Tucked away since 1975, a pair of John Deere snowmobiles used for only one winter find a new home.
Until early this year, a small, weather-worn shed in an Iowa field held a collector’s dream: a pair of mint-condition John Deere snowmobiles, untouched since 1975.
The story starts in the winter of 1975, when a mid-winter snowstorm left Iowa farmers Richard and Andra Hintz, Holstein, stranded for seven days. They were the lucky ones. The Great Storm of 1975 killed more than 50 people.
After being snowed in with no way to care for their livestock (cattle and hogs), Richard and Andra vowed, “never again.” Once they dug themselves out, the couple went to their local John Deere dealership to buy the snowmobile they would need to keep their promise: a John Deere 600. The date was Feb. 10, 1975.
The winter of 1975 was especially long and hard. A month after purchasing the 600, Richard and Andra bought a second snowmobile so that Andra could help with the outdoor farm work. Andra’s pick was the slightly smaller John Deere 300, purchased on March 12 (she still has the original receipts). The couple also outfitted themselves in John Deere snowmobile suits and helmets.
Richard put 388 miles on his snowmobile that winter. Andra rode hers less; by the time the couple purchased the JD 300, spring was just around the corner. They never got around to installing the odometer (it’s still in the box), but Andra estimates the 300 has less than half the hours of her husband’s machine.
Unlike many snowmobile owners, Richard and Andra saw these snowmobiles as tools, not toys. Richard may have learned this lesson the hard way. He went for a fun ride with friends one winter day and came home with a broken wrist. No damage was done to the snowmobile, but that put an end to the fun for Richard. From then on, the snowmobiles stayed in the “tool” category.
When the snow finally melted in the spring of 1975, Richard loaded the snowmobiles on a trailer, covered them securely and backed the trailer into a shed.
The Hintz family was thankful to never face another winter as brutal as that of 1975. Years went by without needing the snowmobiles again. The trailer sat, loaded and ready, for more than 40 years.
Richard died in 2015. His son, Randy, lives on the farm now, and the land is rented out to a nearby farmer. Andra sold the snowmobiles at an April 2017 auction alongside her husband’s 1,000-piece John Deere toy tractor collection. The pair of snowmobiles (with trailer) sold as a package and fetched $23,000. “They are like sisters,” auctioneer Ken Girard says. “They’ve been together for over 40 years, and I would hate to be the one to split them up!” FC
Rachel Gingell specializes in helping everyday mechanics repair antique tractors in their own shop through a series of YouTube tutorials. Subscribe to her series on YouTube, or become a fan on Facebook to follow along.