Over 100 antique snowmobiles attend ninth annual rally

He builds cars worth $1-million – but Nic Brown’s pride and joy when it comes to riding was sold brand new in 1962 for $709.
Brown, of Keswick, had the oldest snowmobile at the ninth annual Antique and Classic Snowmobile Club of Canada rally held at the Shand Dam at Lake Belwood on the weekend. The rally was run by the Fergus Elora Belwood Snowmobile Club.
Brown’s was the oldest machine there from over 100 that were on hand – of all makes, models, and conditions. Some gleamed with hours of polishing, and others had seats that looked like the back of a melted radio.
But they are all part of the history of snowmobiling, a uniquely Canadian invention.
Brown’s Bombardier Ski Doo is a 1962 model, and it was the third year that those machines were being produced. With its boxy front end, it looks nothing like today’s modern machines.
The price for a new one, too, has gone up, and Brown said a new, four-stroke model can run as much as $17,000 today. The original machines were four stroke, but that soon changed. It changed back again due to environmental concerns.
Brown likes his old model just fine. How he came to own it is a story in itself.
“I bought it off the original owner,” Brown said. “He was looking for someone to look after it. It was his pride and joy. He wanted it kept up – and used.”
Brown said he told Ted Leonard, “I could do that.”
Leonard not only sold him the machine, but all the docu­ments and items that came with it – plus those that he added over the years.
Leonard was a photo­gra­pher for the Toronto Star, and Brown said that means he has stacks of photos, the original paperwork selling the machine from the factory to the dealership, and from the dealer­ship to Leonard, and then the paperwork handing the Ski Doo over to Brown.
Such things are important to the people who love their an­tiqu­es and collectibles. Brown was queried by many of the 100 antique snowmobile own­ers about his machine at the rally.
They lined up their ma­chines at the GRCA’s Lake Bel­wood office, a riot of col­ours, as aficionados swapped tales about their old snow machines.
Some other things came with Brown’s antique. Leonard, who passed away only a few months ago at age 96, also passed along the trophy he won in the first Keswick snow­mobile races when that town held a winter carnival back in 1963.
“I really miss him; he was a great guy,” Brown said.
As for the Keswick races, they were part of a winter fair.
“It was one of the first winter fairs,” Brown said. “They had the race, and I’ve got the trophy and everything to do with it.”
Brown does indeed still care for and drive his old machine, although he noted that he does not get out as much as he once did. Still, three or four times a year, he drives his old sled, with its seven horsepower, across the winter’s snow. The machine does not travel fast com­pared to today’s models, but, then again, it has no brakes, either.
Brown laughed and said those came in the next year’s models from Bombardier.
He noted that its early four-stroke engine soon lost favour among manufacturers, but now it is back in style, as much for environmental concerns as other reasons.
Brown misses Leonard, though, and said he used to visit and chat with him. Leonard kept notes on the machine’s performance over the years, and noted after several years that it had an oil leak. He placed a rag on the leak just below the windshield.
To this day, Brown has a rag just under the windshield to collect that still-leaking oil.
There are few oil leaks in the cars Brown builds today. He constructs race cars for world famous races in Daytona and Le Mans.
With a $1-million price tag, they do not exactly leap out the door, because it takes a special buyer to afford one, and Brown said they are built for “anybody who can afford it.”
The last time that happened, the car was built for a top figure in one of the top ten companies named in the annual Forbes magazine’s top 500 companies.
Meanwhile, rally organizer Hal Armstrong was pleased with the way the event was going at Lake Belwood. It was cold and crisp, but there was some sunshine and plenty of snow.
He said there were over 100 machines and that sets a record for the event.
antique snowmobiles are classified as 1980 and older sleds,” he said. “This even has become popular, as we have an agreement with the GRCA to allow the collectors to bring their sleds and display them and ride them on park property.”
The even at the lake this year was chosen as the official trail ride celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Antique and Classic Snowmobile Club of Canada.
When Armstrong had participants line up for a group photo, the members numbered in the dozens.