Chasing History: Rare Ski-Doo Earns Big East Classic Honors

For ardent collectors and connoisseurs in the vintage snowmobile community, seeing a 1974 Ski-Doo Sno Pro at the third annual Big East Classic vintage show was akin to spotting a sasquatch riding a unicorn in pursuit of the Loch Ness monster!

Big East classic
Joe Clarke won Best Of Show honors with his 1974 Sno Pro (left) but his 1991 Ski-Doo Formula I twin tracker (right) also attracted a lot of attention.

Which is to say, calling the snowmobile that Ontario native Joe Clarke spent more than a decade re-creating “rare” is a colossal understatement.

Clarke’s unique passion project was the pièce de resistance of the Big East Classic, a vintage showcase held in conjunction with the Big East Powersports Show in Syracuse, New York. On September 30, 2023, more than 100 truly incredible showpieces were on display, with professional judging in 16 distinct categories and snowmobiles from multiple Northeastern states and provinces.

Classic models from the “big four” manufacturers spanned the years, from a 1962 Polaris Sno-Traveler up to a 2000 Ski-Doo Mach Z Millennium Edition. The display also showcased sleds from more than a dozen other brands from snowmobiling’s most colorful era, from Alouette to Viking with a mix of Chaparral, John Deere, Johnson, Kawasaki, Larson, Mallard, Moto-Ski, Larson, Raider, Roll-O-Flex and Scorpion, among other brands, in between.

Amid this diverse array, selecting a favorite was challenging. Ultimately, Clark’s extremely rare build project and the story behind it took the Best Of Show honors. The Big East Classic will again be a part of the 2024 Big East Powersports Show in Syracuse, October 4-6.

EDITORS NOTE: This article first appeared in the January 2024 issue of Snow Goer magazine.

Big East Classic
Polaris was the “featured” brand with its own category in 2023. Yamaha will be the featured brand in 2024, but all brands are welcomed in other classes.

Redoing History

Clark decided more than a decade ago he would like to fabricate a clone of the historic 1974 Ski-Doo Sno Pro.

“The reason I built it is that there is only one real one in existence, and I also think it is the best-looking snowmobile that Ski-Doo ever built,” said Clarke, an avid collector with more than 100 vintage snowmobiles.

According to legend, Ski-Doo built between 9 and 12 of the exotic 1974 Sno Pro competition sleds for its 1973-74 factory team. But when an oil embargo created mass fuel shortages and a major economic downturn in the fall of 1973, Ski-Doo executives withdrew from racing. They apparently figured it was bad optics to be burning fuel at racetracks when regular folks were waiting in endless lines at gas stations.

What Ski-Doo did next, though, is akin to blasphemy to some in the racing and collecting communities.

“They dug a big hole in the parking lot at the racetrack in Valcourt,” Clarke said, referrring to Ski-Doo’s Quebec hometown. “Then they ran them all over and smashed them. Then they burned them, then they ran them over again before burying them.” Apparently, there were liability concerns so the machines were not to be released.

Big East Classic viking
It’s rare to see an entire fleet of Viking snowmobiles, and even more rare to see them in the Northeast.

Only two machines got out of the race shop, Clarke said. One each was loaned to legendary racers Yvon Duhamel and Mike Trapp for use in promotions in Canada and the U.S., respectively. Both were to be returned at the conclusion of their tours and destroyed. Trapp’s was, Clarke said, but Duhamel held onto his and it is the sole survivor. It is currently owned by the Warning family from Illinois.

A longtime former oval racer himself, Clarke was drawn to the sled’s mystique and distinctive look, so he started collecting every bit of information he could about the machine. From pulling together measurements based on old newspaper photos to speaking with various Ski-Doo race team officials – some of whom were suspicious of where he was accumulating his increasing knowledge base – Clarke pulled out all the stops. Hood measurements came from Trapp, who kept his when he returned the rest of the sled in 1974.

Construction of the clone has been an extremely meticulous project, Clarke said, as many parts had to be custom-made. “The only thing it shared with other Ski-Doos at the time was the tunnel, the rails in the rear suspension and the engine,” Clarke said. “Everything else was unique.” Even beyond the mechanical parts, intricate detail is seen in his clone in everything from the paintjob to the seat.

Clarke said he poked away at the project for a long time but things kicked into high gear after he retired two years ago. Although he is still searching for some ignition parts, he decided to give the sled its first public showing at the Big East Classic.

Big East Classic LaVallee
Snowmobiling’s favorite stuntman Levi LaVallee made an appearance at the Big East, and spent time taking in the vintage show.

Big East Classic Wrap

Ron Fesko and his friends at MSR Vintage who organize the Big East Classic each year have seen the level of competition ramp up. Each year is full of surprises as folks unveil new projects and finds, Fesko said.

Aside from the 1974 Ski-Doo Sno Pro, other highlights this year included the broad collection of Viking snowmobiles brought by Robin Steele, a Raider cockpit sled with a factory wheel kit, Zeke Brown’s rare Arctic Cats and the plethora of vintage Polaris sleds on display.

“I know the judges had a real hard time with selecting a Best Of Show, but ultimately the history and rarity of Joe’s sled won at the end,” Fesko said. 

The Big East Classic will again be a part of the Big East Powersports Show this coming October. To enter a sled, contact Ron Fesko at 315-415-5025.

Big East Classic
Variety is the spice of life at a good Vintage show.

BIG EAST CLASSIC RESULTS

Antique 1966 & Older, Restored: 1. Ken Crozier (Polaris); 2. Robin Steele (Viking) 3. Jeff Mowen (Larson).
Antique 1966 & Older, Unrestored: 1. Rick Thomas (Moto-Ski); 2. Gary Hanes (Ski-Doo)
Vintage 1967-1973, Restored: 1. Zeke Brown (Arctic Cat); 2. Jim Blunden (Chaparral) 3. Mark Money (Arctic Cat)
Vintage 1967-1973, Unrestored: 1. Ray Bean (Arctic Cat); 2. Tom Beaser (Roll-O-Flex); 3. Robin Steele (Viking)
Vintage 1974-1985, Restored: 1. Jim Blunden (Chaparral); 2. Rich Sgroi (Moto-Ski); 3. Rich Sgroi (Ski-Doo)
Vintage 1974-1985, Unrestored: 1. Rich Sgroi (Ski-Doo); 2. John Cook (Chaparral); 3. Doug Kauer (Kawasaki)
All Free Air Trail Sleds, Restored: 1. Glenn Ford (Moto-Ski); 2. Zeke Brown (Arctic Cat); 3. Rich Sgroi (Ski-Doo)
All Free Air Trail Sleds, Unrestored: 1. Roger Rice (Arctic Cat); 2. Gary Hanes (John Deere)
Factory Built Race Sleds, Restored: 1. Fred Albert (Polaris); 2. Joe Clarke (Ski-Doo); 3. Zeke Brown (Arctic Cat)
Mini Sleds – Vintage: 1. Jeff Mower (Polaris); 2. Ackley Family (Arctic Cat); 3. Ken Crozier (Polaris)
Combo With Cutter: 1. Rick Thomas (Arctic Cat); 2. Tom Blaser (Polaris)
Custom Sleds: 1. Robin Steele (Viking); 2. Mark Money (Polaris); 3. Zeke Brown (Arctic Cat)
Most Unique Sleds: 1. Kevin Coombs (Laydown dragster); 2. John Graini (Raider); 3. Ed Stabb (Larson)
Classic 1986-1998: 1. Kevin Coombs (Ski-Doo); 2. Ackley Family (Arctic Cat); 3. Emil Aumed (Yamaha)
Best Of Show: 1. Joe Clarke (Ski-Doo Sno Pro)
Best Display: 1. Zeke Brown (Arctic Cat Sno Pro)
Featured Sled: 1. Fred Albert (Polaris TX 340); 2. Mark Money (Polaris Centurion); 3. Ken Crozier (Polaris Sno-Traveler)
Oldest Sled: 1. Ken Crozier (1962 Polaris Sno-Traveler)

Editor’s Note: Every Snow Goer issue includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more. Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive print and/or digital issues.

3 thoughts on “Chasing History: Rare Ski-Doo Earns Big East Classic Honors

  • Avatar for Viking

    Very nice looking race sled. Sam many of them in local races eg. Ski-Doo winners in that era:

    CPTC winners Canadian Power Tobagon Championships in Beausejour Manitoba
    1972 YVON DUHAMEL, 1973 GILLES VILLENEUVE,1974 JACQUES VILLENEUVE, 1975 GILLES VILLENEUVE

    Reply
  • Avatar for John Zeglin

    I could maybe vote for that 74 Ski-doo Sno-Pro as sexiest vintage sled ever. But you could not buy one, so I want to compliment Polaris on that sweet looking Centurion up above. Great color and a sweet sled. I will also say that maybe my favorite Polaris of all time is the 78 RXL. Not nearly as rare as the 74 Doo Sno-Pro, still super hard to find one.

    Thanks for the vintage coverage.

    The Vintage Snowmobile Club of Americas National Show is coming to Duluth Minnesota in early August. This should be a GOOD one!

    Reply
  • Avatar for Viking

    Yes Polaris 77 &18 RXL oval race sleds were awesome best in class of all cc 250, 340, 440 with usually top 3 places in each class with Jerry Bunke, Steve Thorson and Brad Hulings. Unfortunately Jerry Bunke lost his life at the 1978 CPTC in a crash. Only year of the races I missed at that time since 1966 and until 2001. Fellow in Beausejour makes replica RXL hoods for wedge Indys, looks great.

    1978 Polaris TXL 340 and 1979 TXL 350 and Centurian Indy 500 were great conventional sleds, best looking and best performance only topped by the 1980 on ward Indy’s really liked the 1982 TXL Indy, 1996 XLT and 1997 Ultra Sp great looking great performing totally reliable sleds that last for 20,000-25,000+ miles before freshen up. 300+ miles a day no issues.

    Reply

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