Reader GTXcellent said it best in last week’s comments: “Snowmobile junkyard. Snowmobile junkyard. Snowmobile junkyard!”
For as long as I’d been riding old sleds, I’d been a customer of Mans’ Snowmobile Parts. It was a snowmobile junkyard and NOS parts haven near Hinckley, Minnesota, owned and operated by one Mr. Mans. That place was incredible. I never got a chance to simply wander the grounds, but what little I saw always left me wanting more. Rows upon rows upon rows of old sleds – all of them available for parts.
But the yard wasn’t even the impressive part. Walk inside the pole barn, and you’d be surrounded by a well-organized array of parts, both used ones put up years ago, and NOS ones that had been collecting dust for 40+ years in many cases. It was a snowmobile restorer’s heaven. Best of all, the prices were very reasonable.
While I was restoring my Nordic, for example, I accidentally broke the headlight lens during dismantling. For anybody else, that would have been a tragedy which words might fail to describe. Days, or perhaps weeks, might have been lost searching online. And if such a lens was ever found, it would surely command a princely sum.
In my case? Sure, I muttered a few choice words about it – but I knew it wasn’t the end of the world. I simply made the short trek to Mans’ barn, forked over $25, and walked away with an OEM lens just as nice as my previous one.
But like all such treasures, Mans’ operation couldn’t last forever. The gates remained locked as the 2013/14 season began, and rumors began to circulate. I still don’t know quite what happened, but one thing’s for sure: much of the inventory has left in the past few months, taking with it any chance of the yard reopening. Where did it go? Is any still for sale? No one seems to know.
I didn’t realize how good I had it. Suddenly even the most minor parts needs had become expensive scavenger hunts. The closing of Mans’ was a major factor in my selling that ’70 Ski-Doo I restored last year, and in my decision not to take on another such project for this year (I had generally done one each year in the past).
But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped looking for new sources of parts. I’d love to find another such operation. They’re out there, somewhere – so whenever I see a yard full of snowmobiles, I stop and ask what’s up.
The pictures that follow are the result of one such stop. One minute, we were on our way to Duluth for purposes decidedly non-snomobile related; the next, we were chasing down a “gold mine” of parts and sleds we’d heard about from a nice fellow behind the counter at an old-looking snowmobile repair shop we’d spotted along the way.
This “gold mine” didn’t quite pan out – most of the inventory was too weathered to be of much interest. But I still whipped out my camera-phone and began snapping away, mostly for future reference.
Most Junkyard Outtakes consist of a bunch of pictures with snippets and stories in between. But for this Junkyard Outtake, I’m breaking with tradition. Now that you have the story, I’ll leave you to dig through the pictures and see what you can find. Spot anything you recognize, love, hate, or are just curious about. Mention it in the Comments below, and we’ll see where it goes!
This one does warrant a bit of explanation: it’s a Bolens, and it’s early (not sure what year). The rider would have sat behind on a sled of some sort, which was connected to this unit, and held onto the handlebars.
42 years since it was last registered. Hmm…
After wandering the yard, our tour guide/owner took us inside a small building which was packed with all manner of powersports equipment. Much of it was newer stuff – snowmobiles, ATVs, and such made in the past 20 years, which were in nice shape and slated for resale. But there were some real gems in there as well. The pride of his collection were several early ’70s survivor Arctic Cats that looked like new, and some other Arctic rarities – including a pair of Cat minibikes. Unfortunately, he didn’t want any pictures taken… seems he occasionally has trouble with thieves, and was concerned about letting the world see exactly what he was keeping under lock and key.
Not only was the owner gracious enough to show us his collection and let us run around his yard, he also gave us the address of another place that he said was worth checking out. But this second site turned out to be a bust. It was more of a commercial enterprise, and though they had some very intriguing inventory, they didn’t want any pictures taken. Worse, they gave us the bum’s rush after I politely declined their astronomical price on an early ’70s Ski-Doo muffler.
Turns out there’s still plenty of old sled parts in the world – but the gold mines will never be what they once were.
Next week, the Junkyard Outtake gets in on AMC Week with a smattering of the finest rotting iron ever to be stamped ‘Made in Kenosha’. Sure, there’ll be Jeeps and Javelins – but have you ever seen an SX/4 Eagle in the tin? Stay tuned…