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Polaris INDY Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary!

2020 Polaris Indy new 850 Patriot engine
Polaris' new INDY sleds are a huge leap forward from the early models, the latest being high-performance sleds with 129- and 137-inch tracks and a new 850 Patriot engine.
Legendary performance, dependability, fun and a racy attitude were the calling cards for Polaris' original INDY back in 1980. Today's new INDY models carry that tradition forward. It's a legacy somewhat like that of Ford's Mustang or Chevrolet's Corvette that speaks to snowmobilers who have been bashing the snow for years and those who are just getting started in the sport. You won't see many of the classics from the '80s at your favorite grub stop along the trails now, but the latest 40th Anniversary Edition should be crushing the trails this season. The new INDY's graphics harken back to the original INDY, but the new Patriot engine propels the beast into the future.

RACING HERITAGE

Most great innovations in the snowmobiling world were born on the race track. Independent front suspensions (IFS) are no different. Check out AmSnow's December 2017 and February 2018 issues for Tech Editor Olav Aaen's look back at how IFS first appeared on the racing scene.
Polaris Indy factory fabrication
In brief, Olav’s February 2018 story, “The IFS Design Challenge,” tells how Chaparral enlisted the help of Indy 500 champion Bobby Unser to work with its racing team in the 1970s. The racing Unser family is full of avid snowmobilers. Back then, racing was the breeding ground for innovative advances and members of racing teams were the brains behind much of the progress made.

When the Chaparral racing team showed up in 1972 with the first iteration of its independent front suspension, there was skepticism from other teams, including Bob Eastman who ran the Polaris race team. Chaparral went out of business shortly thereafter and the Unser IFS design faded from racing circuits, but not before Gordy Rudolph and Gilles Villeneuve (later a famous Formula 1 racer) would put the IFS to use for themselves.

Rudolph used Chaparral IFS designs for himself and a few private racers in Illinois. Villeneuve waited until 1976 to unveil his IFS-equipped Skiroule at Killkenny in New Hampshire, where he convincingly won the 250, 340 and 440 Pro classes!

Polaris Indy classic
Polaris' combination of clutches, strong engine, rubber track and suspension really made for a great ride.
NOT THE FIRST PRODUCTION IFS
Although Polaris was quick to jump on the IFS bandwagon, the INDY wasn’t the first consumer sled made with independent front suspension.

That title goes to the 1979 Arctic Cat Trail Cat.

But the Cat didn’t pan out well, possibly because it was rushed into production too quickly.

1980 POLARIS TX-L INDY
For 1980 though, Polaris nailed IFS with its new INDY, the Trail Extreme (TX) with a liquid-cooled engine (L).
1980 Polaris Indy 500 snowmobile
Just the name, INDY 500, made the original Polaris sound like a winner.
The IFS system made the sled a little heavier than normal and potential customers didn’t know what to think of the look. But test rides at local dealerships changed minds and turned it into a hit!

Polaris’ combination of clutches, strong engine, rubber track, and suspension made for a great ride. The racing roots carried through from the innovative RX-L oval racer, whose 340cc liquid-cooled engine also competed in the 440-class in some cases. INDY quickly became a hit for sledheads and has remained a staple of Polaris’ lineup for 40 years.

MODERN INDYS
Now comes the new INDY XC with two track lengths, 129 and 137 inches, and a choice of 600 Cleanfire, 800 H.O. Cleanfire and horsey 850 Patriot engines. Prices range from $11,699 to $12,099. There are other INDY models too. Watch future issues of AmSnow for a review of Polaris' iconic INDY.
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