Bolens was one of the most iconic snowmobile manufacturers in the late ‘60s. Although the company produced regular snowmobiles, the most famous Bolens machines were arguably the two-piece Hus-Ski sleds. Because of the front-end drive, they looked like a huge track-powered rototiller. Surprisingly, you can still find some similar vehicles in the marketplace like the popular SnowDog. If you want to learn more about vintage Bolens snowmobiles and find out where you can still find one, this post is for you.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know about these iconic sleds into this post!
Bolens Snowmobile History
The history of Bolens snowmobiles goes back to the ‘50s and began with another manufacturer, called Hus-Ski Limited.
This company was located in Pointe-Claire, Quebec and it started building its first prototypes in 1957-1958.
After more than five years of development and testing, production started on Hus-Ski snowmobiles in 1962. The first model the company launched was the 1963 Hus-Ski Snow Traveller.
There’s no question that this machine stood out from the crowd in many ways, as it was completely different than any other snowmobile at that time.
Unlike regular sleds, the Hus-Ski Snow Traveller was a radical twin-track powered machine. The tracks with the engine on top looked like a garden tractor. This unit was placed in front of the rider who sat on a little trailer behind the machine.
As you might assume, Hus-Skis were unmistakable sleds on the trails!
This vehicle was so unique that not even the manufacturer positioned it as a snowmobile. Instead, it was described as a “mix of skiing and motorized transportation.” Driving the vehicle was called “hus-skiing.”
Let’s see what a contemporary ad said about the product:
“Something new has been added to the wonderful world of winter sport. Snow can be fun to ride on and hus-skiing combines all the thrills and pleasures of skiing with the convenience of motor transportation. With a Hus-Ski snow traveller, you can really enjoy the winter wonderland. In comfort and safety, you can have fun on a family outing on a brisk winter day; explore together forest and countryside; combine ice travel, skiing and hill climbing with the wind in your face and the hum of the skis as you swing out to take a turn.
Hus-skiing is great fun. It is also a practical and economical way of travelling in snow country. Farmers use Hus-Skis for light hauling chores.” …
“Hus-ski, a product of more than five years’ development engineering, combines top quality and maximum performance. It is so manoeuverable, it turns in less than its length; so simple to operate that a child can be driver, and so safe that you need have no fear of letting him drive.
Hus-ski has simple, functional yet streamlined design. Its “Safety Control” stops the snow traveller immediately when the operator is not in his seat. The power unit is ahead of the driver, in the safe position where it belongs. Safety has been engineered into the Hus-Ski design.
The fun, the excitement and good health of winter outdoors can be yours with Hus-Ski. Call your nearest Hus-Ski dealer today, see the new Hus-Ski snow traveller for yourself and invite your friends and your family to join this fastest-growing wintertime sport.”
Thanks to these unique features, the unusual Hus-Ski offered an outstanding riding experience, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable vehicle out there. Let’s face it, the rider sat on a little trailer, which was referred to as a ski seater.
This unit was actually a rigid metal frame that ran on a pair of skis. Yes, that’s right, this tow-behind seat didn’t feature any suspension. It was only equipped with a padded ironing-board-like seat bolted on top of the frame.
The biggest advantages of this design were its flexibility and excellent skill at breaking trails.
Due to its design, the machine was easy to transport, as the tractor unit was designed to fit in a station wagon. The separate ski seater could be transported on the roof rack.
Regarding dimensions, the overall length of the machine was 115 inches. The tractor unit was only 54 inches long, 25 inches wide, and 27 inches high. The weight of the vehicle was only 250 pounds.
This unique machine was powered by a 2-stroke, single-cylinder West Bend Power Bee engine that provided 10 HP.
The engine was mounted on top of the tracks and featured a “lay-down” position to keep the center of gravity low.
Although later models were available with bigger power sources, the single-cylinder engine was available until the last production year. The machines utilized Tillotson carburetors, Salsbury clutches, and a yellow paint job with black trim.
By 1964, the new Hus-Ski lineup contained two models. The Hus-Ski 200 featured an 8.8 HP JLO engine that offered a top speed of 20 mph.
The more powerful Hus-Ski 400 came with a 10.4 HP power mill and could reach about 25 mph.
The more advanced Hus-Ski 200-A and the single-track 600 were introduced in 1965. The latter was propelled by a large wide track that utilized a side drive sprocket system.
Unfortunately, this model proved to be unstable, so some of them were finally completed with dual tracks.
The last model, which was introduced before Hus-Ski was acquired by Bolens, was the 1966 Hus-Ski 444. This well-balanced sled merged the proven features of the predecessors 600 and the 200-A.
Hus-Skis Turn into Bolens Snowmobiles
The Wisconsin-based Bolens was a Division of FMC Corporation (Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation). The company purchased Hus-Ski Limited in 1965 and moved the production from Canada to Port Washington, Wisconsin.
The machines were rebranded to “Bolens Hus-Ski” and the Bolens snowmobile brand was born. These iconic two-piece sleds remained in production from 1965-1969.
The first Bolens snowmobile lineup featured two models, which were basically the legacy of the previous owner. These were respectively the Bolens Hus-Ski 200-A and the Bolens Hus-Ski 600.
In subsequent years the Bolens Hus-Ski lineup was rebranded again, which meant a red paint job and the catchy name of “Bolens Diablo Rouge.” These sleds were already powered by 300cc Hirth engines and reached a top speed of 40 mph.
The twin tracks utilized a bogie-wheel suspension while the wooden skis got a special urethane coating.
The tow-along seat offered a place for 3 riders, was 43 inches long and weighed about 60 pounds.
This lineup was produced from 1967 through 1969, when 2-piece Bolens snowmobiles disappeared from the market.
There’s no question that there were many advantages to this awkward front-drive design.
The vehicle did a great job in deep snow as it basically “floated” on top of the surface. Consequently, it was much less prone to sinking in powder compared to regular snowmobiles.
Thanks to the hitch between the engine and the ski seater unit, the sled was able to turn in less than its length. Also, riders appreciated the traction and braking abilities of the large tracks.
All of these features made Bolens snowmobiles great utility sleds.
On the other hand, this odd design had many hidden drawbacks as well.
When the first Hus-Ski snowmobiles were introduced, the manufacturer emphasized the safety of these vehicles. As one of the original ads claimed:
“Hus-Ski is so safe that even a child can be a driver.”
Unfortunately, in the end, these machines did not prove to be completely safe. Why?
One of the most dangerous parts of these sleds was arguably their handlebar, which was basically an arched metal tube mounted in front of the driver.
This handlebar became especially dangerous when the machine went through a bigger mogul or a trail undulation.
In these cases, the handlebar suddenly moved up causing various facial injuries. According to SuperTraxMag, at that time nobody wore full-face helmets, so these accidents could end in dental surgeries.
What’s more, the odd design of the vehicle was also dangerous for the legs as well. Hitting a snowbank at a high speed could even cause broken knees or other injuries.
On top of that, there was always the risk of the seater unit accidentally coming unhooked during the ride. As you might assume, this resulted in very tricky situations!
Finally, Bolens decided to switch to the industry-standard snowmobile design.
Production of the new Sprint lineup was started in 1969, but these machines lagging behind its competitors. After some bumpy years, Bolens started a cooperation agreement in order to use Kiekhaefer (Mercury) engines in 1972.
In this model year, all of the machines were powered by the 440 Kiekhaefer engine, which cranked out a remarkable 40 HP. But it seems this engine upgrade was the swan song of Bolens sleds.
Even these powerful engines were not able to save the brand and Bolens snowmobiles disappeared from the market after the 1972 model year.
Bolens Snowmobile Models
For your convenience we’ve listed some of the most popular Bolens snowmobile models:
- 1969 Bolens Diablo Rouge 503 (Engine: 300cc Hirth 54R3)
- 1969 Bolens Sprint 620 (Engine: 296cc JLO L297)
- 1969 Bolens Sprint 621 (Engine: 296cc JLO L297E)
- 1969 Bolens Sprint 624 (Engine: 310cc Bolens 2Z15)
- 1970 Bolens S-295 (Engine: 296cc JLO L297)
- 1970 Bolens TW315 (Engine: 310cc Bolens 2Z15)
- 1970 Bolens S-340 (Engine: 336cc JLO L340)
- 1970 Bolens TW-399 (Engine: 399cc Kohler K399-2)
- 1970 Bolens TW-400 (Engine: 399cc Kohler K399-2)
- 1971 Bolens TW-292 (Engine: 310cc Bolens 2Z15.70)
- 1971 Bolens TW-295 (Engine: 292cc Bolens 2Z300)
- 1971 Bolens TW-340 (Engine: 336cc Bolens 2Z340)
- 1971 Bolens TR-399 (Engine: 396cc Bolens 3Z400)
- 1971 Bolens TR-440 (Engine: 438cc Bolens 3Z440)
- 1972 Bolens 83293 (Engine: 292cc Bolens 2Z300)
- 1972 Bolens 83295 (Engine: 292cc Bolens 2Z300)
- 1972 Bolens 83340 (Engine: 336cc Bolens 2Z340)
- 1972 Bolens 83433/WT (Engine: 433cc Kiekhaefer 440S)
- 1972 Bolens 83440/WT (Engine: 433cc Kiekhaefer 440S)
- 1972 Bolens 83440/SS (Engine: 433cc Kiekhaefer 440S)
The forerunners of Bolens snowmobiles were the Canadian Hus-Ski sleds, which were as follows:
- 1962-63 Hus-Ski Snow Traveller (Engine: 10 HP West Bend)
- 1963-64 Hus-Ski 200 (Engine: 8 HP JLO)
- 1963-64 Hus-Ski 400 (Engine: 10.4 HP JLO)
- 1964-65 Hus-Ski 200A (Engine: 8 HP JLO)
- 1964-65 Hus-Ski 600 (Engine: 10.4 HP JLO)
Bolens Snowmobiles for Sale
The unique design and the few years of production make Hus-Ski and Bolens snowmobiles attractive for collectors and vintage sled fans.
As you might assume, many of these sleds have landed in museums and private collections. Unfortunately, they appear rarely on the trails or in vintage races!
If you’re considering buying one, be prepared for a lot of research. But if you are lucky, you may still find a vintage Bolens snowmobile for sale on Craigslist, eBay, Snowmobiletrader, and other classified ad sites dedicated to snowmobiles.
What’s more, you can also find some good deals on Bolens snowmobile forums and Facebook groups.
Takeaways – FAQs About Vintage Bolens Snowmobiles
As a takeaway, we’ve compiled some of the most common questions about vintage Bolens snowmobiles!
What Years did Bolens Make Snowmobiles?
Bolens snowmobiles were in production from 1965 until 1972, however the predecessor Hus-Ski sleds were introduced in 1963.
Who Made the Bolens Snowmobile?
Bolens snowmobiles were manufactured by FMC (Food Machinery and Chemical) Corporation.
Why did Bolens Stop Making Snowmobiles?
Bolens stopped making snowmobiles because of low sales figures. Poor snow conditions and high oil prices kept buyers away from the showrooms. These unfortunate circumstances caused many snowmobile manufacturers to leave the industry, and Bolens was no exception.
When did Bolens Stop Making Snowmobiles?
To the greatest regret of many fans, production of the iconic Bolens snowmobiles was stopped in 1972.