Rupp snowmobiles were known for their high performance and innovative features. Unlike Harley snowmobiles, they were fast, easy to handle, and predictable, that’s why these sleds were popular among racers as well as everyday riders. The manufacturer offered a wide range of models for various purposes from the entry-level Sport to the flagship Nitro. If you want to find out about the history of these iconic sleds or are even considering buying one, this post is for you.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know about vintage Rupp snowmobiles under one roof!
Rupp Snowmobile History
The entire Rupp snowmobile history started in 1959 when Mickey Rupp founded his company in Mansfield, Ohio. Rupp Manufacturing produced minibikes, go-karts, off-road vehicles, and snowmobiles. These machines stood out from the crowd with their outstanding performance, advanced features, and bright red colors.
The founder, Mr. Rupp was a well-known name in the world of motorsport and his products quickly became popular thanks to his reputation. He started his career in go-karts and eventually became a successful auto racer in the Indy 500 class.
The story of the legendary Rupp vehicles started with go-kart prototypes, which were actually assembled by the founder in his basement.
When the company entered the market in 1959 it employed only 8 people while production took place in a 3,000-square-foot facility. The manufacturing company grew rapidly, so Mr. Rupp was actively looking for new opportunities.
Their sporty go-karts instantly became popular, so Rupp Manufacturing expanded its offerings with minibikes. In 1960 the manufacturer had already produced about 1,000 of these tiny motorcycles.
In the ‘60s the demand for snowmobiles was skyrocketing, which attracted many new manufacturers into the business.
Rupp Enters the Snowmobile Market
The prototype of Rupp snowmobiles was built in 1964, and the company officially entered the snowmobile market in 1966.
In the first season, there were only about 500 units made but production rapidly expanded.
The first model was the 1966 Rupp Sno Sport, which quickly became one of the most popular sleds on the market, and this did not happen by chance. It’s safe to say that this machine was more advanced than the majority of rival machines!
The Rupp Sno Sport was well known for its high performance, low weight, and innovative features. All of these resulted in high sales figures and instant success on racetracks!
To keep the weight low, Rupp snowmobiles were built on an industry-first aluminum chassis. The sleds also had a low center of gravity, which ensured excellent handling and stability.
What’s more, all of these sleds featured large disc brakes and freeze-proof brake and throttle cables.
Unlike on vintage Haley sleds in which opening the hood was always a hassle, Rupp snowmobiles allowed easy access to the engine. Riders also appreciated the high passenger handrails and the storage compartment built inside the backrest.
Just like other major players in the industry, Rupp also realized the importance of having its own engine supplier. At that time, many snowmobile manufacturers used industrial engines in their sleds, which were primarily made by Sachs, JLO, Hirth, Kohler, or CCW.
Since these power sources weren’t designed for snowmobiles, they definitely had some weak points.
That’s why certain Rupp snowmobile engines were designed in-house and built by the Japanese firm Tohatsu. Besides these power sources, Rupp also utilized engines from the aforementioned manufacturers as well.
Thanks to these high-performance engines and a great power-to-weight ratio, Rupp sleds were known for high speeds and excellent acceleration.
By 1969 the company already had 400 employees and was housed in a much larger, 180,000 sq. foot facility.
In this model year, the fleet consisted of five different models. What’s more, besides snowmobiles, the American manufacturer also produced many different powersport vehicles like ATVs, minibikes, and go-karts!
The Biggest Years of Rupp Snowmobiles
The biggest years of the company were arguably the early 1970s, just like for many other competitor snowmobile manufacturers.
SnowGoer reports that the manufacturer built more than 27,000 sleds for the 1971 season and was ranked among the top 10 snowmobile manufacturers. Meanwhile the name of the company was changed to Rupp Industries.
Although the sleds had a few weak points, sales went pretty well. Thanks to a good reputation, the company had to count on fewer leftover units than any other major competitor.
Production peaked in 1972 when Rupp manufactured about 29,000 sleds. For this season, the Stock racing rules changed, so the Rupp Sprint series was replaced with the more advanced Nitro family.
But unfortunately, 1972 marked a turning point in the company’s success story. Mild winters and high oil prices pushed the snowmobile market into recession.
What’s more, a lot of new manufacturers had flooded the market, which caused a massive oversupply. Combined with shrinking demand the result was declining sales numbers for all manufacturers, and Rupp Industries also struggled to stay profitable.
Despite all the effort he made, the founder had to sell his company to an investment group to avoid bankruptcy in 1973.
The new management decided to make some design changes for the following model year. The Tohatsu powerplants were dropped and just like many competitors, Rupp started to using Kohler engines in their sleds.
Unfortunately, the company was deeply intertwined with its popular founder, so this acquisition caused more harm than good to the reputation of the brand. Rumors circulated about the end of Rupp snowmobiles, which kept many buyers away from showrooms.
The company tried to make a noisy comeback with its liquid-cooled Xenoah engines, which were introduced in 1976. Powered by this engine, the new Rupp Nitro was considered one of the most powerful sleds on the market.
What Happened to Rupp Snowmobiles?
Although the new lineup was quite popular, Rupp Industries faced continuous financial problems and finally went bankrupt in 1977.
To stay afloat the company entered into a partnership with Arctic Cat, which kept the brand alive for another year. This simply meant that each 1977 Rupp snowmobile was manufactured and assembled in Arctic Cat facilities.
This fleet contained only three different models. The two Rupp Nitro models were powered by liquid-cooled twins while the Rupp Sport featured a fan-cooled engine.
The more powerful 1977 Rupp 440 Nitro cranked out an amazing 80 HP and offered an amazing top speed of 80 mph. This performance made this sled one of the fastest models on the market.
However, not even this outstanding sled was able to save the company.
Finally, to the greatest regret of many fans, the company went bankrupt and Rupp snowmobiles disappeared from the market after the 1978 season.
Rupp Snowmobile Models
Over the years the company designed and produced many amazing sleds, but the most famous Rupp snowmobiles were as follows:
- Rupp Sno Sport
- Rupp Super Sno Sport (drag)
- Rupp Nitro and Nitro II
- Rupp Rally
- Rupp Rouge
- Rupp Sport
- Rupp GTX
- Rupp Magnum
- Rupp Wide Track
- Rupp American
- Rupp Yankee
- Rupp Sprint
Let’s take a closer look at each of them!
Rupp Sno Sport
The first production Rupp snowmobile was the Sno Sport, offered from 1966 until 1970. This first lineup included fivesleds, the S-281, GT-300, GTE-300, GT-370, and the GTE-370.
These sleds were powered by Sachs engines, which offered 12-20 HP depending on the model. They also featured a disk brake, an aluminum tunnel, a 4.5-gallon fuel tank, and a 15½” track.
The entry-level model in this family was the S-281, which was only 280 pounds and had a 275cc, 12 HP power source. In contrast, the flagship GTE-370 had a 386cc, 20 HP engine and weighed about 330 pounds.
The world’s first drag snowmobile was also designed and built by Rupp Industries. It was referred to as a Super Sno Sport that featured a 525 HP Ford engine. This purpose-built sled reached an amazing top speed of 95.5 mph in 1969.
Rupp Nitro and Nitro II
As the name suggests, the Rupp Nitro was a real sport sled introduced in 1972. In this year, this sled was available with five different engine options from 295cc up to 650cc.
The smaller brothers had a 15.5” track while the most powerful Nitro 650 was propelled by an 18” track.
The more advanced Nitro II was unleashed in 1974. It was built on an all-new chassis and was available with 340c and 440cc engines. These fan-cooled Kohler engines offered a reasonable performance for the sleds, which featured a slide suspension and a CDI ignition.
In the 1975 model year, this model was marketed as “Nitro” but except for its exterior design, the model remained unchanged.
The Rupp Rally was introduced in 1972 and replaced the big-bore Rupp Nitro. This model was actually identical to the 650cc Nitro except it was powered by a 440cc twin.
The sled made a comeback in 1976 to replace the Nitro II. But unlike its predecessor, the 1976 Rupp Rally was available exclusively with a 440cc, fan-cooled Kohler engine.
By 1978 the power source of the Rally was upgraded to a 484cc, fan-cooled Xenoah engine.
The widely popular family sled, the Rupp America, hit the market in 1971 and remained in production until 1975.
The predecessor of the Rupp American was arguably the Wide Track 440. For the 1972 model year the Wide-Track was discontinued to make room for the new American. This model was also available with three different engine options.
The Rupp America 340 featured a 30 HP, while the bigger 440 had a 40 HP power source. The most powerful sled in this family was the Rupp America 650, which came with a 50 HP power plant.
All models featured an 18-inch-wide track and an electric start as standard. The tachometer, speedometer, and slide suspension system were available as extras.
In 1973 the model 650 was dropped while its smaller brothers remained basically unchanged for the next two model years.
Another early midline model was the Rupp Yankee, introduced in 1972. It featured a manual start, bogie-wheel suspension, and a 15 1/2“ track. These sleds were manufactured with three different engines, 20 HP, 30 HP, 40 HP, respectively.
Gauges like a tachometer or speedometer as well as an electric start were available for all models as an option.
Rupp Rogue and Sport
The entry-level sled in Rupp’s fleet was the Rouge, which was available with 15 and 25 HP engine options and an optional electric start.
This affordable model was only marketed in 1972 and was replaced by the Sport in the following model year. The Sport family was offered from 1973 and had two models that offered 25 HP and 30 HP.
The Rupp Magnum was in production from 1970 until 1974, making a comeback in 1976.
In the 1971 season, the Magnum was manufactured with four different engine options. The most affordable Magnum 400 featured a narrow track while a wider track was available as an option on the 440.
The more powerful Magnums, the 600 and 800 were exclusively manufactured with this wide track.
For the 1973 model year, three of these models were dropped, while the 440 remained in production for the next season.
After two years of hibernation, the Rupp Magnum made a comeback with the new liquid-cooled Xenoah power sources. The family consisted of three models, which featured 250cc, 340cc, and 440cc engines with twin Mikuni carburetors.
Besides the new powerplants, the 1937 Rupp Magnum offered a lighter chassis, slide-rail suspension, and wide-stance skis.
Rupp Snowmobiles for Sale
Since Rupp snowmobiles haven’t been in production since 1978, they are already collectible items. However, you can still find some of them running on the trails!
Thanks to their high performance and advanced features, they are popular choices especially for younger buyers who are typically on a budget.
New sleds not only come with very hefty price tags and but are also hard to work on. That’s why vintage sleds are gaining in popularity! They feature a much simpler design, which means easier maintenance.
If you are also considering buying one, you can still find a Rupp snowmobile for sale on Craigslist, Snowmobiletrader, or other snowmobile classified ad sites.
You also can’t go wrong by visiting some Rupp snowmobile forums and FB groups. You can find a lot of valuable info on these iconic sleds on these sites, along with some good deals!
Takeaways – FAQs About Rupp Snowmobiles
As a takeaway, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions about vintage Rupp snowmobiles with the shortest possible answers.
What Years did Rupp Make Snowmobiles?
Rupp snowmobiles were in production from 1966 until 1978.
Who made Rupp Snowmobile Engines?
Certain Rupp engines were manufactured by Tohatsu, although these units were designed and developed in-house. Besides Tohatsu, the manufacturer also worked with other outside engine suppliers like Sachs or Kohler, while the latest Rupp snowmobiles featured Xenoah power sources.
Why did Rupp Stop Making Snowmobiles?
The manufacturing of Rupp snowmobiles was stopped because of poor sales figures. Through the market boom, several new players joined the snowmobile industry, which resulted in an oversupply. But after a couple of successful years, the market was hit by high oil prices and poor snow conditions. All of these kept buyers away from the dealerships, which resulted in shrinking demand. In the mid-‘70s, several manufacturers stopped making snowmobiles and Rupp was no exception.
When did Rupp Stop Making Snowmobiles?
To the greatest regret of many fans, Rupp stopped making snowmobiles after the 1978 season.