1977 Polaris Race Team in Ironwood or Hartford, Michigan.

New 77 Photos, Restoration Progress and Minnesota Hates Me

First: Newly Discovered 1977 Photos

These showed up in a facecrook group; I do not know the photographer. I can tell that it is early in the 1977 season, so most likely, these were taken in Ironwood, or Hartford, Michigan, in December of 1976. Click each to see a larger version, and note some interesting stuff in the last photo.

The mighty Polaris Factory Race trailer with a crowd gathering around it. 

I think the gentleman on the left, bent over the sled on its side is Jerry Bunke. Judging by the way he is wearing the Polaris cap and his hair. 

That would mean this is Jerry Bunke’s 1977 440, one of the two first IFS ever built, believed to have been lost in a fire many years later. 

You can tell this is a 440 by the case and where the motor mount bolts are. Note the snow shield added to keep ice off the steering and the wire mesh under the motor. Also, the two tubes that appear to go to the front of the tunnel.. or perhaps they curve upward and are most likely the radiator hoses. 

Next: Restoration Progress!

For a very long time now, I have been working on the Don Omdahl 250 / Brad Hulings 340 from 1977 and the Jim Bernat 340 / Steve Thorsen 250 IFS from 1977.  

Both had been drag-raced over the years, and the Torsion bar and Torsion bar mounts had been cut out. I had some of the original Torsion bar pieces for the Bernat/Thorsen sled but nothing for the other until Troy Pierce made me the two end pieces that connect via rod end bearing to the trailing arm.

So I gathered the materials, researched, then cut and fit the pieces. Now they needed to be welded in. But after looking for some time, I wasn’t finding someone I could trust.

If you don’t know this, I have relocated to a very southern, much warmer state. I love so many people in Minnesota that I can’t even count them all, but I could no longer choose to live in cold winters, the humid summers, and under the walls of mosquitos. Since the Bernat/Thorsen sled has a magnesium bulkhead, I wanted to take it north to Performance Concepts in Mokena, Illinois. Owner James Costa (better known as J.C.) is a very talented guy with a great shop and skills you will not find in many places… including the ability to fix up almost 50-year-old magnesium. 

The Hulings sled needed the torsion bar and mounts and was not too tough to assemble. But the Bernat/Thorsen sled had a broken-off shock tower ear, cracks all over the place, and some bad attempted fixes, where someone had tried to weld the magnesium with an aluminum stick, leaving a puddle of goo that fell out when we tapped it. A larger plate riveted to the recoil side was holding the bulkhead together. 

James got to work with a smile on his face as soon as we had the machines in the door; About eight hours later, we had removed a bad dent in the running board, welded all the cracks, patched in missing pieces, and had both torsion bars in place, looking perfectly like they did originally. and we took care of some extra rivet holes that needed to be filled. I could not be more thrilled with J.C.’s work. It looks like art to me.

Now I can finally start cleaning them and putting them back together. 

I also dropped off two machines at a top-secret Minnesota location where they will get the motors cleaned up and checked out, taken apart, painted, and reassembled. I needed help with all these projects, and I found some that are very good… more on that as they get done.  

Finally: MInnesota Hates Me!

Just kidding.. Minnesota does not hate me, but sometimes I have to wonder. Three times in three years I have driven to and then out of Minnesota, and it’s the same: As soon as I get there, it clouds over, and as soon as I leave it clears up. I’ll leave with my evidence from this last trip: The first photos is leaving central Minnesota. The second one is just past the Iowa border. 

Coincidence? I think not. 😉 

Minnesota - Cold, Dreary, Damp and Depressing

Driving south in Minnesota…

Leaving Minnesota is always a joy.

…it magically clears up at the Iowa border!


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


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