Mini-Bikes & ORVs

Is a Mini-Bike with a ski a snowmobile or a Mini-Bike with a ski? What about Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPV) in snow?  Maybe not a snowmobile you might think of, but these made in Michigan vehicles are deserve their own special section. Thank you Cliff S for all the help.

    Action-Age Scrambler
From what is known the Action-Age Scrambler around in 1968 started out in Monroe, Michigan.  Tracks were an option that made the Scrambler great in deep snow.  Production quickly moved to Ohio and stopped in 1974. In 1980 Scrambler Manufacturing started building ATVs in Genoa, Ohio.
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    American Pride Products
The Gnat was designed by Autodynamics Corporation of American in Madison Heights for its parent company American Pride Products in Troy. It was the first two-passenger side-by-side ORV ever--it shocked attendees at the 1970 National Off-The-Road Equipment and Racing show in Anaheim, California. At only 245 pounds coupled with B.F. Goodrich High-Flex, cleated, tires (inflated at only 2 psi) a foot-wide and 20 inches OD made it light as a feather on sand and snow. It was excellent in hard pack and light-medium snow depths. Electric start was standard. Standard steering wheel are on the prototypes; butterfly wheel on consumer models.  As far as we know, the Gnat was offered in 1970-1972. If you know more please contact us. 
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Manufactured in Auburn Hills by Mobility Unlimited in the late 1960s through early 1970s then purchased by Magna American then produced in Raymond, Mississippi. In Canada, it was made by Behoo Industries.  The Amphicat was great in hard pack to medium snow depths.  An optional Track Kit was available for those wish to traverse in deeper snow.   They also made the Amphikitty High Flotation Tire All-Season Trail Bike.
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Production Products Company made Brooks (sometimes in advertising Brook's or Brooks') Trail Bikes. Made in the Brooklyn / Jackson area these were well built with ski, windshield, and luggage rack as options. 
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Fleming Manufacturing Company, in Jackson, who made the Cricket started out as Fleming Service Company in 1960. They changed the name to Fleming Manufacturing Company in 1972. The Cricket was somewhat unique at the time because of the 2x1 (two front wheels) configuration making it very stable and reduced ground pressure on snow.
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    El Burro
Sand 'n' Sno Bike made by WIPCO in Lexington was one of the best Sno Bikes.  High ground clearance and with equipped with huge tubeless chevron tires helped moved this true All-Terrain bike very well on hard pack and low-medium snow conditions. 
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    Eel Wheel
This Mini-Bike was made by Majineering Corporation in Pontiac.  One of the most cutting edge and radical designs of the day was an off-shoot of the Vaverek Scooter (patent PDF) for summer use on ski slopes .  It was front-wheel drive with rear articulated wheel, it was so efficient you could turn figure 8s until the gas ran out or you went dizzy on a 4x8 sheet of plywood. Looking for a picture with a rear ski installed.  In the meantime, check out this video.

Engray was a joint venture with Maico (Motorcycles) to develop a Miniature Motorcycle. They hit a grand slam homerun with the Spitfire. Rightly named, it had a 16hp Maico motorcycle engine! They were made in Detroit.
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Owosso Explorer Corporation, in Owosso, was incorporated in 1973 to 1979 made seven different B.D.I. Explorer models. One even had a Sachs 23hp rotary engine! They also made two street legal Trikes, an Explorer 800R (Tecumseh 8hp with a top speed of 50 mph) and the Exalter shown below (12hp Tecumseh) (Thank you Charles Renner and Brett T). The one with a ski is the Explorer 500. 
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    Grand Rapids Industries (GRI)
GRI's JB's Avenger was a six-wheeler, that had many different engine options, made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Being extremely low profile and low center-of-gravity it was rated at 65% gradeability. 1970 models offered a Tecumseh 8hp or 12 hp Four-Cycle; 339cc 24hp or 399cc 28hp Rockwell JLO Two-Cycle. Engines all came with electric start as an option.
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Made by Harrison Research in Utica. The company started in the late 1960s and made a few different model Mini-Bikes. Of note, the Wildcat 400 had a really wide rear tire and an optional ski.  
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Carl Heald, Inc. and Heald Inc. out of Benton Harbor made what was known as Kits by Heald starting in 1969. They were Mini-Bikes, Trail Bikes, Trikes, and Haulers, They made an optional Front Ski. Of note, for the SST-16 Super Trike and and VT-840 Super Bronc Trail Bike with the Standard Chevron or an optional Knobby tire worked excellent in the snow.  Of note, the Super Bronc even came with a tow bar to pull skiers!   All Heald products were high quality, very little is known about them after the mid-'80s. 
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The same Heathkit as all the electronic gadgets you could put together? You bet! The Boonie-Bike was an All-Season Trail and Snow Bike made in Benton Harbor.
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      Lil' Indian
One of the most popular and beloved Mini-Bike, Mini-Cycle, and Go-Kart makers in Michigan. Made out of various cities in Metro Detroit Michrina (Brothers) Enterprises, Inc were never to settle on good enough. As kids grew out of Mini-Bikes they developed Mini-Cycles. When they came out with the Back-Tracker it truly was an all-season machine for adults. When equipped with the 7hp mated to a torque converter with its huge flotation tires was great on sand, mud, snow, and even ice! It was big enough to ride Two-Up. If you would like to know more about Lil' Indian history check out this link.
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    Metro Recreational Vehicles 
Based in Taylor AKA "Wheels & Trails" and "MRV" made the Hunter 500 Trail Bike, the Warrior 777 Sport Three-Wheeler, and the NTW 333 large scale sport trike.  Of note, the Hunter 500 and the Trapper (see below) looked very much alike.  However, the engines were different:  Hunter 500 5hp four-stroke; Trapper 10hp Chrysler Two-Stroke.   Both the Hunter and Warrior were great on hard pack and light snow conditions and the Sales literature touted them both as a four-season vehicle.  Interesting that the Warrior 777: Had a synco-mesh differential rear end that put MRV way ahead of other Trikes and Three-Wheelers of the day; Had fairings over the left and right rear tires to help keep the mud and snow off the driver. 
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    Motion Development Inc (MDI) 
MDI in Rochester was well known in the late and early 1970s for selling ORV and snowmobile parts. The Tijuana "Taxi" (TT) was MDI's first production ATV and fifty were made and test marketed in 1971 before Double S Motors in New York acquired the rights. The "Taxi" was truly the first Side-By-Side (SxS) (not a dune buggy or chopped auto) in the Powersports industry. In March, 1972 a refined TT was sold under the name Sebring Stinger. Also of note, MDI in 1971 was awarded a contract by Coleman Inc of camping fame to develop an ATV. MDI completed the design, but Coleman MDI ATV never went into production. 
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    Ruttman Enterprises
They started building Mini-Bikes in the 1960s out of Dearborn Heights, incorporated in 1974 and dissolved the corporation in 1978. Not much is known about them after that. But, one this is for sure, they did the best job of promoting a ski kit than any other Mini-Bike manufacture in the world! Call a Ski Trac, the moto was "All the Fun of a Snowmobile." Used not only for their bikes, but for any using 5/8" front axles. Also, could be used Trikes and Dune Cycles. Of note, in 1971 Ruttman came out with the Pak Mule Mini-Bike, with their Ski Trac it was one of the best "Four Season" Mini-Bikes ever made. 
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    Sierra Trail Boss
Manufactured in Lapeer by the Vesely Company. This nimble Amphi' 6x6 was great in hard pack to medium snow depths.  Of note, the Vesely Company's claim to fame was it made one of the first Pop-Up Campers.
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Sport-King was based out of Metro Detroit. The made Snowmobiles (Ski-Kat with optional wheel kit), Trail Bikes, and Trikes in Rogers City. The Trail Bikes were some of the best state made, very high quality. The Trike's best feature was a full body that keep dust, dirt, mud, and snow off the driver. Both were great in hard pack to light-medium snow conditions.  Of note, the Ski-Kat and Sport-King main graphics are some of the best loved among Michigan Snowmobile and ORV collectors.  Special thanks to Dan D, Cliff S, Presque Isle County Advance, and members of the Rogers City Snowmobile Facebook Page for the help. 
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    Stephens Ski Kit
While not a Mini-Bike Manufacture, Stephens in Bridgman is listed because they offered a kit to convert a Mini-Bike into a "Ski-Bike". The ski utilized quick clasp lock install requiring no tools, rear traction chain, and steel steering runners.
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    Terra Cat
From Rankin Manufacturing Inc. (RMI) in Durand. The Terra Cat (TC) Flaming Red Cat model was great in the sand and snow. Tires were huge, 11x20 and no ply bonded to the rim!  The 10hp two-stroke engine also helped.  Also, some were painted Yellow.  Thanks Tom and Linda D for the three additional pictures.  RMI also made a few Trikes in 1971--very hard to find.  The Trike was powered by a 1971 6.5 hp Chrysler Two-Stroke engine. Thank you Joe Van for pictures of his TC Trike. 
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Thomas Company in Clinton made a handful of different models. They offered an optional ski and the Explorer was excellent on hard pack.  Talk about Multi-Use vehicles, the  Explorer had an optional mower kit, yes you read it right.   
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    Track & Sports
Located in Dearborn Heights, Track & Sports made The Easy Rider sport Three-Wheeler and the rugged Trapper Trail Bike.  Both did very well on hard pack and light snow. Both were powered by a 10hp, 8000 rpm, Two-Stroke Chrysler engine. These were very fast hitting speeds up to 40 mph. Of note, Track & Sports offered an optional Hi-Performance kit. Installed it allowed both to reach 60 mph.
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    Trail King
Trail King Diablo was manufactured by Quality Axle Manufacturing in Portland Michigan. The Diablo hit the market in 1971. Of note, came standard with an 8 hp Briggs & Stratton engine, Salsbury CVT system, and Uniroyal tires. Base price of $895 with electric start and reverse as options. One advertising motto was, " Let Us Put You On The Right Trail." The Trail King pictured is the only known picture of the Diablo undergoing testing in Michigan. Thank you Bill S (owner and rights).  Trail King also offered Mini and Trail Bikes.
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Wasn't the Tricart made in Ohio? Yes it was, but was invented in Michigan by John Plessinger as his college project at Cranbrook Academy of Arts and Science in Bloomfield Hills in 1967. John sold the rights to Sperry Rand in Ohio. But, still was a huge part of the Tricart starting in the late 1960s at the Sperry plant in Lebanon, Ohio. The low ground pressure of the Tricart made it truly one of the first personal multipurpose and all season ATVs. We salute John; this website is a testament that inventors like him will not be forgotten. 
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    Wheel Tra
Lakeside Machine in Lakeview, Michigan built the Wheel Tra Trail Bikes.  It had a two-speed gear box somewhat like the Lil' Indian's. These are very hard to find Trail Bikes. Many thanks to Steve K for giving permission to use his photo of his Wheel Tra; Cliff S for helping coordinate the use.  Lakeview Machine also built three Wheel Tra snowmobiles. Very rare. Looking for info and more pictures for both the snowmobiles and trail bikes, can you help?
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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, 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), twintrackworld web site, 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, Brett T, Charlie and Marilyn V, Charles Renner, Cliff S (Mini-Bike OSV Section), Doug L, Doug M, Edward J, Holli T, Jeff H, Joe Van', John Gendregske, Kevin M, Larry K, Les H, Matt B, Richard H, Roger and Karen J, Steve K, Todd H, Todd K, and John M for access to his extensive research and photos.

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