the picture of Jerry lined up at Eagle River in 1978, his hood open to show an RXL with a black bulkhead and a not painted tunnel. Pretty good proof that at sometime after Kinross, Jerry stripped the paint off the tunnel.
Why? No one will ever know. Perhaps it was because it didn’t match all the other sleds… something Polaris marketing would not have liked.. or perhaps it kept getting scratched and he got tired of touching it up? in any case, it was a great clue that helped to identify all the remaining 440X sleds from 1978:
Brad Hulings 440X WC sled – the only one built with a magnesium tunnel as well, it was destroyed at Eagle River in 78.
Brad Hulings 440X – “Rocky the Flying Squirrel”
Steve Thorsen 440X WC – found, verified and on display at the Hall of Fame.
Steve Thorsen 440X sled – found, in a private collection
Jerry Bunke 440X WC sled – found, Jeff Stevens.
Jerry Bunke 440X – raced by TJ Patrick in 1979, this one has been found, but is in pieces. But not for long: