The Viking brand got its start in Ashland, Wis., building 12 machines in 1966. In 1967, however, production ramped up. The Ashland plant was too small, and Viking needed financing to make relocation possible. On April 1, 1968, a public corporation was formed, stock shares were issued and Viking snowmobile manufacturing moved to Twin Valley, Minn., where fiberglass sled components were already being produced.
Viking was very innovative in its use of a lightweight aluminum tunnel while other brands were using steel. The seats were made nice and thick for more cushion. At first, Viking used tracks made by Rubber Drives Inc. from Scorpion of Crosby, Minn., but that changed to a FasTrac as more power came along. Other manufacturers mounted their engines on top of the tunnel, but Viking mounted engines in front of the drive track. Viking also used whatever engines were available that worked for them (e.g., Sachs, Hirth, and Kohler), as well as Salsbury drive and driven clutches for good dependability.
For 1972, Viking developed a ‘’Posi-Grip suspension’’ with a new concept of a rigid wheel rail to match slide rail systems. A sectional ‘’Fast’’ track came with 6-inch sections held together with push-through rods, so you could replace sections as needed. It was very light for its time, and it’s still used today on some vintage sleds. Viking sleds came in six colors: Peacock, Viking Purple, Flame Red, Kelly Green, Silver, and Royal Blue. When you came out of the bar, it was easy to find your sled!
Proving how durable Viking snowmobiles were, Della Montreuil from Euclid, Minn., entered hers (with a 399cc Kohler engine) in the grueling I-500 race from Winnipeg to St. Paul in 1970, becoming the first woman to finish the 587-mile race.
Allen Seydel, the son of another Viking racer, Art Seydel, had an idea to build his dad a replica of Art’s 1972 Winnipeg-to-St.Paul I-500 race sled, a Viking Vigilante SS. Allen recalled how Art would use duct tape on his nose and cheeks to keep his glasses from fogging up. Underneath the duct tape, his skin froze. After the race, he’d peel the duct tape from his face, pulling skin off with it so his nose and cheeks were raw.
Today, Art makes and sells remade parts for old sleds, so it was hard to build a replica without Art seeing what was going on. The build was done in Art’s garage, often late at night. They covered it up whenever Art was around. Finding parts had to be done by word of mouth.
The sled was Art’s original twin cylinder 1972 Kohler free air that came with sunburst heads, but all of it needed to be rebuilt. The sled used twin Walbro diaphragm carburetors. Back then, you could run tuned exhaust pipes to get more power out of the engine. Replacement decals had to be made to make it look just like Art’s original #52 race sled.
Art was in the swap meet at the 2016 Waconia Ride-In when his family gave him the Vigilante replica. Ricky, Art’s grandson, drove the sled while wearing Art’s original I-500 snowsuit and replica helmet. Art couldn’t believe the sled was for him! His old suit even still fits him.
The large holes in the windshield? Art said they were meant to cut down on turbulence and keep his glasses clean. His family paid attention to every detail.
Minnesotan Les Pinz is a vintage sled expert with an extensive collection of historic and other antique sleds, and is a former snowmobile racer. He is a member of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame and one of AmSnow’s regular test riders.