What Happened to Harley Davidson Snowmobiles

Most people recognize the brand Harley Davidson as a leader in the world of motorcycles. And while Harley certainly is one of the best two-wheel motor companies in the game to this day, it also made snowmobiles for a brief period in the 1970s. 

I’m an avid snowmobiler who loves to get out in the snow as much as possible. When I’m not riding trails or exploring the backcountry, I like to learn about the history of these awesome machines. I’ve done in-depth research to come up with the information below. 

This post will explore the Harley Davidson Snowmobile. I’ll provide you with a short history of when and why Harley made snowmobiles and also touch on some questions that many people have about these machines. 

Let’s start the engines and get rolling. 

Did Harley-Davidson Ever Make a Snowmobile?

Believe it or not, Harley Davidson did indeed make a snowmobile. The brand didn’t make them for long, but they are still a popular collector’s item based on the Harley name alone. It goes to show you how important brand recognition can be. 

This history of the Harley-Davidson snowmobile dates to the glory days of snowmobiling in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A company named American Machine & Foundry (AMF) started making snowmobiles in the mid-1960s. 

AMF purchased the Harley Davidson brand in 1969, and from there, it started to develop a snowmobile that was entirely branded under the Harley name.

The early names of the AMF snowmobiles were Sno-Clipper and Ski-Daddler, which don’t strum up quite as much interest as Harley Davidson. So it’s no wonder the company did a bit of needed rebranding when it acquired Harley. 

How Many Years Were Harley Davidson Snowmobiles Made?

Harley Davidson snowmobiles were not made for very long. Even though Harley as a brand has been around for over 100 years, it only made snowmobiles for about five of those – from 1971 until 1975. 

That’s not a very long production run, and it’s part of the reason why vintage Harley snowmobiles are sought-after collector’s items today. They were relatively popular during the years they came out and still spark interest today. 

Over those five years, only about 10,000 Harley Davidson snowmobiles were made, which averages to about 2,000 a year. That’s not a lot, so they can be hard to track down today, even though there is interest in them. 

Harley Davidson Snowmobile Models

In 1971, AMF produced a small number of snowmobiles as a sort of test run to see how they were received. In total, only about 80 snowmobiles were made this year, so many of those are difficult to find – with some in museums around the world. 

Even though 1971 was the first year that Harley Davidson snowmobiles were available, there really isn’t much of a record of these initial test machines because of how limited they were in availability. 

In 1971, the Y-400 was the only model available. It featured a 398cc engine that had about 30 horsepower. 

If you have ever driven a Harley motorcycle, you understand they aren’t well-known for being small. The Harley Davidson snowmobiles were no different, and these were some of the heaviest snowmobiles around at the time. 

It was built more for style and comfort, which definitely had a place for riders who wanted to cruise. 

But by 1972, the brand ramped up its production a bit and expanded the Y model, which would be the model that stayed around the entire time these Harley Davidson snowmobiles were in production. 

The 1972 models included the Y-400 again and the larger Y-440 with a 433cc engine. The Y-440 obviously put out more power, and it had a larger engine. The company made about 2,000 of these models combined during the year. 

From 1973 to 1975, the Harley Davidson snowmobile models stayed the same, with the Y-400 and Y-440 the only options you could get. So, there are really only two different models that ever came out. 

This is one of the fewest number of options you’ll find from any snowmobile brand that ever existed. But since Harley Davidson wasn’t really a snowmobile brand, it’s not that big of a surprise that its efforts on the snow didn’t last very long.   

What Motor is in a Harley-Davidson Snowmobile?

The Harley Davidson snowmobile was available in two different models – the Y-400 and the Y-440. Harley advertised these as being made by the brand, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.

But both of the engines in these models, whether it was the 398cc in the Y-400 or the 433cc Y-440, were actual Aermacchi two-stroke parallel-twin engines. Aermacchi was another brand that AMF owned. 

So while technically it’s true that the same brand that produced the Harley Davidson snowmobile also made the engine, they were actually different if you want to get specific about things. 

Why Did Harley Davidson Stop Making Snowmobiles?

Harley Davidson stopped making snowmobiles for a variety of reasons. One of these was that they just weren’t very popular. The company only made about 10,000 machines in the five years they were in production, and there wasn’t enough demand to keep it up. 

Also, since Harley was not just a snowmobile brand, they didn’t need to keep working on their snowmobile division to get profits. That’s part of the reason why there were only two models that ever came out as well. 

On top of all this, the Harley snowmobiles also didn’t have many of the expected standard features that other competing brands included in their machines. Harleys just weren’t as safe or comfortable to ride, which affected their popularity quite a bit.   

Harley Davidson Snowmobiles for Sale: Where to Look

As you can imagine, with only 10,000 snowmobiles ever made, tracking down a Harley Davidson sled for sale can be challenging. They are out there, but many of the still operational ones are either coveted by their owners or in museums. 

Looking around the popular snowmobile forums or Harley Davidson forums is worth looking into. Most of the forums have classified sections that will list vintage snowmobiles. You’ll have to dig around, but you might get lucky. 

You can also try to locate machines through common resale sites such as Craigslist and eBay. Again, they don’t pop up that often because there simply aren’t many Harley snowmobiles around, but you can find them this way.  

Harley Davidson Snowmobile Parts: Where to Look

Harley Davidson snowmobile parts can also be challenging to track down. But you can always ask your local Harley Davidson dealer to see if they can point you in the right direction. They might not have the parts on hand, but they might know where to find them. 

Ask around at snowmobile or motorcycle repair shops if that doesn’t work. A good mechanic will be able to help you out or even use a substitute part instead of an OEM one. You could also look through junkyards, but I’ve never seen a Harley sled at one.

References

  1. https://www.hotcars.com/harley-davidson-snowmobile-division-story/
  2. https://snowgoer.com/top-stories/flashback-the-1972-harley-davidson-y-400/25543/
  3. https://www.cycleworld.com/bet-you-didnt-know-harley-davidson-once-sold-snowmobiles/
  4. https://www.transun.co.uk/blogs/snowmobiling’s-early-days-the-harley-davidson-story
About Chaz Wyland
I’m a snowmobile fanatic. I live for riding and am out on the trails or backcountry as often as possible during the winter months. I was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains and have snowmobiled in dozens of North American locations. When the snow is falling, you’ll find me on a sled.

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