The locals in the small mountain hamlet of Storsjo, Sweden, still talk about Rolle Sjogren’s great snowmobile adventure in 2001 when he set out from his mountain cabin, drove into town, then on to the outfitter and back – with a passenger.
The trip was about 40 miles. The journey itself wasn’t so remarkable, it was his mode of transportation: his grandfather’s vintage 1971 Sno-Tric. The Sno-Tric, made by the Swedish company Aktiv Fischer AB, had its run from the 1970-71 model year until 1974-75. The machines sold primarily in Scandinavia, but were exported to North America in 1973 and 1974.
In its total run, Aktiv produced almost 2,000 of the small machines, according to Stefan Frisk, former president of the Vintage Snowmobile Club of Sweden.
Sjogren’s favorite use for his Sno-Tric hasn’t strayed from the engineer’s original purpose for the machine: fishing.
As with many machines in this era, the Sno-Tric was borne of utility. Its genealogy traces back to 1954, an engineer named Lars Larsson and a machine called Snow-Trac.
Larsson, the chief designer for the farm equipment company that would become Aktiv, wanted a machine to take him and his brother to remote fishing holes. Larsson was to design the winter transport; his brother was to build the summer machine. The snow vehicle, which became the Snow-Trac, used a twin-track, an aluminum body and an engine from a Volkswagen Beetle. It held seven passengers in its enclosed cab, and steered like a car.
When Larsson demonstrated the Snow Trac in Norway in the early 1960s, the Bombardier Ski-Doo intrigued him. He convinced his company of the machine’s potential, and the first Sno-Tric SC-1 was a direct copy of the Ski-Doo. Built for the 1964-65 season, “It looked more or less like a strange, baby-blue painted Ski-Doo,” said Kenneth Fjallstrom, a Swedish snowmobile collector.
The original company underwent corporate changes in the late 1960s, and Aktiv redesigned the Sno-Tric in 1970 as it developed it as a small, economical snowmobile specially designed for the “Lapplanders” in the country’s northern reaches.
Sjogren, who lives in the suburbs of Stockholm, first rode this Sno-Tric as a child. His grandfather John Farnlund purchased it in the early 1970s to shuttle gear between the road and the cabin, about 3 miles each way, attaching a small sled to its hitch to carry the loads.
Full-scale production began in the 1971-72 season, and Frisk said the company produced 800 units – the most units in its five-year history. Aktiv color-coordinated its Sno-Tric lineup – “Yellow,” Sjogren’s model, was the smallest, lightest option; “red” was the wide-track model and “blue” signified the twin-track.
It’s not totally misleading to say that Sjogren’s snowmobile was fit for royalty. After all, the head designer for the Sno-Tric SC-3 Yellow was a member of Sweden’s royal family, Fjallstrom said.
Prince Sigvard Bernadotte – whose title changed to “Count” when he married a commoner – is much better known for his design of kitchen tools than his snowmobile work. Bernadotte likely designed the hood and the chassis, Fjallstrom said, as other components such as the engine, skis and seat didn’t change from earlier prototypes.
By this time, the Sno-Tric looked less like a SkiDoo and more like a uniquely designed machine.
Whenever Sjogren talks about his Sno-Tric – or its nickname “The Tric” – he typically imitates its sound during the conversation. Early advertising called the machine quiet, but he would disagree, saying, “One needs to have earplugs when driving it.”
When Aktiv made its 1970 prototypes, it tested two engine models: the 147cc Husqvarna SM150 and the 293cc Sachs SA290. The company settled on the smaller, lighter Husqvarna engine when it went into full-scale production in the 1971-72 season.
The Husqvarna engine, originally developed for the motorcycle market, was a one-cylinder, fan-cooled two-stroke with a 9hp output, weighing 18 pounds. The engine was only used for one season, and then the company used the 10hp Husqvarna 160 and re-introduced the Sachs engine into the model lineup.
Lightweight was a hallmark of the SC-3 Yellow. The machine weighed 242 pounds and was known for its agility, even in deep snow.
The track on the SC-3 used a unique bogie wheel configuration. Each side of the track runs on six wheels, each with a rubber torsion suspension. According to sales literature, this was meant to provide a low, progressive suspension with a better feel for the terrain. It claimed increased torque, less risk of getting stuck, improved climbing ability and better comfort. A small plow-like feature on the track cleared the snow away from the wheels.
By the 1972-73 model year, Aktiv offered a Skega-made track made of plastic sections. The sections attached by steel pins, so individual sections could be removed and replaced. “The track was light, but very slippery;’ Frisk said. “Most of the owners had to add studs to get traction.”
“The track was lighter, but it was more or less all it was,” Fjallstrom recalled. “Those easy, replaceable plastic sections came in handy when you had to change them for new ones, which happened quite often. We had to replace it to an ordinary rubber track later on.”
In later years, Sno-Tric released a sport and a long-track “Yellow” model.
Other stock features on the SC-3 Yellow were a removable windshield in a love-it-or-hate-it yellow tint, a quick-release hood, a hitch, underseat storage and a 12-month guarantee – even on the track. Sjogren’s machine includes a seat extension, which was not stock on the sled.
The machine wasn’t perfect – It wobbled enough that it required a modification: Farnlund designed wings that he attached to either side of the ski, adding up to 4 inches to the width, which stabilized the ride.
The End Of The Run
It’s unclear how many Sno-Tric models were exported to North America – The October 1973 Snow Goer lists six Sno-Tric models in its 1974 spec chart; five of the models used a Sachs engine, with the top engine producing 28 hp. Still, this was on the lower end of what other manufacturers of the day offered. Its final season was 1975-76.
Its predecessor, the Snow Trac, had a much longer history and was produced until the mid-1980s.
The Sno-Tric was finished, but not Aktiv’s role in the snowmobile production.
The company underwent corporate changes, but it continued to build machines into the 1980s – including under license for Arctic Cat during its bankruptcy years – remaining in business until its bankruptcy in 1990.
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