Snowmobiles & OSVs

Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) Air-Sled-It. It started out as a two-seat trainer before it was wrecked in 1930. Two Michigan residents, John Caldwell and Robert Elwell of St. Clair, removed the wings and mounted runners below the fuselage. Testing on Lake St. Clair on January 11, 1931 they hit 85 MPH near their operating location at the end of 12 Mile Road.
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Manistique area residents Clay Anderson and his son Melvin built five snowmobiles in the late 1950s and early '60s. First in 1957 after seeing a sled in Popular Science magazine. Of note, Mr. Anderson designed and built the transmission with a High/Low range, reverse, and neutral. The machines were made to haul logs. A 1963 Anderson is displayed at the Top of the Lake Museum in Naubinway.
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Woodland resident O.A. Arnet looked at the early Automotive type sleds and thought they were too complicated. His Automobile Sled greatly simplified drive systems; novel ideas of an efficient brake mechanism where vehicle speed was regulated and the rear runners could be lifted when driving over patches free of snow and ice. Considering he filed for a patent in 1910 is impressive, very impressive.
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Barrel Sled 
Little is known, not even the correct name. Seven were made in Northern Michigan Leelanau County from 1962-1963. Of the two known, one is Blue the other White. Powered by a Four-Cycle Wisconsin Engine.  Click here for a video of it in action.  Pictures used by permission, thank you to The Winning Edge Magazine and Cliff S. Also, thanks to Cliff S and Steve H for info so far.
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Big Boss
Big Boss Snowmobiles were made by Aurora Engineering just east of Ovid from 1970-1971. A couple were Northways; however, the rest were made in Michigan. Of note, Fratelli Guidetti Engines from Italy were in the works but, mostly CCW and Sachs engines were used with a couple of Tohatsu motors.  Only two Big Boss racing snowmobiles were made. The first was Ovid's Gary Luce's Big Boss with a 553cc Tohatsu engine for the 1970 Soo I-500 (Of note, he did not make the starting field just missing that last spot that was 59.3 MPH).  The second was powered by a 740cc Sachs Twin Free Air engine that raced out of Wells, Michigan during 1971 season in Central and Western Upper Peninsula; Northern Wisconsin. A Big Boss option was the impressive four-wheel kit by Land-Grabber in Window, MN. Interesting to note, the Land-Grabber was the winner, Special Events Award category, at the 1970 Inventor's Congress.  Picture shows a Land-Grabber mounted on a Big Boss. Very few are known to exist.
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James Blaine Brannon, AKA Blaine Brannon, was on the cutting edge for many things for the Michigan Conservation Department. In 1930, he spearheaded some of the first Michigan Deer Food Plots while refuge keeper of the Ogemaw Game Refuge. A year later he invented the Dancing Pigeon Owl and Hawk trap. In 1936 while in the Upper Peninsula he won the Original Jack Pine Lodge Tavern in a poker game. In 1937, he was transferred to the nearby Cusino Refuge so he could be close to the lodge. At Cusino he invented the Deer-Browse experiment. With much more snow and a vast area winter inspections where hard and slow using conventional means even with track conversions. While CB Wing in St. Ignace had been building Aero Sleighs since the 1910s Brannon had a better Snow Plane in mind. He designed and built one where the motor is closer to the ground, for stability, with power to the propeller by V-Belts. He also put in a retractable fin down the center of the front skis (pushed up when obstacles are encountered) for increased steering. On a side note, just three years after he build cabins at the Jack Pine Lodge, Blaine died in 1948 at his Jack Pine Lodge residence during a fire. When a former state trooper, a waitress, and Mrs. Brannon at the Tavern first noticed the fire, it was too late, the blaze was only 125 feet away. 
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In 1914, Michael Buhr and Edward Russell of Hamtramck tested their Motor Sleigh on Sylvan Lake near Pontiac. Powered by a 52hp Pope-Toledo engine coupled to a six-foot diameter propeller they hit 128 mph without wide open throttle. Their goal was 140+ mph and to break all ice speed records on Orchard Lake soon. They were planning on a consumer, slower, version that could be used on thoroughfares and rural areas in Northern Michigan. Sadly, we are still trying to find out what happened and how they did.
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J.S. Chisholm's, from Detroit, idea was a power Motor Sleigh using helically disposed transmission runners where in theory the greatest possible load carrying and propelling efficiency could be obtained. He was right, on ice, light snow conditions, and low-medium hard pack. But, on medium-heavy unpacked snow ground surface pressure was too high and the end result was sinking up to the frame. Also, follow-on safety protection devices added a great deal of weight. Chisholm applied for a patent on May 5, 1916 (US1254749) and was awarded Jan. 22, 1918.
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Drake Invader
Drake Industries in Ferndale during the middle 1970s under a contact with Northway to build race sleds. The first "Invader" was labeled Northway; then Northway ceased operations. The 11-20 Invaders built were strictly for racing using at first Texas Products Single Track Manta chassis with Sachs 340cc and 440cc Free Air engines in '74/'75 and Kohler Liquid Cooled engines in 1976. Of note, Kohler heat exchangers were mounted in the skis. One Invader had IFS and with a 1977 Yamaha SRX engine. Drake Industries had a factory race team with two drivers on the MISA circuit and a couple SnoPro races; a few of Invaders were seen on the Michigan Summer MISA Grass Drag circuit. The factory team at one time or another used the three power plants along with a German Konig 246cc Type FA marine racing engine that created 58 hp at 11,500 PRM using Alcohol/Castor Oil Mix. On the picture don't look too hard at what type carburetors those are, specially built by Konig. On the last picture it's Darrel Krane racing an Invader at Imlay City, Michigan. Thank you to David R and Shane S for help and photos.
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The Dupras name in the Marquette area is well known, not only because it is a very common name in that part of the UP, but they are hard working and intelligent folks.  Frederick Dupras greatly contributed to this legacy in the early 1900s when he designed and built one of the first human powered snowmobiles. He was granted a patent in 1903. Frederick died too young, but his drive to conquer the snow lived on through his relatives who made the Dupras Snowmobile (below) decades later in the 1950s. 
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Two were thought made in the Marquette area in the 1950. Only one is known to survive in private collection.  From more information on the Dupras' family's efforts to conquer snow travel please see the Durpas bicycle above.
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Manufactured by the Dwyer Machine Shop in Wolverine only two Dwyer snowmobiles are thought to exist and were built around 1960. One is powered by a Clinton; the other a Kohler (both Four-Stroke engines). The Michigan Conservation Department used a Dwyer up to winter 1963
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Easy Rider
The Easy Rider made in Elk Rapids, Michigan started out as the PasseParTout (PPT) in Quebec in the early '70s. PPT is French and it means Pass By Everything in English.  It was touted as an ATV, but many consider it strictly a snowmobile and the marketing material by the Sales Department targeted it as such. In the late '70s the company was sold to Valquentin and moved to Alberta. After a couple years it was sold to Consolidated International, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, whose subsidiary Twin Bay Industries, Elk Rapids built the PPT under it's namesake for a very short time and then under the name Easy Rider Twin Tracked vehicle. They also intended to sell it to the US Army, but production ceased in mid-80s. Over 300 Easy Rider snowmobiles were made; however, very few exist today.  Videos of the Easy Rider:  Easy Rider 1 | Easy Rider 2
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The phrase, "Necessity is the mother of invention." come to mind when thinking about Henry Engelhardt's OSV.  The 1920s family farm was 13 miles from Iron River, Michigan.  Most roads were not plowed and drifts well over 10-feet high in places made getting into town, well almost impossible.  Henry and his son made their first OSV around 1925.  They fashioned the hood and seating to a wooden frame.  Made two long wooden skis; along with hand making the propeller.  Using a motorcycle engine moving the  long wooden skis pushed the vehicle with ease like an Eskimo Kometic in the Arctic.  Over time they built made three Engelhardt models for offer.  Their biggest refinement was using airplane engines for the powerplants like the one in the photo.  We will never know, but one could surmise the crash of 1929 ended the Engelhardt because very few people could afford food let alone a snowmobile.
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Ben Erickson, a Swede, was like many that journeyed from Scandinavia in the late 1800s and early 1900s in search of a better life via the logging boom. The Nordics were a hardy bunch so when arriving in New England/New York or Sydney, Nova Scotia it made sense to recommend them to Michigan and Ontario where jobs were a plenty and they should adapt well to the snow and cold, that they did. However, Lake Effect was new to them--so much snow! 

The Erickson Automotive Sleigh was Ben's idea to make life better in his new country and town of Mapleton. He thought changing wheels or modifying wheels with tracks was a waste of time. His double rim invention instantly change a wheeled vehicle to a snowmobile via pressed friction shoes. He submitted his idea in 1912 and granted a Patent in 1915.
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Erickson & Larson
Axel Erickson and Nicklars Larson of Skanee invented Sled-Runner attachments to convert bicycles into ice or snow cycles. They were awarded a patent in 1904.
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Made in the Pickford area in the late 1940s. The Yale engine came from a wrecked motorcycle..  The Everleigh was often seen out on Hessel Bay.  The engine is a later model Yale Motorcycle V-Twin because the Bosch Ignition is mounted center instead of lower on the early Yale V-Twins. Of note, the horizontal spark plugs in the heads and across from each other is a dead given away it's a Yale.  If you look hard you can see the builder put a spare spark plug in the rear upper engine mount.  The Everleigh is in a private collection in Michigan.
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From the Brimley area the Forrest family's Motor Sleigh had three impressive OSV advancements: 1. Replaceable front ski runners. 2. Replaceable rear drive traction teeth (studs). 3. First known swing arm of any powersports vehicle. Of note, the swing arm attached to the rear axle system of the vehicle that was left in place. Eugene Forrest applied for a patent on March 14, 1916 (US1210922) and was awarded Jan. 2, 1918. Bottom Line: The Forrest Motor Sleigh improvements were the earliest form of replaceable traction control devices, over fifty years before snowmobile traction control was made famous by two more Michigan companies: International Engineering and Manufacturing Inc (woody's) and Kalamazoo Engineering. 
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In 1910 W. A. Forsyth and R. J. Burr, of Standish, produced a practical motor sleigh from a 1908 Buick Model 10. 
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Built by Honest John Gendregske of Harrison in 1969.  The Gendregske is powered by a 140hp six-cylinder Corvair engine sitting on a 1969 ski-doo Nordic tunnel with many modifications.  Starting was both electric and hand crank.  It raced on Budd Lake and the Harrison Airport during the 1970s.  There is 8mm film, waiting conversion to digital, of it racing (and winning) against a 800cc ski-doo blizzard on Budd Lake.   
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C. Howard Snowden was from Bay City and grew up in Port Huron had a special gift of ingenuity. During the early days of the depression he tinkered with discarded machinery and engines. Made model automobiles. With the long winters in Michigan there wasn't much to do outside in Port Huron. One day in the winter of 1929 he read about the Sno-Planes out on Lake St. Clair. Knowing his family could not afford one the Freshman in Port Huron Junior College was determined to make one. The main body he fashioned out of wood slats and metal hoops; he covered it with airplane dope and fabric. For power he used a junk motorcycle engine he repaired. He hand carved the propeller from a block of wood. He hand made and soldered the gas and oil tanks. For braking a bar of metal (scab brake) drops down and up via a handle. With two skis up front and one in back; tandem cockpit it looked like a training aircraft lack wheels and wings. In January 1930 he tested it on the streets of his home on Washington Ave, the neighbors called it a Go-Devil and the name stuck. Full trials took place on the Black River, easy to get to, right at the west end of Washington Ave. Learning much about Aviation with his Go-Devil led to attending the Packard Aviation school in Roseville and flight training in Detroit to become a Pilot in less than four months.
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Sidney Griffin, from Detroit, Motor Sleigh had the runners arranged to stay clean from accumulation of snow in co-action with ice or snow engaging and discharging from the drive wheels. This feature would prevent lateral displacement. Sidney filed for a patent on Feb. 28, 1923 (US1493339) and awarded May 6, 1924.
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Harry Holsworth, from Iroquois Beach and a member of the Chippewa County Board of Supervisors, was noted for his homemade snowmobile that helped deliver supplies to weather bound Sugar Island in late 1951. His converted a Ford Model A coupe into an eight-wheel snowmobile was used to deliver heavy loads like Fuel Oil and Gasoline where local aircraft could not. If you can help with a picture or more information on the Holsworth please contact us. 

Honda Raider
Honda must of had an inkling the White Fox (see below) wasn't going to pan out. They needed a snowmobile to satisfy dealers and liked Michigan's Leisure Vehicles Incorporated (LVI) Raider. According to Mr. Bob Bracy in 1999 Honda wanted to buy LVI out, but the controlling interest in LVI wanted a joint-venture with Honda so LVI could continue building the Raider (two-stroke).  Honda supplied LVI with several engines (357cc four-stroke with twin Keihn carbs) used in the Honda Life auto.  The two prototypes were two-tone: close to a VW Polar Silver (copper color) base with a lighter near Purple Pantone 262 overlay.  In "Roamer Newsletter" Vol 1, Issue 2 dated May 1, 1999 Bracy stated, We built 250 test market units and select Honda dealers were given product to evaluate. They worked excellently."  (Note: Two other reports state that  LVI built 23 and 25 Honda Raiders respectively.  My opinion only, maybe there was a typo in the Newsletter and it was 25 not 250.  To move on, what happened to these test units?  If you can help please contact me)  Dealer reaction, as Bracy stated was excellent, except some concerns about its heavy weight, being complex, and selling price of around $2000 would make it one of the most expensive 1974 model sleds. In the end, the program was cancelled. Over a decade later Honda tried for the fourth time to market a sled called the Cub (no Michigan connection).   To see one of the Honda Raider survivors, please visit this website.    
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Honda White Fox
Honda had four serious efforts to enter the snowmobile market.  In the late '60s and early '70s at the Annual Honda Dealer Meetings dealers were asking for sleds.  Honda's first sleds (three prototypes) two used a Honda 750 four-stroke engine in Polaris frames and the "Arctic Cat" Honda had a Honda CB350.  The machines looked impressive; however, deemed too heavy to be practical.  Honda's next effort was called the White Fox.  Honda was impressed with Michigan's Leisure Vehicles Incorporated (LVI) twin-track seated cockpit style snowmobile.  Honda came up with a scaled down, lightweight design, with Honda's 178cc single two-stroke engine. LVI helped build the White Fox. On October 22, 1973 Honda sent a letter to 45 dealers in Michigan and Wisconsin inquiring if they wished to be part of a pilot program.  If so, they would send one White Fox immediately with three more afterward.  In the end, just under 60 made it to the dealers then Honda ordered all units to be returned by disposition.   Dealers thought Honda would build something special, it was--in the wrong direction.  For the normal size adult rider it was too small and not powerful enough.  Mr. Sakama and Honda wanted a machine that targeted young riders.  Youth and teens don't buy snowmobiles, dealer reactions were disappointed to say the least.  For Honda's third (Michigan connection) and fourth efforts see Honda Raider above.
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Built north of Hillman by the Hubert brothers.  The one pictured is their second attempt of building an OSV / Icemobile. It started out in the late 1950s as a snowmobile with an auger drive out of Hay Bailer.  From there using two drive wheels with double roller chains in-concert  with cleats.  In the early 1960s it was converted into an Ice-Mobile using a wheel/tire with chains.  It is powered by a Mercury Chainsaw engine most likely from a Disston/Mercury Two-Person Chainsaw.   The skis are an early IFS Spring Assist type coupled to chainsaw bars.  It is in a private collection.
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Alfred H. Humphrey of Kalamazoo invented a track conversion platform to allow motorcycles for traveling on snow. He filed for a patent in 1966; awarded in 1968. 
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Ice Auger Machines
When you talk about Michigan Snowmobile or OSV Manufactures/Inventors history in general most people think nothing new has happened in a long time. Well, that's not the case. Ice Auger Machines is a great idea and project in work from an Upper Peninsula native son. Their website has videos and Social Media links at iceaugermachines
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Joseph A. Lacasse's, of Lake Linden, Motor Sleigh basic drive train is similar to the Rastello; however, unique because it took into account the various snow depths over the drive surface--power to the ground was the same even if the snow or ice terrain was uneven. Patent awarded in 1922.
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Lakeside Machine
Lee Imhoff of Lakeview, Michigan in the early 1960s wanted to improve the inherit design flaws of snowmobiles, steering difficulty and rapid equipment wear. Also, it made more sense to develop an four-seasons vehicle capable of traversing various surfaces. His three-wheel, high floatation tires, design coupled with quick change of tires to skis and vice-versa was excellent. It is not known exactly how many were made.   If you can help with more information please contact us.  
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Latshow, a Paw Paw High School Instructor, made a motorcycle powered sleigh using sharp pronged wheel to transmit power to propel it. He was often seen in the winter of 1916 on Paw Paw streets.  Looking for more information, can you help?

Outboard motors are portable for use on different boats. Why can't there be something like that to power sleds and toboggans Robert A. (Bud) Lawrence of Brimley must of thought. He worked on his idea and in 1947 applied for a Patent that was granted in 1950 for his Lawrence Snow Tractor. I have seen either Lawrence's tractor or something like it years ago in the early 1970s with my father visiting an old Great Lakes Sailing buddy. Maybe by raising awareness in this project someone can find one or more information about it.
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Negaunee resident Frank Lehtonen's Automotive Sled was unique that converting an automobile into a Motor Sleigh only required removing the back tires and bolting on a track/runner assembly. His invention is a early adaptation of the now famous Rubber Track Conversion systems. The track(s) enclosed into a housing with runners minimized skidding and drifting on throttle up. You could leave the front wheels on or quickly switch out to skis. Frank's patent application (US1104682) was filed on Jan. 21, 1913 and approved on July 21, 1914.
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In early 1928 an Ice Boat built by Ben Limvna of Mt. Clemens demonstrated its capabilities on Lake St. Clair with Commander Walter Brennan of nearby Selfridge field in attendance. Equipped with a nine-cylinder engine, this OSV reached speeds just shy of 150 mph. Capable of carrying six persons stopping the streamlined craft was via a cast-iron spiked scab brake.
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Like the Snow-Trac (below) the Lorenzen Ice and Snowsleds were hand built by individuals using blue prints from the Lorenzen Propeller Company Niles, Michigan. Unlike the Snow-Trac, where you had to hunt down parts, you could buy almost everything you needed through Lorenzen much like the Simko Power Sled. Starting out as a Propeller company they learned during the Depression you had to diversifiy to survive. They even sold Motor Scooters. Using a Harley Davidson 45 engine during testing the Lorenzen Penguin model hit 75 mph using ice runners and 45 mph with snow skis.   Not much is known about Lorenzen after World War II, can you help provide more information?
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Arvin Maitland of rural Osceola County was a true Renaissance Man.  A musician . A tool and die maker. A model railroad builder.  An USAF aircraft technician during the Korean War.  A stone mason. A college graduate. A sawyer. A mechanical genius.  And an inventor, so much so it's on his grave marker.  His most well known invention, world-wide, is the Slip-On Locknut.  He also invented the powered Dump-style hauler along with many other things.  While he didn't invent the snowmobile, he designed and made what is believed the last antique styled rear-engine type snowmobile in early 1971.  It first had a four horsepower Tecumseh, then he used a five horse Wisconsin.  It had a top speed of 30 mph.  It was well known in the Rose Lake area often seen pulling kids on a sleigh.  Sadly, the snowmobile doesn't exist anymore. Special thanks to Jay McNally for some background information and use of his photo of Arvin and his sled.
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Manta (Racing) 
Bob Bracy while at
Leisure Vehicles Inc (LVI) learned great deal about snowmobile racing after the 1972 "bandit" (see Raider Racing section below). The "bandit" was heavy was the biggest issue. After Bob left LVI he formed A Robert Bracy Enterprise (ARBE) products and made it a mission to create lightweight, quality, products.  ARBE end use snowmobile racers were the Single Track and Twin Trac Mantas.

    Single Track
With testing on and off the track in 1973/4 they created the 1975 Manta Single Track (MST) racer mainly to showcase many of their products. Most notable: Lightweight Chassis, Transfer Master Aluminum Slide Rail Assembly, Phase 1, 2, and 3 Cobra Ski Assemblies, Titanium Track Cleats, Hot Tip Studs, Aluminum Fuel Tanks just to name a few. Twenty-five MSTs were built and at this time only three are known to exist. The MST came in at an unheard of 250 lbs net weight; offering either a 340cc or 440cc Sachs RX Free Air engine. 
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    Twin Trac 
ARBE finished their Twin Trac Manta prototype racers is finished just in time for the 1974 SnoPro race at nearby Imlay City.  The Twin Trac showed promise at Imlay City and then ran on the Michigan International Snowmobile Association (MISA) to finish the season.  Michigan snowmobile racer Bud Bennett, who had contact with Bob before, saw the Twin Trac and spoke with him on improvements.  In the end, Bob asked Bud to race for ARBE.  The 1975 race season issues (chain case related failures) were identified and solved. The Manta was running Sachs Free Air Engines.  Mikuni carburetors and racing exhaust designed by Michigan Motion Industries were installed.  Things went OK, but OK wasn't good enough for Bob and his team.  Knowing that in 1976 they needed to really step up their game and Liquid Cooled Engines were the answer.  The 1976 Manta Race Team was impressive, chassis changes (such as Ram Air Ducting direct to the carburetors and the Yamaha 440 Liquid Cooled engine were game changers.  Of note, during the Karwartha Cup and Weedsport races the Mantas finished top three in many heats with a few wins. After the season ended, ARBE concentrated on a 1977 consumer Manta snowmobile (See Manta Trail below). 
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Manta (Trail) 
After success with the Manta Twin Trac racer ARBE planned to release a consumer Manta for 1977, it would take five years for it to become reality.  Robert Bracy's dream of a cockpit style, rear engine, twin track snowmobile for consumers returned with the 1982 Manta Mark I. Very few were built, by order, powered by a 437cc LC CDI Kohler with two Mikuni 32mm carbs. A dead give-a-way it's a Mark I is the Twin Lights mounted on top of the roll bar.  In 1983, the Trail Manta was offered with two engine choices built in Romeo, Michigan..  A 440cc oil-injection or 500cc, both liquid cooled.  Standard features: Rear 6.5-inch travel suspension; Front IFS with 5.5" travel and anti-sway bar to limit side roll; full upper body removal in less than a minute with separate engine cover made servicing and maintenance access easy;  seat belt system; modified butterfly steering wheel with rack and pinion;  foot throttle and brake pedals; side fill fuel tank; tuned dual exhaust; heated cockpit that help keep the wind and cold out.  During the 1985 Snow-Goer Shoot Out in Cable Wisconsin the Trail Manta finished 2nd on timed Lemans style course a split second out of first.  The Trail Manta would only be in production a few short years.  Mr. Bracy would have to wait over a decade to release his next Twin Track, the Trail Roamer, he never gave up. 
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Marr Power Driven Sled was designed by Walter D. Marr of Flint. This OSV (Snow-Plane) vehicle was unique because of hydraulic lifting/lowering of wheels. Not much else is known except for the approved patent in 1943. Of note, the patent shows a sleigh (figure 1) in use with retractable wheels.  One would  think of Mr. Marr's talents (he got from his famous father Walter L. Marr of the Marr Autocar and later Buick) as a engineer were probably directed towards the war (WWII) effort.
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Many know that Massey-Ferguson (MF) snowmobiles were made in Des Moines, Iowa and then by Scorpion (re-branded) in Minnesota. But, most don't know that MF had some big Michigan connections. MF sleds starting in 1969 had everything going for it, rugged well build, a great dealer network via MF farm equipment dealerships, their own clothing line, and a marketing campaign 2nd only to ski-doo. Farmers bought a big percentage of them; however, MF sled sales were soft to the general population. MF's design team was in Detroit and was determined to re-invent its self for the 1973 models. Design team led by Thomas Denny and Jack Rose the new 1973 models MF touted as "... the most improved sled on the trail." And they were right, sales jumped 60 percent. The 1974 MF was basic 1974 re-brand facing other manufactures that focused on the newest biggest market -- the muscle inspired race sleds. Sales tanked and MF contracted out to Scorpion to start building re-branded Scorpions from 1975 to 1977. Also, MF sold re-branded Charlotte based GAP Sno-Cruisers as there own. They were one of the few that actually had GAP Sno-Cruisers in their dealership brochures.
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Montgomery Wards Mini 99 
Made by Yard-Man in Jackson, the Mini 99 is a Sno Cub with a Montgomery Wards scheme.
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Floyd A Moffitt in 1906 bought a farm west of Gaylord and found the winters in the heart of the southern peninsula snow belt not only brutal, but hard to get around. After a few years Floyd and his brother, Ross, started working on a better way for winter travel. Both were well versed not only with brains, but with Floyd being a farmer and Ross an expert in home and commercial construction (decades later Ross would be Secretary for the Lansing Building Trades Council) it's no surprise their Automobile-Sleigh Runner brought OSVs out of the dark ages with one of the first modern snowmobile tracks and slide suspensions in the mid-1910s (Patent Application).

Of note, Floyd's farm was only about 10 miles away from Ray Muscott (see below) lived.  I've got to believe it's very plausible Floyd and Ross'; Ray's paths crossed back in the early 1910s. Also, talk about Six Degrees of Separation, the Coal Fired Steam Locomotive with tracks and skis to haul lumber out of the Deward Lumber Tract was 10 miles from all three!  Floyd passed away in 1948 and his grave is a short distance near my parent's graves, when in the area I sometimes stop by and give thanks. 
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It is often disputed who made the first non-human powered snowmobile, earliest reports of one was in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan near the turn of the last century. It was a, Coal Fired, Steam Locomotive fitted with tracks and skis to haul lumber in the Deward Lumber Tract. 

Ray Muscott who lived near Waters at the time was granted one of the first joint snowmobile patents: In Canada (CA165326A, 1915) and in the USA (1188981, 1916). Was Muscott inspired by the locomotive, did he even know about it, located less than seven miles southwest of Waters? We will never know. We do know later models of the Muscott's "Motor Sleigh" was used to modify vehicles like the Ford Model T and others to transport supplies, people, and their belongings cross-country during winter. Of note, in the late 1910s and early 1920s three Motor Sleighs were used to transport Mail in Isabella County. 

Muscott didn't stop with his first invention, he improved it so much in a very short time he applied for another patent (Thread Belt Attachment for Trucks) on September 25, 1918 and on November 15, 1921 it was approved, 1397139. Many snowmobile historians feel Muscott, his family, friends, and workers have never got their credit due that has lead to so much utility and pleasure. His grave is a short distance from where I live. As with Floyd A Moffitt, when I pass by I often visit to give thanks on behalf of Snowmobilers everywhere.  CDN (1915): Claim | Dissertation | Drawings USA (1916):  Patent  | 1921 Patent
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Mystery Sled
Michigan Antique Mystery Snowmobile. Can you help ID or know anything about this sled? Parked next to a Dwyer for comparison at the Rogers City 2019 Event. Was obtained decades ago from Trout Lake (UP) area about 12 miles north of Brevort in Chippewa County. Was Coverland Electric utility services snowmobile. A Snowmobile Registration ID shows make Arctic Cat (but it is not an Arctic Cat). Front and back photos for comparison. Also, look on both sleds: Where the steering spindles go through the front to the skis; the steering boxes; speed control boxes; Front suspension frame mountings; and rear axle sprockets. Yes, back in the day many items built for "the farm" were common across platforms. But, this seems like a lot. Any help on further information would be greatly appreciated. Please contact us or the folks at the Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway if you can help. Thank you. 
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Karl Nilson, a Swedish immigrant that settled in Detroit, was very mechanically minded and fascinated with motor vehicles. With most motor sleighs of the time he though they were very heavy and sometimes rode like a brick that would give a good shake the occupants and cargo. His scaled down version of a motor sleigh used a motorcycle engine, the traction wheels in front of the drive shaft, and shock absorbing means that enable the machine to carry loads of varying weights with the minimum amount of vibration. Also, when finished with his first prototype it was one of the most futuristic motor sleighs of the time. He filed for a patent (US1574924) in 1923 and was approved on March 2, 1926.
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The Pasko Motor Sleigh was designed by John Pasko of Flint in the late 1910s and patent awarded in 1920. To boil it down it's half Sleigh and half (before) Sno-Motors with one screw drive in the rear. Sort of like a Marine Arneson Surface Drive only decades earlier for ice/snow travel.
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Premier RPC 
Premier Recreational Products Corporation of Holly, Michigan was started in the late 2000's out of frustration as the four remaining snowmobile companies had moved away from the family segment and were no longer building a mid-size snowmobile. Seeing the need for a modern mid-size snowmobile for families to ride together out on the trail, the Enforcer 300cc (and later the Enforcer 350cc) 4-stroke EFI models were developed to fill that market void with designs geared towards junior riders and smaller adults in an effort to offer a true trail-worthy, mid-size entry level snowmobile. Unable to acquire the financial backing needed to push the Enforcer into production, the project was abandoned in 2014.
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The Prior Motor Sleigh in a nutshell was to adapt the engine to accept a propeller assembly; hand linkage to a governor that controlled propeller speed. Porter Prior of Ypsilanti applied for a patent in late 1925 (US1697693) that was eventually awarded in early 1929.
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Raider | Roamer
Perhaps the most famous Michigan Made consumer snowmobiles. Robert Bracy and Engineer John Drawe formed Techtron then Leisure Vehicles Incorporated (LVI) after Mr. Bracy completed the Ford GT40 MKII and MKIV racing projects.  The Ford GTs were rear engine and had excellent handling compared to front engine autos so he thought Snowmobilers could benefit from an "updated" rear engine design.  In early 1968 LVI started design work; in July 1968 the first prototype (see photo) was built and testing started. After testing Mr. Drawe designed a snowmobile with the driver seated in a cockpit style layout. It also had double tracks, enclosed body, and rear-engine placement. LVI starting out in Romulus.  The initial year in 1971 two models were offered, the Roamer (8hp, Four-Stroke, Briggs and Stratton); Raider (340cc, Two-Stroke, JLO).  About 100 Raiders and 50 Roamers were built.  After the first year the Roamer name was dropped.  In 1972, the Roamer name was dropped and the Raiders were larger with an updated body. The 1972 Raider offered four different models (with CCWs 290, 340, 400, and 440cc engines) desinated by one, two, three or four hash marks on the rear of the body. Mr. Bracy reported things were going well and 2000 units were built. The biggest challenge was to convince conventional Snowmobilers of the Twin-Track advantage.  What helped is he also offered a Wheel Conversion Kit for warm weather riding.  Also, LVI built the Bandit Racer (Raider Racing below). The third year (1973 model) the Raider got a complete redesign because of the joint-effort with Honda (see Honda Raider), it was a great year for the Raider with 8000 units made. After the 1973 model year LVI's new models, the 1974 Eagle and Double Eagles were offered. Sadly, Mr. Bracy left the company in 1973 (to form Manta) and two years LVI was just one of over 100 snowmobile companies to go out of the snowmobile business.
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Raider (Racing)
In 1972, Leisure Vehicles Inc (LVI) tried their hand at racing with the limited build "bandit." About 50 "bandits" were made with mostly Hirth 440 engines, however; a few had 340s and a couple had the 650. At the end of the production a few came with Raider consumer CCWs. The "bandit" offered many safety features (enclosed cockpit; distance between engine and fuel tank were the biggest) over conventional race sleds. In the end the "bandit" was just too heavy to compete. LVI  turned their focus on building a lighter race sled (see Manta Racing)).  The only known pictures of the "bandit" racing are shown below at the Detroit Snowmobile Races and another location (can you help ID). 
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Charles Rastello of Hancock Self Propelled Sled is one of the most radical OSV designs to come out of Michigan. It might take you a few times to look at the patent (1913) drawings and read the description before you understand it. Just think of a screw drive garage door opener moving legs backwards, lifting them, moving forward, and lowering them to cycle again..
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Made in the Houghton area in 1966. The Rintala is a one off snowmobile with a 1958 Briggs & Stratton coupled to a Salsbury drive system. The track is an old conveyer belt with metal cleats; 1950s Plymouth Belvedere steering wheel. The Rintala is on loan to the Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway.
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Was a true ATV made by the New Frontier Corporation in Grand Rapids from 1964 until 1978.  Most of the production models were made between 1967 to 1971. Was marketed as a Land Mobile. Skis added in the winter. In hard packed snow there was no reason to add the optional cleated track. Owners report the machine is way more nimble than it looks. 
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Not the Scorpion from Minnesota.  The new Scorpion started out in Janesville, Wisconsin in the late 1990s where 22 prototypes were built.  SRP Inc moved to Michigan (much better for corporate taxes) and 75 sleds were produced and sold in the Mid-West Snow Belt states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsion.   With five models in the works (500cc Sting, 600cc Whip, 700cc TKX, and the 800cc Sidewinder SS) TKX 890 was their flagship with a PSI/Scorpion Millennium 890cc L/C Twin engine with 160hp coupled to a P85 clutch to a Direct Drive system driving the axle from the secondary clutch.   Bottom Line:  No jackshaft and chain case. Here are a couple videos Video 1 | Video 2 of the TKX in action. The two-page overview brochure is below, thank you Greg S for sending it in.

Simko Power Sled 
You could either buy an entire Simko Power Sled or order a kit. There were made in Allen Park and Ecorse by a company started by Jim Simko.  They were a big hit on Lake St. Clair and the Saginaw Bay in the late 1950s to late 1960s. They came in many different models (lengths, number of passengers, and engine size). Also, very popular on the many frozen waterways in Northeastern Michigan. If you look hard enough you can still find them in Yard Sales or a couple times a year on Craigslist.  A racing Simko with a 10hp Briggs and Stratton and a Tillotson Carb with a metal ram tube hit 60 mph in 1965 during the Detroit Power Ice Boat races. Most Simkos were powered by a West Bend Power Bee Go-Kart engine.  The Simko was in the January 1966 issue of Popular Mechanics on pages 130 and 131.  Here is a 1962 Simko video.
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One of the most loved and highly sought after Michigan made snowmobiles.  Based out of Metro Detroit by Sport King in the late 1960s. Also, an optional wheel kit was available. They were manufactured in Rogers City.
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Almost all Skiroules were made in Quebec until 1977.  By ways of business dealings and buy outs the last skiroules were made in Michigan.  The first few were a mix of a lot of different year parts and pieces, all NOS.  In 1979 the skiroule Sprint srx-440 was introduced.  About 15 were produced and if you are lucky while attending a Vintage Snowmobile Show you might see one.  Most Michigan skiroules were 1979 models.    In 1981, another Sprint, this time a prototype was made.  This sled in now in Canada.  The last skiroule was made around 1990, the  RTX 447.  Special thanks goes to Doug M and Les H for pictures and info on the Michigan skiroules.  Also, if you are on Facebook, this page has a great deal of information and pictures on the Michigan skiroules. 
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Sno Cub 
Made by Yard-Man in Jackson, the Sno Cub is a few of the true mini-sleds.  Made for a few years starting in 1971 they came with the bullet-proof one cylinder JLO 99cc engine.  Accessories, sold separate, Kick Stand, Light Kit (Head/Tail), Saddle Bag, and a "Sno-cover".  Of note, many times the dealer would just install the kick stand out of the crate-- made it easier to move around.
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Snow Jeep
George W. Bettes was a true visionary in the sense of improving things; however, instead of just thinking about it he did it. Born in 1887 he grew up on a farm outside of Sparta. There he learned and honed his mechanical skills. Before he graduated High School he built a steam powered race car. After school owned and worked at auto dealerships. He saw the need for road safety; built and patented the Road (Center and Shoulder) Marking Machine. George also invented the Underwater Diving Suit/Helmet with two way communications. He also was extensively involved in Aviation and Filming. As far as snowmobiles, he saw the need for a lightweight (at the time) snowmobile to haul equipment to the North to the South Poles and everywhere in between. Over 10 years he designed and build several snowmobiles before his crowning achievement--the Snow Jeep. It easily was the best snow machine over many undergoing testing at Fort Brady in the 1940s.  It weighed only 850 pounds and could pull over 1,000 pounds of equipment and fuel, it's range was 500 miles! The Snow Jeep was also tested in northern Canada on James Bay.  So impressive was his machine he became a member of The Polar Exploration Society.  For more on Mr. Bettes please visit the Sparta Township Historical Commission page on him at
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Snow-Motors Inc 
Perhaps the most unique Michigan Made OSV came into being in the 1920s when a few Motor City automakers joined forces and started Snow-Motors Inc. The twin screw-drive system they applied to the Fordson tractor (sometimes called the Fordson Snow Devil); Chevrolet and Hupmobile autos.  The concept was patented in 1923. Orders were taken from Canada, Norway, Sweden, and of course the USA. The photo of the enclosed cab model is the only known picture in existence.   If you click on the video picture it will take you to a great 10 minute video. Here's another video of a restored Snow-Motor. There was a need for such a vehicle in the snow belts and lake effect regions of the world; however, timing might of been an issue. A short time later in 1927 the Stock Market crash spelled the end to many early snow vehicle inventions and creations.?
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The homebuilt Snow-Trac was featured in the November 1963 issue of Popular Science (PS) magazine starting on page 122.  E.F. Lindsey, who wrote many articles for PS and others did a great job as usual covering the Snow-Trac. There are at least four Snow-Tracs in Michigan. All with a little different twist as the builders put their touchs and modifications on their own. Examples: Some had a hand drive engagement and some used a Salsbury 500 drive system; all had fuel tanks in different locations. Plans and PS article as follows:  Page 1 and 2 | Page 3 and 4 | Page 5 and 6 | Page 7  Also, here is a great video of a Snow-Trac in action thanks to Cliff S.  Also, special mention to Steve L of The Winning Edge Magazine for the color photos.  We are working on who and where the Snow-Trac designer is.  Good chance with as many in Michigan it is here; if you know more please let us know.
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Two Stanaback snowmobiles were made in 1967, in Grand Rapids.  The first one used a Villiers engine made in England that had a kick start (Villiers engines were also used in early Sno Bug snowmobiles made in Sudbury, ON).  The second had a Lloyd Engine bought via Trail-King International in Portland, Michigan.  For more information and to see the surviving sled on display please visit the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway.
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Stanaback TAV
Besides the Stanaback snowmobile, Ken P Stanaback designed the Stanaback Trans Axle Vehicle (TAV) platform to use in-concert with a motorcycle. He applied for a patent in 1965; awarded in 1968.   Ken was a talented person, he designed and built a quarter-scale train with a Subaru engine to power the locomotive and six seat passenger car. His track was about 4,000 feet long and had a trestle over a half acre pond.
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It started as a 1923 Chevrolet Touring Car from Surrell Chevrolet in Newberry. In late 1926, Charles Surrell and friends constructed transformed it by making wooden skis for the front and two sets of Chevrolet wheels with tractor belts with hand-made lugs for the rear. The Surrell ski might be the first known use of hand grips at the front of a snowmobile ski. It was made at the Service Station in town, also owned by Surrell family. Surrell's mechanics made many OSVs in the 1920s and 1930s.  On February 4, 1939 they even marketed their OSVs in the Newberry Winter Carnival parade. 
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Barney Swanson, owner of Swanson's Garage and Towing in Beulah, seen many people not used to the NW Lower Peninsula Lake Effect Snow Belt get stranded while coming north during the winter. In 1924, he modified an old Ford Chassis moving the front wheels to just before the rear wheels; made an chain-type caterpillar drive and a set of sleigh type skis. It worked great and gathered much interest in the Crystal Lake area. Swanson made at least three more for use by a Doctor and two wealthy families before moving on to other ventures. 
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Like Penny-farthing? What!  AKA High wheel or High Wheeler bicycle. They were popular in the 1870s/80s. You know somebody from Michigan seen one of those and thought I'm going to make a snowmobile out of this beast!  Well, John D. Thomas and Amos H. Tyler from Petoskey did and received patent for it in 1889 for their Sled-Propeller. With outriggers for stability their Thomas-Tyler OSV must of flew on ice and hard packed snow! Of note, this is the earliest we can find anything related to a snowmobile this far back in Michigan. 1889 is a long time ago! 
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Made for five years in Sault Ste. Marie, MI by Northsport Industries (NI) starting in 1969.  One is on display at the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway. In 1971 NI offered three different models: 395 (JLO single), 400 (JLO Twin), and the 800 (JLO 744 Twin).  An unique safety feature of the Timberwolf, it floats on water.  NI had plans to build a Racing Timberwolf for the I-500 most likely using the JLO 744, but nothing at this time is known about that effort.  Here's a rare video showing the Timberwolf before the start of the 1971 Soo I-500 race.   For more info and a picture click here
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Trail Roamer 
Made around the turn of the last century, Bob Bracy's passion for a Cockpit style twin-track consumer snowmobile continued.  In 2001, under Three-R Industries (TRI) his Trail Roamer first (and only year) hit the market. Sadly due to health reasons Bob passed away a short time later. TRI  also made Trail Patrol (TP) offered by Grooters Specialty Products. Of note, the TP had Police Lighting, Communication Equipment, Heating System, and GPS Navigation. Bob also offered  the Gold Eagle Trail Roamer, a 30th Anniversary Tribute to the original 1971 Roamer. This limited build was loaded and with a $25,000 price tag included an owner plaque, one ounce Gold Eagle coin, and certificate with option to buy 2,000 shares of TRI stock. It would be really cool to see current pictures of any these. Can you help?
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Kalkaska resident Edward Vipond's Motor Sleigh invention was to propel the vehicle by alternating rear runners (two on each side). In forward motion each runner would: move backward while contacting the surface, lift up, move forward while up, and down to start the process over. Vipond patent application (US1202338) was filed on March 14, 1916 and awarded on Oct. 24, 1916.
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Two Vroman snowmobiles were made in Wolverine in the very early 1960s by two talented brothers who were Tool and Die makers. Their first machine was powered by a 7hp McCulloch Chain Saw Engine. They learned a great deal with this first sled; a major issue was inadequate power. The second Vroman (in a private collection) had many refinements over the first; the Briggs and Stratton Model 23(hp) was a huge improvement. I learned a great deal about the Vroman from Roger J and John M at the 2019 Rogers City Event. The first picture is from the Roger and Karen J's Dwyer display often seen at the shows. The rest from John M.
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Ralph Webber of Trenary made the Waywego in the mid-1960s. There are five left known to exist. The Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway has a beautiful restored Waywego on display; the others are in private collections.
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Bob Wentworth from Metro Detroit, had a rare skill of being an expert in electrical,  fabrication, and mechanical disciplines.  There are and continue to be many well known Michigan snowmobile racing builders who modify, sometimes heavily, sleds to improve them for a specific race or circuit.  But, Mr. Wentworth deserves special mention and identified as an inventor, because like Burt Monroe with his motorcycle, over decades he was always trying to find ways to improve his creation--well into the mid-2010s.  The end result of a Kawasaki Triple 750 motorcycle engine coupled with his electrical spark timing system along with just about everything else he hand made resulted in one of the quickest snowmobiles ever made under 800cc, if not ever.
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The only Westendorf was built in 1936 in Bay City.  More of a power sled than a snowmobile it was used on ice (fishing) and hard-packed snow. Power to the ground was via a small tire with many chains (see picture below).  You can see another picture here and in person at the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway.
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CB Wing from St. Ignace built his first Aero Sleigh (AKA Snow Plane) in the mid-1910s what would be the first of many. The Wing Aero Sleighs were an excellent form of transportation for a variety of purposes. Production stopped in 1957. The second picture is the same Snow Plane as picture four taken decades later when used for transporting people and goods to/from Mackinaw Island.
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Michigan Branded 
Snowmobiles often thought built in Michigan, but were not. 

The Sno-Runner was made by Chrysler Outboard Corp. in Hartford, Wisconsin.
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Back in the late 1960s there were many Ford Dealerships also selling snowmobiles, mostly ski-doo. It caught Ford's attention so much it warrant merit to evaluate for possible manufacture or offer a branded snowmobile under the Ford name. For evaluation, much like many other manufactures had done before, Ford chose a snowmobile already in production. They wanted a company that was huge and solvent. They chose Columbia made by MTD. The evaluation snowmobile was a precursor to the 1972 Columbia 440 SST. It came with a JLO 440 Fan Cooled engine with single carburetor. Why, after a short evaluation period, Ford cease their efforts is not known (we are awaiting back a response to Ford). Here is a video giving a quick overview of the "Ford Snowmobile." 

The Lansing Snowmobile was in reality a Hydrocraft made by the The Lansing Hydrocraft Company in Toronto, Ontario.
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Was made by Lionel Industries in Quebec for Outer Sports Inc. in Lansing. 
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Made in Quebec by Lionel Industries for R & S Enterprises in Lansing.
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    Trail King
Trail King was made by Lionel (Sno Prince) in Canada for Trail King International in Portland, Michigan. Trail King offered snowmobiles for only a couple years (1970 and 1971). They were more known for their high quality snowmobile wheel kits, ATVs, Mini- and Trail-Bikes, and Sleighs.
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Tour-A-Sport was a joint effort by Eagle Tie Machine Company (ETMC) (Sno-Hawk) in London, Ontario and Tour-A-Home of Michigan. Right after talks between the two started ETMC sold out to Homes-Blunt Ltd in Sarnia. Tour-A-Sled was a Sno-Hawk painted white white Tour-A-Sled branding offered in Port Huron. The Tour-A-Sled sleigh was a Bluebill with, of course, Tour-A-Sled branding. Not much more is known other than it was a short venture ('68-'69). 
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Dedication and Thank You
Dedicated to those who invented; designed; made; sold; serviced; and owned Snowmobiles, Over Snow Vehicles (OSV), and End Item related OSV products made in Michigan. Thanks to those who helped contribute with special mention US Patent Office, Google Patents, Google Books, Popular Science magazine, The Winning Edge Magazine, Lisa from the Lakeview Area Museum, Oakland County Historical Resources, Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum, Richard L (Editor and Publisher of the Presque Isle County Advance), the late Bud Knapp for inspiration, Chris B of Premier RPC, Bill S, Bob H, Bob L and Norma in Special Collections at the Alpena County Library, Bob W, Brent C, Charlie and Marilyn V, Cliff S (Mini-Bike OSV Section and Snow-Trac), Tom and Linda D, Doug L, Doug M, E.F. Lindsey, Edward J, Holli T, Jeff H, John Gendregske, Kevin M, Larry K, Les H, Matt B, Richard H, Roger and Karen J, Shane S, Steve B, Steve H, Steve and Sherry L, Todd H, Todd K, and John M for access to his extensive research and photos.

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