1972 Poloron Tornado: Nice Try, But No Cigar

Founded in 1937, Poloron Products evolved into a mini-conglomerate. Headquartered in the New York City suburb of New Rochelle, New York, the company built such diverse products as charcoal braziers, picnic coolers, lighted Christmas decorations, institutional furniture, modular homes, riding lawn tractors and travel trailers in a dozen factories scattered across the eastern United States. And like many hard goods manufacturers of the 1960s, it answered the siren song of the booming snowmobile business.

The rare Poloron Stallion is virtually forgotten, but the very different 1970 Poloron established the company in the snowmobile business. Sleds were assembled at the company’s Michigan City, Indiana, lawn tractor plant with components sourced from typical industry suppliers including Polaris. Engines were up front. Appearance, features and pricing were definitely competitive, and sleds were backed by a full one-year warranty that exceeded most contemporaries.

The 1970 Poloron single-cylinder Cyclone and twin-cylinder Tornado models also introduced an emergency shut-off switch mounted on the fake wood dash above the handlebars. In a couple more years, virtually every new sled would include a “kill” switch as an industry-wide safety upgrade to stave off threatened legislation.

The Poloron Tornado alongside the Poloron Cyclone.
The Poloron Tornado alongside the Poloron Cyclone.

Building A Brand  

Although the Poloron name wasn’t as familiar as Mercury or Suzuki, it wasn’t totally unknown to the American public, and that gave the company’s machine some credibility against the dozens of Ski-Things and Sno-Turkeys from two-car-garage companies that nobody had ever heard of. Vintage Snowmobile Club of America (VSCA) National Champion Tom Todd’s father was a multi-line dealer in the Cooperstown, New York, area who took on the Poloron sled line. “My dad sold as many of them as AMF and Bolens (sleds),” Todd says.

Poloron sleds got extensive newspaper coverage for delivering food, medicine, and fuel during a big January 1970 snow emergency in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains east of Scranton, where the company had another manufacturing plant.

The company also filed their sleds with the United States Snowmobile Association (USSA) for Stock class racing. But they had to settle for crumbs like Clyde Dickens of WADR radio in Remsen, New York, taking second in a media event on a Poloron Cyclone at Boonville’s huge New York State Championships in February, 1970.

For 1971, Poloron sleds were upgraded with new styling, dual headlights, an improved dash, metalflake green hoods, disc brakes and more engine options. The 1972 models were essentially re-badged 1971s.

“They ran good, and handled good for their day,” Todd recalls. “The chassis was well designed. The only real difference between them and Arctic Cat was that Cat had slide rails. And I thought that metalflake green was the neatest color.”

Bumps In The Trail 

1972 Poloron Tornado rundown

Overwhelmed by more established manufacturers, Poloron found it hard to compete. The free air “hot stocker” ended the company’s hopes in racing. And its other businesses were selling on price to discount stores and the military, so they did not know how to market effectively to consumers.
The company’s sales literature was amateurish. Initially it used illustrations of the sleds, leaving the impression that the machines weren’t quite real. A switch to photography for 1971 was disastrous.

Unlike most sled manufacturers that did outdoor photography in the winter or settled for studio product shots, Poloron tried to do studio shots that looked like the outdoors in winter. But bareheaded people with no headgear or eye protection pretending to ride sleds while surrounded by Styrofoam snow and fake trees just didn’t work. It was hard to take Poloron snowmobiles seriously when shown in these obviously staged settings, especially when the company’s slogan was “Capture the real excitement of winter,” but sales inquiries were directed to Louisiana where there’s never any snow.

Not surprisingly, sales never met anticipated levels.

Pulling The Plug 

Poloron blew its sled inventory out cheap ($799 for a top-of-the-line Tornado 399) and quit the business. Holding company Poloron Products completely ceased operations in 1981.

Actually a better product than most of us gave them credit for back in the day, and one of the first with what is now a standard safety feature, Poloron sleds were killed by intense competition and subpar marketing. Today they are a seldom-seen rarity.

3 thoughts on “1972 Poloron Tornado: Nice Try, But No Cigar

  • My father and I own two Poloron Cyclones from the 1970 model year. These have a single-cylinder, 295 cc Kohler engine. Quite a unique sled these days, I have not seen any others in real life here in northern ME. Finding parts is impossible, so everthing needs to be fabricated when something breaks. Fun old sled to ride!

    Reply
  • Hello Nathan,
    My father has one in his barn. Really really rough shape.
    Do you have any interest?

    Reply
    • Where are you located?

      Reply

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