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

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.