Antique Snowmobiles Come Out of Retirement

Let it snow! Late summer Iowa show featured snowmobile display

| January 2010

  • 1965 Polaris Super Mountaineer
    Jon Dorman’s 1965 Polaris Super Mountaineer (number one of just 30 built) was one of several antique snowmobiles displayed at a September show.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • A Polaris Sno-Traveler ad
    A Polaris Sno-Traveler ad from Aaron Kelly’s collection.
  • Polaris Sportsline L-55 snowmobile
    The Sportsline L-55, the smallest snowmobile Polaris built, and the company’s first real entry into the recreational equipment market. This one is owned by Aaron Kelly.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • 1953 Eliason Snow Toboggan
    Russell Willis’ 1953 Eliason is powered by an 8 hp Briggs & Stratton engine. Previous models were steered with a lever; the 1953 model featured a steering wheel. Production of Eliason Snow Toboggans ended that year.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • 1941 Eliason Snow Toboggan
    This 1941 Eliason Snow Toboggan, from the collection of Russell Willis, Hopedale, Ill., is an unrestored original, totally complete. A collector since 1987, Russell is a snowmobile veteran. “My two boys collect with me, and we collect anything to do with snowmobiles,” he says. “It’s mostly a winter thing, but there are shows and swap meets all year.”
    Leslie C. McManus
  • 1965 Polaris Mustang
    Produced for two years, the Polaris Mustang was equipped with a JLO 252 cc, 8 hp Kohler or Hirth 300 cc 2-stroke engine. This 1965 Mustang is part of Aaron Kelly’s collection.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • 1965 Arctic Cat 100
    Aaron Kelly drove 900 miles in one day to buy this 1965 Arctic Cat 100. “It’s pretty rough,” he admits, “but it does have a tag.”
    Leslie C. McManus
  • 1966 Arctic Cat 100
    This 1966 Arctic Cat 100 is Aaron Kelly’s “Old Reliable.” “It has a Kohler 8 hp 4-stroke engine,” he says. “It’s just so simple. It’s been radar-checked at 31 mph on ice.” Aaron’s collection includes 23 machines as well as sleds and sleighs.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • 1965 Polaris Mustang from the front
    Aaron Kelly's 1965 Polaris Mustang from the front.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Polaris Sno-Traveler logo
    The Polaris Sno-Traveler logo.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • 1963 Polaris Ranger
    Jon Dorman and his 1963 Polaris Ranger with 10 hp Kohler engine with reversing transmission. Jon has built a bit of a reputation for his mastery of reverse ovals in vintage snowmobile racing. “Sometimes you can go faster in reverse than you can forward,” he says with a smile.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Model of a Polaris Sno-Traveler
    A model of a Polaris Sno-Traveler built by Kevin Lehse, Fair Haven, Minn.
    Leslie C. McManus
  • Demonstration of an early snowmobile
    Demonstration of an early snowmobile, from a poster displayed at Mt. Pleasant.
  • Polaris Sno-Traveler ad
    A Polaris Sno-Traveler ad from Aaron Kelly’s collection.

  • 1965 Polaris Super Mountaineer
  • A Polaris Sno-Traveler ad
  • Polaris Sportsline L-55 snowmobile
  • 1953 Eliason Snow Toboggan
  • 1941 Eliason Snow Toboggan
  • 1965 Polaris Mustang
  • 1965 Arctic Cat 100
  • 1966 Arctic Cat 100
  • 1965 Polaris Mustang from the front
  • Polaris Sno-Traveler logo
  • 1963 Polaris Ranger
  • Model of a Polaris Sno-Traveler
  • Demonstration of an early snowmobile
  • Polaris Sno-Traveler ad

When it comes to Old Man Winter, you can fight him or join him. Add an antique snowmobile or two to your collection, and the choice is easy.

“They sure make the winter go faster,” says snowmobile enthusiast Russell Willis, Hopedale, Ill. “They’re just fun.”

Vintage snowmobiles are making inroads at antique tractor shows in the snowbelt. For fans of old iron who live in the country, a 40-year-old Ski-Doo or Polaris is a natural extension of the hobby. “I like being outdoors and I like engines,” says Aaron Kelly, Tipton, Iowa. “But I can’t afford tractors and I don’t have room for them, so snowmobiles are a good option for me. They’re just so simple.”

Plenty of variety at Iowa display

A late August display at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, highlighted the category’s variety. Jon Dorman, Exline, Iowa, showed a 1965 Polaris Super Mountaineer complete with cab and 24 hp Kohler engine. “This was the largest production model Polaris made,” he says. “It was the workhorse of the ski slope, and used a lot in logging and utility applications.”

Priced at $2,695 in 1965 (about $18,500 in today’s terms), the backwoods beast was no bargain. “That’s more than a new Mustang cost then,” Jon notes. But the Mountaineer was all muscle. “It has the largest air-cooled engine Kohler made,” Jon says, “with a rated towing capacity of 2,200 pounds.” Fewer than 30 were built in a two-year production run.

Early snowmobiles showed remarkable design ingenuity, Jon notes. “Everybody had an idea,” he says. “Some people used saw blades as a track and the motion was supposed to carry the sled forward. People used whatever they had in the junkyard. Some of the really early ones had lines like reins.”

Those who would restore the relics today must be equally clever. “Sometimes you have to buy two or three sleds just to get the parts you need,” Jon says. “But that’s part of the thrill of the hunt, that and meeting people.”



The hunt is made easier by the existence of the Antique Snowmobile Club of America (Jon was recently named a state director). With more than 2,000 members, online and print communications, and a full schedule of meets year round, the group is an excellent resource for enthusiasts.

The club holds traveling summer and winter meetings similar to those held by tractor and engine enthusiasts. Winter meets include races such as hill climb, cross country, oval, drag and log pull, and even a “reverse race” for machines with reverse gear.



SUBSCRIBE TO FARM COLLECTOR TODAY!

Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.




Facebook Pinterest YouTube

Classifieds