‘Yukon-KING’: A new machine with new ideas

A picture from a Yukon-KING brochure featuring the Super Grizzly, Kodiak, Grizzly and Alaskan Husky.

Moorhead Plastics, Inc. of Moorhead, Minn. built two snow vehicles in 1967. One for themselves called the T-Bird “for the fun at heart” and one on behalf of Don Thompson called the Yukon-King snowmobile. The imperial blue fiberglass cowled T-Bird was flightless, while the orange cowled Yukon-King sunrise emblem had risen for Fun Struck (Products). Moorhead was sold to Silverline Inc. to continue its recreational vehicles and fiberglass boats.

The ‘68 Yukon-King Grizzly was a new machine with new ideas. Y-K advertised its ‘Sense-O-Matic’ auto torque sensing transmission, cam-driven clutch were “smooth as silk.“ Engine options for a Rockwell JLO 15 Hp or a German Lloyd 20 Hp alternate firing, twin. Other Y-K models of the rally stripped Alaskan Husky or the wide tracked Kodiak, allowed riders to ‘Go Rugged, Go Dependable.’

When the checkered flag waved, Grizzly was the ‘tough one’ to beat. Setting records in class 2 and class C stock divisions was modified stock racer Mike Norheem of Moorhead, Minn. USSA’s new 295 cc stock class guided by Don Thompson’s factory team could handle a loose sled. Y-K advertised “it had won more races based upon the number of machines entered than any other make of snowmobile.”

Former motorcycle racer and stock car wheelman Henry Johnston ran an auto repair business north of Central Square. He dealt RUPP, Yukon-King and Polaris. Johnston did engineering contract work for RUPP and he did not blink when facing a challenge on snow or grass. Henry’s daughter Bonny Davis remembers the Y-K sleds in crates 3-4 feet high. “Herm Goettel was their service manager,” she said.

Kenneth Cronk sold Y-K at his Altmar Appliance shop. Ken was a logger, McCullough chain saw dealer, GULF gas station owner and Norge appliances store operator. Y-K single-cylinder sleds were “lined up for sale under the store’s open covered porch” told grandson Frank Jr..

Altmar Appliance was one of 18 snowmobile and farm tractor dealer exhibitors at the 1968 Pulaski Jay-Cee’s ’Go in the Snow’ show in the Tollerton building in Pulaski. Two floors of snowmobiles and accessories. In 1970, the show was moved to Goslin’s Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge Garage.

In Jefferson County, Robert Bast sold Y-K and Atlas trailers at his family dairy farm four miles north of Watertown in Theresa. Bast’s offer came to him per his father-in-law Wesley Barkley, a Studebaker-Packard salesman at Waite motor sales in Adams. “This new Toyota dealer in ’66 had turned down the Y-K dealership,” he said. Robert Bast took a no non-sense pace advantage with his wife Janet to open J&R Pool Co.

Bast classified advertised “city dwelling snowmobile owners to store their sled with him. Roam our 310 acres and forget about licensing, waking neighbors. $25.00 per year. Free storage and use for 1 year if you buy a Y-K.” The idea was to get frosty breaths of riders out into the bark of the snowy wilds of a Yukon landscape.

As the season progressed, Bast offered a new Yukon-King snowmobile for just $350 with the purchase of any do-it-yourself Spartan pool. Later they advertised “livestock taken in trade for a new Y-K.” The Challenge of the Yukon.

Silverline executive Don Thompson introduced a fourth new Y-K model in September 1968 at the Chicago Marine Trade show. “There was a time when summer cabins and recreation were just that,” advertised Y-K. “Now let the ‘Super Grizzly’ take you there all winter.” A machine to save cabin dwellers from the wolverines.

The Y-K factory race team snarled and snapped against riders at the Feb. 15-16, ’69 NYS Championship race in Boonville. In the fall, speculations of a company buyout lingered by Gilson Bros. of Plymouth, Wis. They passed as Arctic Enterprises purchased them (for their boat line) in return for one share of AC stock for each 40 shares of SL. And as Sgt. Preston of the Yukon projected, “so, King this case is closed.”

Kevin Bamerick is a freelancer who writes about vintage snowmobiles.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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