One Track Mind: 1980 Chrysler Sno Runner

Late-fall is the time when some of us in areas that get snow start to get the itch. Maybe it’s just a symptom from last winter’s frostbite but, then again, maybe it’s time to look for a vintage snowmobile. This 1980 Chrysler Sno Runner isn’t a “snowmobile” in the way that most of us think of them, but this is an unusual winter ride. It can be found here on eBay in Essex Junction, Vermont, an area that knows a thing or two about snow. The seller’s buy-it-now price is $3,000 or you can make an offer.

I have never seen a yellow Sno Runner and the seller thinks that this is 1 of 100 prototypes made not for sale but to test the rubber belt drive system. Chrysler Sno Runners come up fairly often but they aren’t yellow. I’m a big fan of brightly-colored vehicles so I’d pay up for a yellow Sno Runner if I had to have a Sno Runner. Here is a YouTube video showing one in action. You’ll need to have good balance and a little luck to ride one it looks like.

I’m a big fan of small motorcycles, scooters, and mini bikes and small cars and trucks, and really any small vehicle. At 6′-5″ tall, that really seems strange but maybe I’m trying to relive my youth or something. Speaking of small, one of the biggest gripes with the Sno Runner, other than the incredibly unwieldy ride, was the small engine. It was a Chrysler Marine Power Bee which is a 134cc two-stroke that may have not been enough power for most people. 25 mph on this thing probably feels like you’re really moving and the one in the YouTube video looks scary fast to me, or just plain scary. They really weren’t the best on powder snow or slushy snow or anything but well-packed trails.

The track is interesting and having only one ski in front would seem to make them almost like riding a motorcycle on the snow. The seller lists a few features which they say are unique to this particular yellow Sno Runner such as a special carburetor, reinforced ski, extra bracing, and a high-performance exhaust. I don’t know if this is really a special prototype or not, have any of you seen a yellow Sno Runner? Have any of you ridden a Sno Runner?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Said it before, I’ll say it again, thank you Scotty. I grew up near Hartford, Wis. and saw 1st hand the Chrysler Marine division in Hartford, Wis. Originally, the Kissel Motor Car plant, West Bend outboards took it over, and in the 60’s became Chrysler Marine. I believe the Sno-Runner was the last gasp for Chrysler before becoming Force Outboards, then finally, part of Mercury Marine. I read, Chrysler originally presented it to the military as a personal troop mover in the winter. Can you imagine if they actually went for it? That motor is the original West Bend motor that powered everything from ground pounders( got to be tough for that) to, well, Sno-Runners. As Scotty sez, the Sno-Runner fell short on many levels, deep snow being the worst. Needed more power and a wider track. The Wisconsin Automobile Museum in Hartford,( well worth the visit, btw) chronicles and displays Wisconsins vehicle products, and has one hanging from the ceiling. Classic swing and a miss. I find it’s highly ironic, today you can buy “Snow bikes” which are basically motorcross bikes with a ski and a track, which look like a blast to ride.

    Like 4
    • Tony Prino

      Rube Goldberg?

      Like 1
  2. Andy

    I picture this low-siding quite easily. It’s a shame, something this size could have been a lot of fun.

    Like 1
  3. Grandpa Lou

    After buying a new Plymouth in the late 70s, my Spectator magazine that Chrysler sent me, really was pushing these. Being from Northern Wisconsin,my dealer really pushed them too, wonder what his margin on them was. In those days,used real snowmobiles were a dime a dozen,so why buy this?

    Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      Grandpa, where you from? I lived in Phillips before coming to Colorado.

      Like 1
      • Grandpa Lou

        Buffalo County.

  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    Saw lots of regular snowmobiles over the years but I haven’t seen one of these. It would be interesting to see one of these up close and personal. But it would be like the dog that chases the car; I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I caught it…

    Like 6
  5. glen

    My brother still has one, mine is long gone. They were fun, but not very practical. Definately a conversation piece!

    Like 5
  6. Dangerous Dave

    I worked in a motorcycle shop that sold these, or should I say didn’t sell these, we couldn’t give them away.

    Like 3
  7. Dpbauer

    I’ve worked on a few of these over the years. Use to find them in barns all over SE WI. Parts were readily findable and these were easy to work on. Riding them was a balancing trick! I crashed a few times test riding. But still fast in 12” snow-base up and down hills. Good memories :)

    Like 4
  8. theGasHole

    $3000 seems like a lot. There have been two for sale here in the last year (North Jersey) for $1,000 in similar shape.

    • glen

      In yellow, or orange?

  9. Doc

    I own two of these- red ones- that I got in trade for an old pinball. They are a ton of fun, and go faster than you’d think. I replaced the rubber cleats with steel ones of my own design. As others pointed out, they aren’t good in deep snow.

    Like 2
  10. Charles Mann

    Parked my red one 3 years ago.
    Guess it is time for it to find a new home.
    Will send info to Barnfinds, but it is in a garage.
    Illinois does not have the snow we had a couple years ago.
    Global ?.!;/:#
    Charles

  11. Charles Mann

    Parked my red/orange one 3 years ago.
    Guess it is time for it to find a new home.
    Will send info to Barnfinds, but it is in a garage.
    Illinois does not have the snow we had a couple years ago.
    Global ?.!;/:#
    Charles
    Jesse, You asked what color is is.

  12. Ken S

    I had started my career with Sears 42 years ago, this was originally developed by Poulan/ Weedeater, and was pitched to a Sears buyer, and we did a lot of testing during development, and they were fun, but I think it was the thought of limited use would not support a lot of sales. Poulan tried a bit more development we even got a sample prototype of that final design which is the featured one here, then they sold it to Mercury Marine, which was a producer of some of the Gamefisher outboard motors that Sears sold.

  13. Keith Hall

    My friend “Yellow Submarine” had one in Chgo. We would go out in the park and l would have on my cross country ski’s and he would pull me with a water ski tow line. Ignorant but big Fun!!!

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