Forgotten, But Beloved Dead Snowmobile Brands

Remember the great blizzards of 1966, 1993, and all those other Nor’easters? They made for the need for snowmobiles. Lots. But over the years, fuel prices, competition, and warm winters have put many snowmobile brands off the market.

Some brands, like Arctic Cat, returned. The Arctic Cat company was once popular, went bankrupt in 1980, and came back in 1982 to manufacture 1984 models and lived on. It has eight lives left. However, other brands have disappeared. Here are some of them:

Ariens – These were big orange snowmobiles made the by famous lawn and snow equipment company. It did not make the cut in 1973, dealing with a lawsuit and lack of snow.

John Deere –  Another lawn and snow equipment brand let loose; this Deere division sold to competitor Polaris Industries in 1982 with fans still waiting for 1985 John Deere Wildfire IFS snowmobiles. John Deere bodies were found on many Polaris models lasting into the mid-decade 2000s.

Rupp – This once popular brand quickly died out thanks to mismanagement and debt and lack of snow. The Chrysler division Dodge in a manner sort of revitalized Rupp product names, using names such as Nitro, Magnum, SS, etc.

Scorpion – One of first brands, and beloved by fans. Bought out by then Arctic Enterprises (the Arctic Cat Inc predecessor) but got Scorpion got stinged because of Arctic Enterprises’ bankruptcy and it ceased operations. Scorpion had a very brief comeback in 2000 and failed again, due to costs.

Raidar/Manta – Indy car style snowmobiles often made a come back in 1970s and 1980s but the company was sold and ceased for good.

Moto-Ski – A division of Bombardier Corporation, maker of Ski-doo (now BRP); the orange version of the Ski-doo brand. Ironically, Ski-doo now sports some orange hue! Shades of Moto-Ski?

Mercury Snowmobiles – A division of Mercury Marine; best in racing and popular in the 1970s.  Mercury is now frozen up and focused on marine products, instead.

Blaze – A customized snowmobile brand that pioneered forward platform and narrow snowmobiles since 1995; it has since closed up shop.

Massey Ferguson – Like Deere and Ariens, the farm equipment company once made snowmobiles, as well.

Sears Snowmobiles – The iconic retailer experimented in selling motorized recreational products in stores and catalogs. As competition increased, and other factors interfered, Sears decided to downsize.

JCPenney Snowmobiles – Another national retailer, like Sears, sold its own brand of private label snowmobile.

Chaparral Snowmobiles – A beautiful brand that flew away and decided to stick with marine products.

Kawasaki Snowmobiles – This Japanese brand also once made snowmobiles, but miscommunication with top brass cut the products without a word.

Sno-Jet – These were beautiful blue sleds, but they jetted when Kawasaki bought out a good brand.

Fox-Trac – This brand was so popular that even Elvis Presley owned one until his death.  It is now a snowmobile supplier, making shocks and parts.

There were so many brands but not popular. Some lasted just about one week! Many other brands were Boa-Ski, Auto-Ski, Norway, Sno-Prince, Evinrude Snowmobiles, division of OMC, Johnson Snowmobiles, division of OMC, Ski-Daddle, Harley-Davidson, AMF, Skiroule, Wheel-Horse, Agro, Alouette, Sno-Pony, Bolens, Viking, and many more.

About the Author: Mark Falso is expert in several fields including snowmobiles, diners-drive-ins-fast food restaurants, shopping malls, and Recreational Vehicles.  Mark first rode on snowmobiles in 1969.   He is also a Freelance Designer, Artist, and CAD Drafter who was responsible for a snowmobile design in 1990s and a recreational vehicle project with a major RV company.  Mark resides in Syracuse, New York.

4 Comments

  1. Starting in the late 60s my family had a couple of dowdy, entry level Scorpions. Our neighbor had sleek, sexy, fast Rupps. He gave us operating tips.

    Old snowmobiles are such fun. There’s an antique snowmobile club that usually has a gathering that the general public can attend.

  2. Dear Anonymous, of course they are fun! I loved those machines back then. In fact, they had 200 manufacturers making snowmobiles. It would not permit me to list all 200 names. There is a site you can check out called David’s Vintage Sleds and you can see the good old sleds! I love them and I am currently writing an ebook on snowmobile designs. Yes, there are vintage sleds clubs out there. Enjoy! Thanks for reading and your comment!

    Mark Falso

  3. Diablo Rouge! Tandem snow machines, motorized front unit with dual treads, pulling the seat unit behind like a trailer on skis. Google it. They used to advertise on TV, 1960s, upstate NY snow country.

  4. Steve D! Yes! haha. Diablo Rouge! I know what you talked about. Entirely different concept than the toboggan format that the Big Four brands today use since Carl Eliason invented back in 1930s. I think Gibson was another brand that had tandem snow machines. I am not sure. Anyway, yeah, thanks for the memories!

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