At 110+ years of age Harley-Davidson must be counted among America’s most successful and long lasting corporations. But looking back into the 1960’s and 1970’s there were partnerships, buy-outs and product experimentation that, in hind sight, were not always well thought out.
Looking for new ways to make use of technology, manufacturing capability and existing distribution channels, several powersports corporations ventured into the world of snow machines. AMF, American Machine Foundry, at that time soon to be the owner of Harley-Davidson and many other brands, was among them. An internal written study for AMF dated in 1964 offered “Proposed Specifications for the AMF Snow Sled.” It presented the huge growth potential of the snowmobile market and specs for AMF’s proposed concept vehicle. The study said the sled should feature a front-mounted two cycle engine, rugged drive belt, top speed of 25 mph, smooth and flowing styling, be lightweight, comfortable and focus on dependability. In 1965 AMF Western Tool made the decision to proceed with the new AMF snowmobile and production came fast!
Through 175 dealers, 3000 units were sold in 1966. After AMF’s acquisition of Harley-Davidson in 1969, the facility in York would produce Harley-Davidson motorcycles and snow machines. Then, making use of their recently acquired power-house brand, in late 1971, AMF made the decision to again re-design and re-brand their snow mobile line.
They dropped the Ski-Daddler name in favor of the hugely popular Harley-Davidson brand.
A handful of 1971 Harley-Davidson Snowmobiles were produced and the 1972 model year was the first full year for the Harley-branded sleds and the last for the Ski-Daddler sleds, both AMF offerings. Harley-Davidson dealers were offered the Harley snowmobile line as a separate product and some former Ski-Daddler dealers were also offered Harley snowmobile franchises. Promoting the brand, the Harley-Davidson sleds were advertised as using Harley engines, two-stroke singles which were conveniently sourced through the Italian Aermacchi connection; Harley had bought 50% of Aermacchi about 1960.
It was believed by AMF that they would sell more snowmobiles through the Harley-Davidson network with the Harley name. Soon the Harley sleds were assembled at the company’s Oak Creek, Missouri facility, sharing production facilities with the Harley-Davidson (AMF) golf cart. But, at the end of the 1975 snowmobile model year, it was announced that production of AMF Harley-Davidson snowmobiles would be discontinued. The eight year experiment had not been much of a success. And to complete the picture of that era in Harley-Davidson history, in 1981 Willy G. Davidson, Vaughn Beals and 11 other partners bought the company back from AMF. After a few tough years refocusing and rebuilding the company, profitability came in the late 1980’s.
The Sno-Clipper, Power Sled, Ski-Daddler and Harley-Davidson snowmobiles have remained popular with vintage collectors. We thank David Borre for loaning his 1972 Harley-Davidson Snowmobile and rare matching snow “trailer” for display at the National Motorcycle Museum.
It seemed to hit all at once. In 1967 a big, high performance bike was a 650 Triumph or a Harley Sportster. Then all hell broke loose about 1968 with the Norton Commando Fastback, and soon after the 750cc Triples from BSA and Triumph followed by the Honda CB750 and H1 Kawasaki. By 1973 there were the H2 and then Z1 Kawasakis, and the Suzuki GT750 Triple thrown in for a little flavor. Never had motorcycling seen such rapid evolution, and one-upsmanship in such a short period of time. In 1969 in an effort to extend the niche of the new BSA Triple, the Rocket III, and keep up with the pace of change, American designer Craig Vetter was given a BSA Rocket III to experiment with. The fantastic X75 Hurricane was the result.
BSA was out of business by 1973 and Norton was nearing its end. Competition from Japan was strong. The American market was extremely important to British bike manufacturer Triumph. It’s said that what Triumph was after was a chopper version of its 750cc triple to feed the styling trend fueled by Easy Rider; extended front ends, skinny front wheels and upswept exhaust were happening in the motorcycle scene. But working in glass fiber reinforced resin and plenty of chrome, schooled and knowing Craig Vetter gave them instead a more lasting look.
The standard Rocket III’s front end was slimmed by removing the fork gaitors and using an abbreviated chromed fender with light wire stays. Keeping the headlight high adds to the impression of long forks, which were extended about an inch over stock. The fuel tank, a sleek but too small two and a half gallon sculpture necked down to transition into integrated side-covers, then a seat pan. Upswept exhausts add motion and visual weight to the rear of the bike, though right side ground clearance was a problem.
A somewhat impractical styling exercise that hit late in the reign of the British motorcycle, more expensive than a standard Triumph Triple, the Hurricane was slow to sell. About 1200 Hurricanes were made. They are now highly collectible for their unique style by an American designer, Craig Vetter, and today prices are increasing rapidly.
|Engine||OHV Three Cylinder|
|Bore & Stroke||67mm x 70mm|
|Carburetors||Thre 27mm Amals|
|Suspension||Telescopic Fork / Dual Shock, Swingarm|
|Wheels/Tires||3.25 x 19 / 4.25 x 18|
|Brakes||Drum; 200mm / 175mm|
|Top Speed||115 MPH|
On Loan to the National Motorcycle Museum from Jerry Rewerts – L35
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Anamosa, Iowa 52205
Phone (319) 462-3925
Fax (319) 462-3982
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