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Winsted man collects vintage snowmobiles

January 5, 2009

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Snowmobilers wait for the first heavy snowfall, anxious for a chance to get out and enjoy their sleds.

Greg Davidson of Winsted is a snowmobile owner who doesn’t need the snow to appreciate his vehicles. As a collector of vintage snowmobiles, he is aware of each sled’s uniqueness and value.

“I have always been interested in snowmobiles and I have always loved snowmobiling,” Davidson said.

About 12 years ago, he became interested in old snowmobiles, after attending a large snowmobile show in Waconia where he was surprised to learn how many people were interested in old sleds.

“It is a lot bigger hobby than a lot of people even imagine,” Davidson said.

He has since become a member of both the Antique Snowmobile Club of America and the Vintage Snowmobile Club of America.

A vintage snowmobile is a 1968 model or newer. Anything older than a 1968 is considered antique.

It’s nostalgia that draws Davidson to antique and vintage snowmobiles.

“I was at the right age when snowmobiling took off and was in its prime back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Back in those days, there were well over 100 manufacturers and now we are down to four,” Davidson said.

He remembers begging his father, Robert Davidson, over and over to get a snowmobile like his friends had, but it wasn’t until the winter of 1969-70 when the family got its first snowmobile.

“We started off with a 1970 Ski-Doo Nordic 399, and then, two years later, I couldn’t believe it – my dad bought a 1972 Skidoo TNT,” Greg said.

“TNT stands for Track and Trail, and it was more of a racing sled; a high performance snowmobile. So, here I am, probably 14 years old, and I have this hot, high performance snowmobile. I was in heaven.”

Today, Greg owns five vintage-model snowmobiles – two John Deeres, a Ski-Doo, an Arctic Cat, and an Evinrude Skeeter, for which he has a “soft spot.”

The Evinrude is exactly like the first snowmobile owned by his best friend, back when Greg was about 12 years old. It was also the first snowmobile to be owned by any of his friends.

Even after all this time, Greg said he would still be able to name the kind of snowmobile each of his friends had.

Greg also owns two modern snowmobiles, a 2004 Arctic Cat Panther and a 1994 Polaris Indy.

Some of the newer models now come equipped with hand warmers and seat warmers. The biggest improvement, Greg said, is the ride is much smoother because of independent suspension.

There are two additions he would like to make to his vintage collection.

A 1968 Ski-Doo Super Olympic, and a 1969 Polaris Mustang.

On a tip from a co-worker, Greg had the opportunity to buy a 1969 Polaris Mustang a few years ago.

“So I am on my way home and sure enough, it is sitting in the guy’s front yard. I stop and look at it and it is in beautiful shape,” Greg said.

Thinking it was a little high-priced, he decided to wait a day to think about it. Also, he wanted to make sure his wife, Donna, was alright with the purchase.

When he returned the next morning to buy the sled, it had already been sold.

“That was five years ago and every day, when I leave work, I drive by that house,” Greg said. “And every day I could still kick myself for not buying it. I would love to have gotten it.”

There are a number of snowmobile shows Greg tries to attend throughout the year, but the biggest and best is the annual Midwest Vintage Snowmobile Show. The 2008 event took place in Waconia for the 14th year in a row.

Last year at the event, there were more than 5,000 people attending and more than 1,000 antique and vintage snowmobiles were on display. Many were rare models.

This year’s event will again take place in Waconia Saturday, Jan. 31 and Sunday, Feb. 1 at Lakeside Ballroom.

Greg was really pleased that Winsted’s Winter Festival started its own snowmobile display this year.

Given the short notice and lots of help from Rick Menden, he thought it had a pretty good turnout.

“It is a big commitment to clean up the snowmobiles, load them into a trailer and bring them somewhere,” Greg said.

He also pointed out the importance of keeping an eye on the machines when they are on display.

“A number of years ago, at the end of a show, someone had loaded their sleds onto a trailer and someone had stolen the entire trailer full of antique snowmobiles,” Greg said.

For anyone interested in collecting snowmobiles, there are two publications available – “Iron Dog Tracks” is for those interested in antique snowmobiles, and Vintage Snowmobile magazine.

The Davidson family

Greg is a paramedic for Ridgeview Ambulance. He has been employed at the hospital for 26 years and has been a paramedic for 23 years.

He and Donna have been married for 32 years.

They have three children and a new grandson.

Their oldest son, Rob, is engaged to Stephanie Bower of Alexandria.

Jon Davidson is married to Krissy (Krohn of Howard Lake) and they live in Winsted.

Jenny is married to Rick Stenberg and they live in El Paso, Texas with their two-month-old son, Owen.


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