These vintage snowmobiles sure were awesome!
These days it's all about nostalgia when it comes to vintage rides. There's a huge following for vintage cars, motorcycles and RVs among other things.
But often lost in the shuffle are some of the overlooked, but very cool older modes of transportation.
Because it's the holidays and the snow's falling early this year, we're taking you down memory lane with some of the coolest photos of vintage snowmobiles we could find.
1. 1964 Arctic Cat
The 1960s is when snowmobiles really began to take off. This old Arctic Cat appears to be in great shape. It's quite bulky and crude-looking, but it as a charm of its own.
2. Homemade Old School
Many of the earliest snowmobiles were things people tinkered up in their garage. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. People needed a way to traverse the snow, so they built something like this crude machine photographed in Minnesota in 1910.
People really started to get into snowmobile racing in the 1960s and 70s, and many companies first started building machines geared entirely toward that. Can we talk for a moment about how these old sleds had almost no rear or front suspension? Having ridden one of these vintage sleds, it can get a little rough if you're not riding on a smooth area.
4. John Deere Snowmobile
Many people forget that from 1972-84, John Deere was in the snowmobile business. They even got in on the racing aspect of it and had their own team for a short time. Eventually John Deere got out of the snowmobile business when the market for sleds hit a bit of slump in the early 80s after just a decade of production. But it certainly didn't hurt the company any. If anything, it just made these old sleds all the more surprising and collectable years later.
5. Old-School Polaris
In the early 1950s, Allan Hetteen and David Johnson were building crude snowmobiles in their spare time in Roseau, Minnesota. Allan's brother Edgar recognized the potential market for such a machine. At the time, Edgar and David had an industrial equipment company known as Hetteen Hoist and Derrick. Their first snowmobiles didn't fare on the market, but the three eventually figured things out. If you've never heard of Hetteen Hoist and Derrick, that's not surprising. The three men later renamed the company. You know it better as Polaris Industries. Edgar later left the company and went on to form another well-known brand, Arctic Cat.
The well-known company introduced their first snowmobile, the SL351 in 1969 and the rest is pretty much history. Yamaha has been a rock in the snowmobile industry ever since and is one of the few companies to survive the big snowmobile sales crashes that claimed so many companies in the late '70s.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier is often credited as being the inventor of the snowmobile. One little-known fact about Ski-Doo is the fact it was originally supposed to be "Ski-Dog." But someone made a typographical error on a brochure that resulted in Ski-Doo instead. For whatever reason, Bombardier decided not to change it and now Ski-Doo is a household name.
8. Raider twin track
In 1971, Leisure Vehicles Inc. decided to try and revolutionize the snowmobile industry. What they came up with may have been a little too much. The Raider was the first snowmobile to feature a cockpit design with twin tracks and a rear-mounted engine. It was pretty futuristic-looking for the time and probably got some people to the snowmobile dealerships out of sheer curiosity. Unfortunately, the Raider never really caught on. But they now have a small, but dedicated fan base on the internet.
Kawasaki wasn't in the snowmobile industry for very long, as it only made machines from 1978-82. Their first snowmobiles were essentially rebranded versions of Sno-Jet, a Canadian company they bought in 1977. We'll talk about them a little later in this list.
Still, the sleds they produced for those few years were extremely fast and very cool-looking. Many people have very fond memories of Kawasaki's time in the industry.
10. Mercury Sno-Twister
Much like John Deere, everyone forgets that Mercury Marine also got in on the snowmobile craze of the early '70s. Their first model was pretty bulky and crude. But by 1976, Mercury had figured things out, especially with their extremely popular Sno-Twister race sleds.
My dad restored a 1976 Snow-Twister. Even though the sled was only a 250, it was loud and sounded much more powerful than that. It also lifted the skis right off the ground if you hit the throttle hard enough!
Many people forget about the sharp-looking Scorpion Snowmobiles. This was yet another company that started in Minnesota and did quite well through the 1960s and early 70s. In 1978, they were bought by Arctic Cat. The Scorpion brand eventually ended when Arctic Cat filed for bankruptcy in 1981, so now we are left with only memories of an innovative snowmobile company.
12. Sno Jet
It's somewhat surprising there weren't more snowmobile companies based in Canada. Sno Jet was started in Quebec in 1965 and did well until the early '70s when the snowmobile industry was hit especially hard. The company eventually sold to Kawasaki and we're left with another snowmobile brand that is no more.
13. Rupp Magnum
View this post on Instagram
My 71 800 Rupp Magnum. Absolutely mint original. This sled raced in the Soo-500 only made it 100 miles and was parked and never used again. It was traded in to an Arctic Cat dealer for the amount of $300 in the mid 80s. Given a good cleaning in the early 2000s. #vintagesnowmobiles #vintagesnowmobile #vintagesled #vintagesleds #rupp #ruppmagnum
Rupp Industries is another victim of the great snowmobile slump of the late 1970s and early '80s that claimed so many snowmobile makers. Most people knew Rupp for their dirt bikes and go-karts. But their snowmobiles were sharp-looking, fast and used often in pro racing. This is another brand that has since gained a cult following on the internet.
14. Harley Davidson
Yep, even the world's most famous motorcycle company got in on the snowmobile craze of the early '70s. Harley Davidson's parent company AMF was already making snowmobiles before they decided to rebrand their snowmobiles under the much more recognizable Harley name from 1971-75.
I was as surprised to learn all this as you likely are. Some of their models featured electric starts, a surprising feature for a snowmobile back then. I did a little research and it seems only about 10,000 sleds were made in that timeframe, so if you run across a Harley Davidson snowmobile, you've definitely stumbled onto something unique.
This is another company everyone easily forgets. Started in 1963 in Quebec, Canada, the company was eventually bought by Bombardier. But they kept making Moto-Ski snowmobiles until 1985.
16. Arctic Cat El Tigre
Ask anyone who was snowmobiling during the craze of the 1970s and '80s about the Arctic Cat El Tigre and their eyes will light up with fond nostalgia about these sleds, arguably some of the most popular ever produced in Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
17. Another vintage Polaris
Those old racing machines sure were low to the ground weren't they? Not a lot of margin for error if you hit a bump along the way!
18. Scorpion and Sno-Jet
These old-school racing machines are so cool-looking. It's little wonder vintage snowmobile shows and races have become so popular in recent years.
Ski-Doo wasn't the only old-school sled to primarily make use of a yellow color. This is a more obscure brand of snowmobile. I haven't been able to dig up much information on the Starcrafts other than the fact they were made in the early '70s.
20. Really old Arctic Cats
These days, Arctic Cat's signature color has primarily become green. But back in the early days, their snowmobiles were primarily red.
21. Old School Racing
We're not sure where or when this photo was taken, but it sure is awesome to see those old sleds in action back in their heyday.
21. Yamaha Enticer
The Enticer was arguably one of Yamaha's most popular models back in the day and for good reason, it has such an awesome, sleek look to it.
22. Moto-Ski and Ski-Doo
Thanks to the internet, it's now easier than ever for vintage snowmobile lovers to connect and share memories of the past.
Those old-school sleds were awfully bulky and front-heavy, but they set the stage for years of winter fun.
24. Mercury Fanatic
On the left is the Mercury Trail Twister, which was distinctive from the racing Sno-Twister due to its windshield and center-hood-mounted headlight.
25. Arctic Cat vs Ski-Doo
These two brands have been in competition for years now and it's safe to say they'll probably be racing each other for many, many more.