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…
There’s nothing worse in the world than when a supply of parts suddenly becomes unavailable. And I can imagine what you’re going thru, as vintage snowmobiles don’t have anything of the collector base of, say, vintage British motorcycles.
Despite being Canadian, snowmachines don’t do much for me. Fun to look at these photos, but the advancements in technology make the new machines so much more usable than the old, I can’t see the point, although oddly that’s exactly why I like old cars…
Around here if you have a snowmachine you have to throw it on a trailer and drive 3 hours North before you can use it, whereas all I have to do is open the garage to start using my motorcycle. I have known some guys who live in Quebec and have a trail running through their front yard, which makes the whole thing much more convenient.
The old sleds are fun. You go a lot slower and work a lot harder. It’s a completely different feel than today’s snowmobiles, which are all race-bred for speed and performance.
Way too unreliable for serious riding, but still a lot of fun.
None of these things locally no snow either
As to me, like to most readers, snowmobiles are an entirely alien phenomenon, I would be most curious to read a true Snowbank Classic. Any Canadian, Alaskan or otherwise arctic readers willing to take up the challenge?
Some other snowmobile-related posts:
Great, thanks for the reminder!
In the 70s, my Pop (aka my grandfather) had a 60s Ski-doo Olympique (just like the one in the fourth picture) that was in less than ideal condition. Among other issues, the steering arm had separated from the bottom of the steering post so the only thing that was keeping the steering post and handlebars in place was gravity.
Pop relied on this machine to haul firewood home and he was not one for spending money so a plan was devised to make use of the machine for its intended purpose despite the problem. This plan involved him and his son (my father) taking turns driving while the other would walk in front turning the skis as required with a rope that was tied to the ski loops.
The plan worked fine until it was Pop’s turn at the controls. You see, Pop had a pin in his leg that rendered his knee joint immobile so his balance wasn’t 100%. While driving, he lost his balance and fell backward and to one side with the bars and post still in hand. This was a major problem since a snowmobile’s throttle lever is mounted to the handlebars and is connected to the carburetor by a cable.
Needless to say, when Pop lost his footing, the old one lung Rotax Werk AG 2 stroke abruptly went full throttle, giving my father (who was manning the steering rope) just enough time to escape injury by jumping into the trees. The old sled continued alone on its ride of terror for quite a distance while Dad and Pop watched in horror. The rope that was tied to the ski loops quickly became wrapped around the track but it wasn’t enough to fully implead forward progress. The side of a neighbour’s shed finally brought things to halt but it was nearly too late, the old Oly’ was in a very story state.
Besides the damage from the impact, the skis were bent so badly from when the rope coiled up tight around the track that they had punctured the fuel tank. As I mentioned though, pop was not one for spending money that he didn’t have to. Rather than buying another machine, he elected to patch the Olympique up to a usable state, including having the steering linkage repared.
It is just in the last couple of years that the generic parts like the Tillotson carb rebuild kit have not been in my local Canadian Tire. Parts for skidoo still seem common enough. My snowmobile world changed tremendously for the worse with the discontinuation of the Yamaha Bravo, the last little 2 stroke sled available and a classic by any definition. Not much fun and pretty uncomfortable but the sled I would most like to have when problems could cause me to freeze to death. In the Canadian Arctic the Bravo was the most trusted sled on the ice for most of its 28 year run.
I am late to the game here, but I enjoyed the photos. They bring back a lot of memories. I grew up in Alaska and moved to warmer climes when I was 22, so I don’t see any kind of snowmobile any more. During my teenage years it seemed like everyone had at least one machine in the family. I had forgotten about the variety of brands available during that era. Thanks for the memories.
Way late here – especially with how excited I was when I first heard there was going to be a posting about a snowmobile junkyard.
Love the vintage sleds. Seeing how I live where Polaris got it’s start, and an hour away from where Arctic Cat got its, snowmobiling (or snowcatting as it’s usually referred to around here) is a huge part of our existence. Just like the automotive world, the vast tech improvements have made these old sleds completely obsolete as everyday rides. But like classic cars, there’s a certain ‘something’ about mixing up some 2 stroke fuel, trying to get the choke set just right and hope your plugs don’t foul, and finally, rewardingly putt-putting around with a cloud of blue smoke trailing behind you. I’m still keeping my eye open for another ’72 Charger 295. (although even if I found one, I’m sure the better half would wisely put a stop to that kind of acquisition).
Do you by chance own a Ski-doo GTX?
Nope – name comes from my 1968 Plymouth GTX