Scorpion Homecoming 2012
Monday, 30 January 2012 15:17

Just eight years ago, the Harrison family had a dream. Let's host a Scorpion reunion, a "Homecoming" of sorts. Like the old saying goes,"if you build it they will come", Scorpion enthusiasts came from all over to attend the inaugural event. The small town home of the Scorpion was buzzing with men and their machines.

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This years event promises to be a great one, the feature sled will be the TKs of 1979-1981 . Stop out for the day, take in the trail ride around Serpent lake, and meet some of the nicest people in the hobby. The Harrison's also host an open house at the Scorpion museum after the show. Make plans to attend if you can, the museum houses a wonderful display of Scorpion/Trail-A-Sled history. Show starts 10a.m. in Crosby Memorial Park, Crosby Mn. Feb.4 2012.

For more information on this event, Please check out the Trail-a-Sled website.

 
Mid-West Ride In WACONIA!
Monday, 23 January 2012 14:21

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This weekend is the Waconia ride in 2012. This annual event draws more then 5000 entrants and spectators each year. The agenda for thew weekend is guaranteed to have something for every vintage snowmobile enthusiast.


Event schedule is as follows:

  • Featured sled: CHAPARRAL
  • Friday evening: Pre-show gathering at nearby Island View Golf Course   7-10 p.m.
  • Saturday: 11 mile vintage ride
  • Saturday: Side-by-side drag racing on ice
  • Saturday: Swap meet all day
  • Saturday: night banquet
  • Sunday: World's biggest vintage judged show
  • Sunday: ORA oval racing on ice, including twin-trackers
  • Sunday: LOUD snowmobile contest for both tuned pipes & megaphones

 

If you have never been to Waconia, it's the biggest vintage snowmobile event on the planet, a virtual carnival on snow. Make plans now to attend, you'll be glad you did!

 

More event info can be found at the website : http://www.mwvss.com/

 

There is also an official Waconia thread in the Vintagesledders.com Forum

 

 

 

 
Eagle River Vintage Weekend
Friday, 13 January 2012 06:44

Forget figure skating or hockey, it's time for the greatest show on ice: The Eagle River Vintage Racing Weekend!

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Hundreds of hard working racers will pit their machines against each other and the famed Eagle River track. Racing at Eagle River is the ultimate goal , with the World Championship Being the ultimate prize. This will be the last year for the 800cc machine to vie for the cup as next years WC will have a 440 cc limit. Make plans to attend all the action this weekend, you'll be glad you did!

 

For more detailed info about the derby please visit : Derbytrack.com

 

Want to learn more about the history of this fabled track? Check out this thread on the Vintagesledders.com forum

 
Boondockin’ Dixie
Friday, 30 December 2011 15:11

 

 

The following story was submitted by Eric Rylander, a native Minnesotan who now resides in Georgia. The article first appeared in the Sept issue of the Vintage Snowmobiler Magazine, the official publication of the V.S.C.A. Thank you Eric for sharing it with Vintagesledders.com.

 

 

 

 

TheBoondockin’ Dixie

 

Virginia is not a state thought of as a snowmobiling hotspot by any stretch of the imagination. However, as a displaced Minnesota guy living in the south, I have found that with the right timing to seize rare opportunity and a couple vintage machines, adventure is to be had!

 

My inlaws live in rural, southwestern Virginia. The tail end of the state sandwiched between Kentucky and Tennessee, in Appalachian mountain coal country. My family resides much farther south, on the Georgia seacoast, and it is a 7 hour drive from our door to theirs.

 

Having resurrected a 1971 Ski Doo Elan and assembled from many parts a ’68 ten horse Ski Doo Olympique, we’ve had some fun riding at the wife’s families property with some decent and some not so decent snows around December and January in the last two years.

 

A good 10” to a foot of white gold was draped over the area in mid January this past year. Now, this happened early in the week, and though I was itching to call in sick and make the drive, minor and annoying details like the need to support my family and keep my job kept me home. The day it snowed up there, I received a text that the “Lo Buck 68” coughed and died after hours of being ridden by a 9 year old in the household, so until I arrived and applied my Rotax single physician skills, it was dead in the yard.

 

On that Thursday after work I decided to take a look at the $100 1969 Oly 320 I brought back from “Meccasota” on a marathon road trip over Labor Day weekend in 2009, along with a tractor and anything else that could be crammed in the truck and trailer. That same adventure had also brought the jigsaw puzzle of the previously mentioned 1968 Oly to Dixieland.

 

This ’69 had been resting in a pine grove just north of Minneapolis for who knew how many years. It has ’72 and ’75 Montana registration decals on the dash. The track is ratty to say the least and it’s missing half the cogs from the left rear track idler sprocket. There are rust holes under the seat, no rewind starter and some varnish like goo that may have been gas in Reagan’s first term in the built- in tank, that later was found to be incapable of igniting on dry leaves. In other words, I decided “It’s the perfect thing to try and get running so I can haul it seven hours to ride it!”

 

I wound a rope around the recoil hub and gave it a hearty yank. Compression felt respectable. No spark, but ten minutes with some emery paper between the points and a blast of brake kleen later we had bright blue spark. It fired on a shot of pre mix in the Tillotson’s throat, but would not draw fuel from a jug. A quick carb tear down later and some fresh diaphragms from a previous carb job, a bit of WD40 on the sticking needle and it was good to go.

 

Within the hour, it was roaring on a jack stand. I spent a couple more hours and cleaned leaves and crud from under the hood, used some Wal Mart bicycle cables for throttle and brake, added a tad of 90wt to the chaincase, and found a gallon oil jug to serve as a gas tank wedged in the running board. My neighbors are so lucky to be treated to the cacophony of a Rotax single with a rusted can muffler along with the whir and thump of a flat spotted, dry rotted track wailing away on a jackstand at 10pm on a Thursday night.

 

After I rushed home from work Friday night, I got it loaded in the back of the truck. Weather reports showed the temps had warmed above freezing in Dixie and my glorious snow was going fast.

 

Once family got home from work, departure finally came an hour later than we had hoped to be on the road. A couple interstate exits later we left Georgia and crossed in to South Carolina, where we drove the length of the state east to west to east on I-26, up into western North Carolina, and across Sam’s Gap mountain pass at the TN border. We finally achieved our Virginian destination at 3am.

 

Under moonlight and after carrying sleeping children from truck to house, I just HAD to try the rope on the dead in the yard ’68. It had compression! Now I could sleep.

 

Saturday morning (well, the daylight portion) arrived a few hours later and I was up despite little sleep and a caffine hangover from slugging energy drinks and candy bars to stay alert driving the night before.

 

I first tinkered with the dead in the yard ’68 ten horse, and found it had weak spark. Having left my flywheel puller at home, I just unbolted the entire engine to take back to GA. As it later turned out, the seemingly tight stator screws were loose enough to allow the plate to rotate and retard the timing.

 

The 1969 Oly was unloaded, I wrapped the rope around the hub more than once and some choice words later it was popping away. A few rips up and down the 1/3 mile or so hardpacked drive proved it was the fastest Ski Doo in Wise County, VA that day. Well at least it was faster than my ’71 Elan 250!

 

Me and the mom in law’s old man Chris tore up the yard and took turns giving my kids rides for an hour or two. Their property is about an acre of open grassy yard, and the hardpacked drive which has another house lot at the end, but is otherwise hemmed in by houses and thick, steep wooded area.

 

Unlike the central Minnesota of my youth which has open, legal roadsides to be ridden, and actual snowmobile trail networks with nice signs allowing you to pass through towns as well as frozen lakes, the terrain in this area is often steep with jagged outcroppings of rock. Gentle sloping roadsides are few and not connected. There are some valleys and farm fields, but unless you own the property or have permission to ride it you would be doing a lot of trespassing.

 

Chris knew there was a logging road the next county south right down the road from my wife’s aunt Debbi’s country place. To get there, you make a right off the four lane on a narrow paved road and follow that until the pavement ends, hang another right on to a gravel and continue as the road narrows and twists. Another mile of slushy, rutted lane (dry and dusty in the summer) brings you to a bullet hole riddled END COUNTY MAINTANENCE sign. It then becomes an old logging company road from years past, frequented now by Jeeps and ATV’s.

 

We thought “Why not’? and loaded the Elan and the 320 Oly in the back of a 4x4 pickup and drove on down until we reached the point where we could barely turn the truck around and unloaded. It’s a good thing we did not have a trailer or we would have had a jackknifed mess to deal with trying to get out of there.

11


 

After unloading the machines in rapidly disappearing snow we fired them off and away we went.

 

The “trail” was rutted and rocky under the snow, and an ATV or two had passed before we came along. The snow was thick in low spots and lean on ridges. Not advised for cleated tracks or slide rail suspensions for sure!

 

The trail climbed about 800 feet in elevation over the 5 or so miles to the top, and there were switchbacks every couple hundred yards or so. I rode in a half kneeling position and shifted my weight frequently to keep an even keel, getting a workout the whole way, past the pond and up the hills. The views were spectacular! I can positively say we had the first snowmobiles of any type on the scene. Too bad we did not hit it three days earlier when the snow was better, but temps in the 40’s and bright sun made it go quick.

 

At the summit you could see for miles including a mountain range locally known as Wallen Ridge, where Daniel Boone is said to have walked. I could not decide to take pictures or ride. We rode on down, I had to re fuel my 1 gallon jug supplying the Oly from another jug on the other side of the running board. I think I lost ¼ of my gas sloshing out the hole in the top where I poked the gas lines through on the rough terrain.

 

 

 

 

 

I had to turn back as I realized Chris was no longer behind me, which meant stopping and lifting the back of the Ski Doo around as there’s no room to turn. I came around a turn to find him dragging the Elan from the briars on the downhill side of the trail. Seems that just when I didn’t have the camera primed and ready Chris decided to re create the ABC wide world of sports promo by getting bucked off on a rut and a rock and doing a spectacular belly flop. Try as I might I just could not get him to do it again for the camera!

 

Farther down the road, we met some good ‘ol boys on a Polaris side by side UTV. They were about half was into a 12 pack of Bud and were rather surprised to see snowmobiles. I was wearing a ’70 vintage helmet as well with a smoked, bubble half shield. I told them I was lost and which way was Wisconsin…. Wasn’t good enough to coax a beer or two out of them though!

 

Meeting up with Debbi where we unloaded, I took her two uppin’ it on the Oly with me and off the three of us went again. She knows where some other finger trails fork off this one, and we can wind the way up to a long forgotten cemetery the next time it snows and we get to the area… I figure I need to put another old ‘Doo together for her now! And bring a chainsaw next time to clear some deadfall!

 

Debi is involved in a local trails initiative, working to expand multi purpose recreational use, so one day in the hopefully not so distant future there could be a whole lot more area to run in future trips if there’s snowcover.

 

By the time we decided to call it quits, I was beat, greasy, smelled like pre mix and chaincase lube, and felt wonderfully happy. We heaved the two yellow beasts into the truck, a bit more slushy than when we started out and headed back to the house an hour north.

 

The next morning, the ’69 refused to start- I later found the original plug wire was so corroded inside the coil beneath the flywheel that it was a miracle it ran at all.

 

The Elan spent its day on the dwindling, slushy snow pulling kids and adults alike around the yard on an old Camaro hood. Check out “Redneck Winter X games” on Youtube!

 

Though the area does not get consistent, reliable snow coverage we have found that when it does, an untapped resource of riding exists. And we are going to take it every chance we get!

 

Eric Rylander

VSCA 06846

 

 

 

Eric also included some great pictures from his trip:

appalachian adventures january 14th 2011 007

appalachian adventures january 14th 2011 014

cane gap on powell mtn with 69 ski doo

 

appalachian adventures january 14th 2011 009

 

appalachian adventures january 14th 2011 002

 

chirs going up the road

unloadingwallen ridge in background

 

 
FROM THE FARM TO THE RACE TRACK
Thursday, 15 December 2011 07:06

As I sat there visiting with him, a gleam came into his eye.

"You know I haven't ron fireball hennonthought about those days for years." He said.  "Everyday was fun.  Many people go to a job, come home and start all over, but I went to work and had a blast."  Ron "Fireball" Hennen is no ordinary cheese head Green Bay Packer fan from West Fargo, ND.

A man of immense mechanical and personal talents, Ron has traveled the world visiting over 42 countries during his years as a service representative with Steiger Tractor.  Part of his life's adventure included being the service manager and factory race driver for Moorhead Plastics out of Moorhead, MN, manufacturers of Silverline boats, Yukon King and T-Bird snowmobiles.  Ron traveled to and from dealers all across the United States.


Fresh off the farm in North Dakota, Ron had never traveled far from home.   “Three weeks after starting with Moorhead Plastics they gave me a new Pontiac Bonneville and a load of tools and parts and I headed out west to Washington to starting fixing sleds.  The year was 1966.  In the early days quality control was poor and many machines went out the door without any testing.  A lot of gas tanks were only spot welded and when they poured in the gas it just ran out on the ground.”


How did you fix them?  “We would fill them up with gas, hook a hose from the Pontiac tail pipe to the gas filler inlet and weld away.”  Didn't it explode?  “No, everyone would clear out of the shop, but only the gas leaking out would burn.  The exhaust gas replaced all of the oxygen in the tank and never caught on fire.  I must have welded 100 tanks that way.  Slowly we would work our way back to Moorhead.  Washington was the greatest because after we fixed the sleds we got to haul them halfway up Mount WA and then ride them to the top.  The winters out there were mild too".


don thompson- ron hennonIt made me wonder if that is how Ron got his nickname "Fireball".  Or maybe it was his curly red hair, football player physique and no fear attitude.  Whatever the reason, the name stuck and was emblazoned on his Yukon Grizzly race sled.  Ron's real claim to fame is that he is the only driver to ever win two gold cups in the same class at Eagle River.  Quite an accomplishment when events in 68 sometimes fostered over 200 machines and drivers from many companies.  Ron won both the 295cc oval and obstacle course races to take home gold.  For this feat he won $300.00 half of which the company got and the chance to ride on the back of a flatbed semi-trailer through downtown Eagle River in the Parade following the big event.


Right out of the box the Yukon King Grizzly was fast.  The winning record the new machine, drivers and mechanics set in its first year was truly impressive.  The Grizzly and its drivers took victories at the Alexandria Viking Snowmobile Championship in Alexandria, MN: The Lions International Rally in Duluth, MN: The Grand Island Classic in Munsing, Michigan: The Paul Bunyan International in Brainerd, MN: and the U.S. International Championships in Forest Lake, MN.


Ron was one of 5 drivers for Yukon King.  The others were Mike Norheim, Jim Norman, Gene Nelson, and Darrel Moe, nicknamed the crapper.  It seems that every time just before the race Darrel would have to find the bathroom.  "I guess it was just nerves", said Ron.  "One time in Duluth he missed the race because he was in the can.  Thus he crapped out and became the "crapper".


I asked Ron how he got the job on the race team.  He said that Don Thompson the race director saw him jump a cattle chute in WA and declared him on the team right there.  According to Don Thompson, Ron was the kind of guy who was never happy to come in 2nd or 3rd like some drivers he had seen in his many years of racing. Instead Ron was a winner. And win he did.  Ron won every race he entered except one non-sanctioned 50 mile cross country race at Rhinelander.  Ron explained it to me this way.  Back in those days it wasn't uncommon to get warmed up with a little more than just clothing.  At the starting line he slipped off the running board and his boot got tied up in track.  He needed help to free himself losing valuable time.  The crowd found it quite amusing.  With over 300 machines entered and only half finishing, Ron managed to gain the lead 2/3rds  into the race only have his track blow out 5 miles from the finish line. Top speed on the Yukon King Grizzly was 55 mph.  "It was brutal.  One fellow broke both legs and laid there all day until someone went out looking for him.  Another lady nearly cut off her nose by landing on the windshield".

yukon2

COULD IT GET MUCH BETTER?

"I bet you I am only guy you know who got to do a 10 day Playboy photo shoot.   If I wasn't already having enough fun, Yukon King and four other manufacturers; I believe, Polaris, Ski-Doo, Arctic Cat and OMC were invited to a Playboy magazine shoot in Jackson Hole Wyoming. They shot photos from 6:00 AM till midnight.  Of course we kept our suits on.  When it was over they must have shot 15,000 photos and only 8 or 9 ended up in the magazine.  I remember one of the girls was riding with us on Jackson Lake and we fell into some deep slush.  She got so scared that the next day she booked a flight back east.”  “The hot springs were great,” said Ron.


Don expounded on the shoot. Initially Polaris had an exclusive deal with Playboy to do the shoot, but Don knew enough people in the industry that they put pressure on Playboy to include other manufacturers.  So he orchestrated this secret deal and the others just showed up for the shoot.  We jumped into the 66 Chrysler with the trailer behind and went out there.  A large dealer represented ski-Doo from Idaho named Monte White.  Monte was a wealthy man and well he liked to party and brag a lot.  Monte had a twin track Alpine all hopped up.  One morning after breakfast and a few belts he was taking bets for $100 that he could beat anyone in a hill climb with his Alpine Ski-Doo.  Well Don was getting tired of the entire BS and decided to take him up on the bet.  One of the sleds Yukon King brought with was a used 9-½ hp model with a 15" cleated track.  "Wouldn't you know that thing just putted all the way to the top,” said Don.  “The only sled to make it.  It really pissed Monte off and he never forgot it.”


TRULY A WINNER!

The winter of 68-69 Yukon King won every sanctioned race that they entered. yukon3According to Don Thompson Yukon King didn't have the budget or the resources like the other big manufacturers.  Since Don was on the USSA board he decided they should concentrate on the 295cc stock class.  Having worked and raced for Mercury Marine for over 20 years Don understood how to get more power out the 2-stroke motor.  They had Donaldson Muffler out of Canada build them a tuned pipe for the little 292 JLO motor.  Don reminded me that it was pronounced E LO.  They fitted it with a large HD carb.  Yukon was also the first to tune the clutching to match the motor's power band.   With their meager racing budget of $5000.00 they assembled 5 machines, 5 drivers and 4 helmets.  Don had a gold helmet the he loaned to the team.  Ron thought that it brought him luck.


Don joined the company in 1967 when his firm Funstruck Products of St. Paul was merged with Moorhead Plastics.  While at Mercury he saw the need and usefulness of adapting the light and powerful 2-stroke motor to snowmobile use.  He also envisioned that building a snowmobile would help all of their boat dealers fill the winter months.   He tried to convince Keikhaefer to build snowmobiles, but he wouldn't do it.  Don said, Keikhaefer was called “God” around Mercury.  One time some stockholders from Milwaukee came up to see the plant and he wouldn't let them in.  Don left Mercury to start his own marketing company developing a wooden sleigh named the Yukon King.  After merging with Moorhead Plastics he worked on developing a stern drive for Silverline boats.


As race director, Don guided his team on to winning every race.  When it came down to the last race of the season Jon Buckman, President of Moorhead Plastics, called Don into his office and told him they were out of budget for the last race of the season at Forest Lake, MN and maybe they should quit while they were ahead.  Well Don knew Jon liked to gamble, so he wagered Jon that if they lost, Don would pay all the expenses himself and if they won the company would give each driver a 100.00 bonus, dinner and a drink.  The team didn’t let Thompson down.  They won all five places in the 295 class and jumped up to the 340 class locking up three positions in the top five. Yukon King finished the 1967-68 season with an amazing winning record that no other manufacturer could match.  It didn’t lose a single race in its class all season.  But racing in the 295cc stock class wasn’t enough to garner the brand attention, stimulate sales or pull a miracle out of the hat for the company.  The race team would not return to the track the next year.


Moorhead Plastics snowmobiles were manufactured under the Atlas division of the company.  At their peak they had over 50 employees.  The Yukon King was produced from 1967-69 and included another brand called the T-Bird.  “That was Jon Buckman’s idea,” said Don.  He copied some of the other manufacturers, including the car companies and thought it was a good idea.”  At the end, the sale of the snowmobile division was being negotiated with Chrysler Corporation, but the deal fell through and that was the end of Yukon King and its brief, but glorious day on the snow and racetrack.

This story was submitted by Steve Mclaen of Forman ND. If you have a story or event you would like featured in Vintagesledders.com, Please email us: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
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