A few years ago, I got to meet fellow Starfire Kid Gordy Carlson and see the 1977 SnoPro he’s been the caretaker of a for a great many years. Gordy followed the Polaris race team just like a great many of us did back in the day. He’s also been a Polaris dealer and worked on sleds most of his life.
He’s been in possession of this beauty for a great many years. I’ve known he had it for a lot of years, but that visit was the first chance I had to see it in person.
If you look very close, you can see where the #1 was once stitched on the seat, which led us to believe it was one of Brad Huling’s 1977 SnoPro machines.
After checking the serial numbers with John Dietz from the Derby Track in Eagle River Wisconsin, the machine cam up as Brad Huling’s 1977 340cc Midnight Blue Express machine, his 340. The sled was in great shape for a race sled that has been raced (hard) for a great many years after the Midnight Blue Express.
Some months later, collector Brad Warning trucked this sled over to Brad Hulings shop in Michigan. He took one look at it and said “That ain’t mine”. After a lengthy discussion, we came to believe it was not Hulings sled, as it is missing key chassis compenents that only Brad’s sleds had, like an Arctic Cat chaincase and more. We then theorized that the serial numbers registered at Eagle River must have been transposed with Steve Thorsens.
Well, through more investigation and more photos that surfaced, that this is Brad Hulings 1977 340 and is the sled he won the 440 class with in Eagle River in 1977 with ‘SMI’ on the side, prompting many to think he had just won the 440 class with a 250.
In the book, I related the story of the first two IFS SnoPro’s built at Polaris in the fall of 1976. Largely the efforts of Jerry Bunke and Arlyn Sagge as well as Bob Eastman, they hand-built a 3-cylinder 440 and a 2-cylinder 250.
The 440 Jerry Bunke raced the whole year, and then it was raced by Berke Davis. Sadly, we now believe, many years later, that it was lost in a tragic fire.
After looking at all the 1977’s known to exist, we can now safely conclude that they took Omdahl’s 250 and gave it to Brad Hulings as his 340.
Hulings needed a 340 for the first race, so the team pulled a 340 motor out, put it in Don’s 250, swapped the handlebars, footloop and seat, and Brad was set.
That makes this the only surviving machine of the two first IFS machines built at Polaris, making it the first Polaris IFS machine ever!
There are some oddities on all the 1977’s – they are all prototyopes, after all. In this case, the torsion bar, normally mounted behind the front axle of the bulkhead is mounted through the front axle.. something that would have made it very difficult to reproduce if you were making a whole lot of these sleds.
The handlebars match Hulings 340, but there is only one or two known pictures of Omdahl on that 250 in Alaska, so they could be the same. They also made some big changes on the sled after the trip to Alaska and after some of the early races – like getting rid of the home made shocks and buying commercially available ones. That also makes it a little tough to figure this out, but again, by seeing all the other ones, this is the only possible one that could be Omdahl’s.
There is also some unique aspects to the shock towers and the clutch gaurd that match up to this sled perfectly.
It’s interesting that the first snow machine ever built at Polaris was lost in a fire – and of the first IFS sleds built at Polaris, one was lost in a fire. Perhaps it means this machine’s destiny was in place before they even finished building it. If so, it’s got a nice homecoming to the Polaris Experience Center in Roseau to sit along side the now famous Machine #2.