All Original! 1969 Bolens Diablo Rouge 502

This red devil is a 1969 Bolens Diablo Rouge 502 snowmobile. It’s hard to tell what it is unless a person was either raised in this era and lived in snow country or they started getting in to vintage snowmobiles as an adult. The unusual tractor-like sled seen here is listed on eBay with a current bid price of just over $1,300 but the reserve isn’t met. This is a highly desirable and rare machine and it’s in fantastic, original condition. It’s been stored for years in the loft of the seller’s shed in Mazeppa, Minnesota, about an hour southeast of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Hmm..

This Diablo Rouge 502 cost around $969 in 1969, which equates to around $6,300 today! But, believe it or not, that’s still somewhat “inexpensive” for a snowmobile today. The Diablo Rouge line was made by FMC Corporation’s Bolens Division in Port Washington, Wisconsin, a state that knows a thing or three about snowmobiling. I love the photo above, it looks like something out of a horror movie where this evil machine is chasing someone and they fall, and, well, you know the rest. Look at those aluminum cleats on the double-tracks! There were 28 “bogiesunder there as most machines had in those days compared to a “slide” suspension system.

Isn’t this thing strange? For those of you who didn’t grow up in snow country this may seem like a real oddball, and even for those of us who did grow up with snowmobiles they were strange. This tow-behind configuration is almost like a tractor that Jamie showed us back in November, where the power is a separate unit and the rider, or driver, sits on a little sled, or sleigh, and gets pulled around. I’ve never ridden one of these but it would be an interesting ride to say the least. Here’s a YouTube video, and another one. They’re a little awkward in corners, but that’s the fun with these old snowmobiles, they’re just so goofy and unusual that people absolutely love to see them today.

Speaking of the sled/sleigh/cutter, this is where the driver and/or rider sat. It would be a strange sensation to not actually be on the machine that’s doing the pulling. There was a tether so if something happened and you got separated the engine would shut off; so much for those horror movies. The skis have a urethane coating over maple wood construction and you can see the spots where the riders’ feet would rest on the top of the skis and there is plenty of storage under the seat.

Bolens made two models, the 502 and the 503. Or, actually there was a very early 500 model but the 502 became the workhorse with updates after thoroughly testing the model 500. The 503 is probably the most sought after model of the Diablo Rouge with its electric start, battery for powering the lighting at any speed, and a better muffler. The engine is a two-cycle, 300 CC, 16 hp Hirth with pull-start and these machines had a top speed of around 35 mph. Have any of you seen a Bolens Diablo Rouge before?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    And now this. I’ve got to say, if there ever was a visual meaning to the saying, ” the answer to the question nobody asked”, this has GOT to be it. ( kind of like the Chrysler Sno-Runner) Can you imagine, the board room of Bolens, and all the big-wigs thinking, this will be great. It wasn’t great. Fact is, and I lived in Wisconsin all my life, I’ve never seen one.If I was going down a trail ( which in some places, is barely wide enough for 2 regular sleds, much less, this) I think I’d head for the ditch. This doesn’t make a lick of sense, what’s next, a garden tiller with a seat on the back? I’m sure some enterprising Yooper or Minnesotean already has one. Great find, Scotty.

  2. Dairymen

    There was a reason this design didn’t take off. Looks more like a death trap on tracks. It’s different and thanks but no thanks.

    Like 1
    • g

      Not really compared to 120hp+ and 100+mph machines today.

    • andre chalut

      I drove one for 30 years , a lot of pleasure very powerful ,no accident , it did not take the market because of the low speed , but it could corner very sharp , just turn the handle ,I modify the sled using water skies carrying 5 logs of 8 feet per load or piking up sap for maple syrup 25 gallons , I also modify the front part by adding some support on both side and load it of 6 4 footer and just walk behind in the summer , thank you to BOLENS

      Like 3
  3. Mark H

    A friend of mine in high school had a Bolens Diablo. I lived in a rural subdivision adjacent to a large forested area, so he brought it over several times. What I remember is every time going out with it something would break. Since we graduated in 1971, it must have not been a very old machine. We lived about 20 miles west of Port Washington, WI.

  4. Bingo

    Those tracks would rip the hell out of an asphalt surface.

    • Karl

      Not at all, Aluminum buddy!

  5. Steve M

    I believe this to be an early vehicle for making and packing cross country ski trails through the countryside. This can lay down a relatively wide smooth track unlike a snowmobile.

    Like 1
  6. Francisco

    Reverse would be a tricky ordeal.

  7. geomechs geomechs Member

    Our local Binder dealer took on the Bolens franchise. I think he sold a couple of these before he decided that it just didn’t have the appeal or the handling that snowmobile buyers wanted. The OMC Snocruiser was the most popular back in the mid 60s and was soon joined (and quickly surpassed) by the ranks of Arctic Cat and Ski Doo. The Bolens outfit had plenty of power but had all the handling of a brick on mud. It disappeared as quickly as it appeared….

  8. grant

    This is cool in that I’ve never seen one, and due to my predilection to dangerous toys I absolutely want it. Someone mentioned a few oddballs including the SnoRunner, one was featured here a while back. I’ve been looking for one since.

    • sofst1

      Grant, I have one for sale ,let me know -mainlyart@cinci.rr.com

    • Eric Hare

      If you have a predilection to dangerous toys you need a snow plane.
      https://youtu.be/ChHNgU-NGfM
      You may want to skip ahead 20 seconds into the video

      • Francisco

        Too cool, Eric.

  9. Woodie Man

    Is there ANYTHING on wheels (or tracks) that Howard doesn’t know SOMETHING about?

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Woodie Man, that’s not entirely true. We all have our strong interests, but I learn so much here, it’s great. For example, I had no idea what “cocktail shakers” were on James Corvair.

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Hi guys. Always something to learn on this site. When I stop learning that will be the time to start pushing up daisies. Cocktail shakers, that’s another new term for me too….

      • Howard A Member

        Amen, brother.

  10. chuck farley

    The very first snow machine I ever drove was one of these – it was a rental. As I recall it was yellow in color. The tracks threw snow in your face like it hated you.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi chuck, like the hus ski in my link above?

      • chuck farley

        Actually – that first one I rented may well have been a Hus-ski since it was yellow, not red like the Diablo Rouge. For a very first ride it was sort of OK, but I sure wound up all snow-covered from the tracks throwing snow all over me. The one in your link looks familiar (but it was a LONG time ago).

  11. G2

    I had one of these – were fun on a flat hard packed surface – you could really get the caboose fishtailin while the front was grinding away. But in the bumps and mogels….the steering bar would slap you under the chin if you were leaning into it..

    Like 1
    • Doug

      Good point, G2, I got 2 broken ribs and a cracked tooth from the old diablo! We still have 2!! (And the original yellow one, in the barn!!)
      Lyons, Colorado

      • Robert Kucharek

        You have a 444 in your barn?

      • Doug darcey

        Yes, the original yellow 444, not in fabulous shape!! Did you want to buy it??? It’s in Colorado near boulder!

  12. Brad

    We had one..Our families first snowmobile..I miss the later Artic Cats that followed.

  13. C Brand

    Howard A that thing looks like a mini dozer minus the blade lol certainly not built for speed!

  14. roger

    It was just another entry into the saturated snowmobile market in the late 60s. I have one. It needs restoring, not running. But when it ran it was slow and cumbersome,but put somebody on the hood and this baby would climb!

  15. Alan (Michigan)

    Another bit of Educational Material from the fine folks and participating readers of Barn Finds! Many bits, actually…. There must be a “Snow Craft” museum somewhere which would have examples of machines like this. The Honda? Wow!

  16. Nova Scotian

    Back in the day, I believe the original intention for this machine is for pack ice motoring, in wide open tundra space….the artic. North or South Pole. Kill a caribou or large seal and have this thing haul you and your food back to camp. Problem was marketing, or lack of market. Most Inuit have little money, and communication with outside world non existent at the time…and then there is this little problem of gasoline to run it… just my observation..lol

  17. Dale

    The Diablo in the picture is actually a fine machine with a big following of snow nuts. It’s only 30″ wide and will not hog a trail. I’ve had several of these machines. You can haul two adults and a kid or one adult and 3 kids plus 3-12 packs of Old Style in the trunk under the seat. I took ownership of the machine in the picture last Saturday in Minnesota. It now resides in northern Ohio with some other oddballs. If you need any parts or have questions or need information go to gogodiablo.com. Bruce can help you out!

    Like 2
    • Gerry Stencell

      I drove one that our neighbours had.
      Excellent bush machine

  18. Norman Lefebvre

    Hi Folks in 2009 I inherited a 503 and a 501 from my father. We used them when we were kids on LacLa Nonne in Alberta .They are a blast and great for fishing . I am in the starting stages of restoration. I have since moved back to the lake and can’t wait to get them back on the lake.

  19. Tony

    And it was in 1969 at the age of 11 living in northern Ontario that I mastered handling the Diablo Rouge. It was much easier to handle than it looks, yet never much for speed this thing could pull anything, at least to an eleven year olds thinking. I would still like to own one of these though, it’d be great for the hunt camp or most anything wilderness related. I believe that it would seat an adult and a couple of kids comfortably with a wow factor of 10!

    Like 1
  20. Keith

    We had one back in 1969 and I agree with Tony on their performance. Not much of a trail breaker though. I own one now and take it to events. I also have a Huski, a 1963-64 model which was lighter and did perform on the trail breaking duties. This latter design was popular with outdoor enthusiasts for trapping and hunting during the winter. FMC bought up the Huski franchise to augment their lawn and garden plant and promptly went to work on changing the design, not for the better. They later went to conventional type sleds, but it was to late.

  21. Andy

    Had one as a kid what a workhorse. 3 of us on the sled and another 4 on the tobaggan. We had a great time. Not fast or sexy but could plow thru a snow covered swamp like nothing else could

    Like 1
  22. Linkster

    We had “Diablo Day” here in Sobieski, WI today. Just enough snow to get my two 503’s some work before season’s end. We were having a great time when a neighbor stopped in along with a young man (20-something) who is a mechanic for BMW motorcycles. While not the most elegant of machines, he was fascinated by the 503 and after taking a bunch of pix, eagerly took it for a spin through the woods. After horsing that 503 through some corners, he commented that he had done an upper body workout earlier in the week that was not so demanding! But the grin never left his face. If nothing else, the Diablo certainly has the “cool factor” locked up!

  23. Dan Brackett

    I grew up and still live in Southern Maine. Our first snowmobile was a used Hus Ski “200”. My dad purchased a new 1968 Diablo Rouge “502” from the Bolens Distributor in Bangor. The Hus-Ski was in my opinion a better balanced machine. You certainly received a workout riding/driving either sled. My dad gave the Diablo to my uncle in the late 70’s. My uncle had a farm in Rangley, my dad thought it would helpful to get around in the tough winters up there. I ended up with the Hus-Ski, still have it, but it is in need of a thorough restore. If you ever have a chance to ride one of these machines, do it, you won’t regret it.

    • Andy

      For sale ?

  24. Jay Henderson

    My Uncle had one on a farm just outside of Madison Wisconsin. What I remember most about riding it was that when the tractor started to go up a hill and the sled was on the flat that the steering bar would smack into your knees or legs. This had to have been either ’69 or ’70, the “modern” sleds would run circles around you.

  25. J. Isom

    grew up with one of these, use to take the sled off and tie a tabogon on to haul firewood to the house.

  26. David Di Lanzo

    I have 2 Diablo’s, one is parts. Both are ’67. My complete one is ser. # 11411. The 411th made, considered an early build. My buddy has a ’67 also and I’m trying to buy another plus an early 60’s 444 Husky. Look that one up.

  27. andré chalut

    The diablo rouge was my first and last snow machine , I have used it to transport firewood 8 feet long, i have walk bind it and loaded the front to transport cement sand and water across the forest to create surveyor mark. It is slow ,but fast enough , it does not slide sideways on ice ,good in tight corner .

    Like 2

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