From Trail-A-Sled to Scorpion
By Russ Sutton
Back in the early 1960s snowmobile companies were sprouting up by the dozen in small towns all across the North American snowbelt. Most had a number of things in common; a guy a two with little, if any, money, a garage to work in, unlimited ambition and a better idea for snow travel. Today, only four snowmobile manufacturers remain.
In 1959, Glen Gutzan, and administrative assistant at the Crosby, Minnesota, armory and Eugene F. Harrison, a painting contractor, formed a company to work on their idea.
The company was called Trail-A-Sled, and it manufactured propeller driven air sleds capable of going 100 miles per hour over snow and ice. The name came from the fact that, after use, the sled was easily towed behind a car simply by raising the skis and lowering the wheels.
Gutzan and Harrison also sold Airsleds to Polaris. The Polaris models were painted blue and white while the Trail-A-Sled were painted red and white. They were powerede by airplane engines, had fiberglass cockpits and rode on three skis.
About a year later, when some orders trickled in for fiberglass parts from a company that made something called a snowmobile, that the two founders decided to take a second look at their method of over-the-snow travel.
In 1961, Gutzan and Harrison built their first crude snowmobile. They tinkered with various aspects of the design until 1964, when the real history of the Scorpion Snowmobile began.
They succeeded despite several obstacles. In November 1967, right in the middle of the production season and with people clamoring for snowmobiles, a fire leveled their manufacturing plant. More than 1,000 snowmobile engines were destroyed. Damage was estimated at $2 million.
But that fire show one of Scorpion's prime attributes: People of the area and the sense of pride of the Trail-A-Sled labor force, which worked for free. The city fathers worked a few miracles, the citizens of the area pitched in and Scorpion dealers waited patiently for sleds that were as good as sold.
With that type of cooperation, within three weeks Scorpion was back in production in an unused steel company Quonset hut on the edge of town. Two years later an $8 million expansion program got underway that provide the company with more the 150,000 square feet of production area.
Glen Gutzan was honored by the Small Business Administration as its "Man of the Year." Harold Lavander, then governor of Minnesota, summed up some of the Scorpion heritage when he made the award presentation. "There's pride in the people of this area, the pride of individuals in their.workmanship, the pride of accomplishment. It is an indefinable thing, a feeling of esprit de corps, the satisfaction of a job well done."
In 1969, the company was purchased by Fuqua Industries. Under its ownership, Scorpion continued to grow, and expanded to a production facility with 200,000 square feet of space under one roof. Late in 1971, Fuqua decided to sell its snowmobile operations. A new sense of pride came with new local ownership, headed by Harvey V. Paulson, who was formerly head of production.
This was also the time when the new "Whip" series of snowmobiles was manufactured.
A few years later Arctic Cat bought the company. Production soon ceased, and Scorpion Snowmobiles became a part of snowmobiling history.
Reprinted with permission. More great stories and information can be found in Iron Dogs Tracks, the official newsletter of the Antique Snowmobile Club Of America.