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A Harley snowmobile? Yes! 40 years ago, Harley-Davidson started selling snowmobiles. They were advertised as “a new brand of excitement” as AMF guided them to expand their horizons for better or worse.
Today, the Harley snowmobile that was billed as “a machine so right only Harley-Davidson could make it” is a collectors item.
Harley-Davidson made snowmobiles from 1971 to 1975. Like the Harley-Davidson scooters and mopeds from the 1960’s, the snowmobile adventure was short lived. Even though they were not a huge success, and overall the Harley sleds were not radically different than the competition, a Harley-Davidson snowmobile in good condition today can fetch a decent price. They are not worth a ton of money, but they are sought after by collectors and folks that restore vintage snowmobiles.
Forty years later, the Harley snowmobile still is cool, at least we at Motorcycle Information think so.
When their snowmobile was introduced for 1971, Harley advertised their “exclusive new transmission/drive unit with a 4.5:1 ratio for explosive acceleration of the mark” and their “10 inch disc brake”. While they did have a twin cylinder engine, it was not the famous Harley v-twin that we all know.
A 2-stroke parallel twin engine powered the Harley sleds. It was fairly similar to other popular snowmobile engines of the day. The 1971 model had a 398cc Harley-Davidson engineered and manufactured engine that was advertised as producing “30 spirited horsepower”.
The skis had “exclusive Harley-Davidson-designed hydraulic damping”. A few years later, Harley came out with the 440cc model, actually a 433cc, but named 440 since that was the common class for large-engined snowmobiles back then.
Snowmobiles became very popular in the late 1960’s through the mid-1970’s. It is amazing to look back now at how many companies were making them. Famous manufacturers like Massey-Ferguson, Johnson, Evinrude, John Deere, and Suzuki might surprise some folks. These companies, like Harley-Davidson, are normally associated today with other types of vehicles.
By the way, if you plan to do any work on these old Harleys or any of the others from that era, our recommendation is to get the Clymer Snowmobile Service Manual 1962-1986. This is a huge book (512 pages) and covers Harley-Davidson and loads of vintage snowmobiles.
The Motor Company jumped on the “sled” bandwagon too, even though it turned out to be a short-lived venture. With advertising slogans like “when it snows we reign”, Harley snowmobile owners probably expected H-D to stay in the snowmobile business longer than they did.
Even though 1975 was the last year of a Harley snowmobile, their ad for ’75 proclaimed “Count on us” and “we’re here to serve and satisfy you with the finest snowmobile made”. We’re not knocking H-D for this since all of this obviously coincided with their infamous AMF years.
In the Harley spirit, a line of snowmobile clothing and accessories was available from Harley dealers to go with your Harley snowmobile. They even sold Harley-Davidson “Sno-Oil” two-stroke engine oil. A cigarette lighter was another available accessory, which in modern times is known better as a power outlet.
If you wonder about the value of any of this stuff today, a pair of original Harley snowmobile gloves from 1972 was on eBay with bids of over $100 at the time of this writing!