RIP Gordon Rudolph

You cannot tell the tale of the famed Polaris Midnight Blue Express without telling the story of the engineer, businessman and athlete named Gordon Rudolph.

Gordon’s story is laid out in the book, and it tells the detailed account of how Gordon Rudolph and the Polaris Race Team first connected in 1972 when Gordon needed parts for the independent front suspension machines he was building.

Rudolph had been working on the IFS for several years already on highly modified Rupp machines and had gotten the IFS to work well. For 1973, he was ready to build about ten sleds with the new front end he created.

Rudolph  called Polaris, and Leroy Lindblad convinced him to buy Polaris chaincases, engines and drive train parts, because, as Lindblad assured Rudolph, the Polaris sleds for 1973 would be “a little faster and slightly less ugly than the 1972 versions.”

Rudolph’s new sleds worked very well, but he was down on power. After a solid showing at Eagle River in 1975, Gordon and Bob Eastman met next to the track where Gordon told Eastman “Bob if I had one of those new motors, I could win some races!” to which Eastman calmly replied “If we had your chassis, we could win all the races.”

It would be another year before Eastman got the budget to enlist Rudolph’s help, and Polaris bought a three-cylinder and a two-cylinder version of the IFS sleds. From those two machines,  Polaris built their first IFS sleds using Rudolph’s vehicles as the starting point.  They re-engineered Rudolph’s work to make the new Polaris sleds more robust, lighter, and easier to work on.

The rest, as they say, is history. Polaris did win just about all of the races.

Gordon Rudolph passed away recently at his home in Michigan.

Below is a sample of the photos from Gordon’s personal collection.


The passion, triumph, dominance and tragedy of one of the most successful
efforts in motorsports: The Polaris Professional Race Team


Starfire Kids Books