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Don Cummings Memeorial Show

Saturday May 17, 2014

Perry, NY

Story and Photos by David Wells

      Rainy weather and some localized flooding leading up to the 6th annual Don Cummings Memorial Antique and Vintage Snowmobile Show didn’t scare off many exhibitors, but it did alter use of the facilities at the Charcoal Corral Restaurant and Silver Lake Drive-In just south of Perry, NY. Wet grounds meant that this year’s show had to be confined to the drive-in parking lot instead of the inviting grass field. But no matter, there was more than enough room for the solid turnout of exhibitors drawn from three states and two provinces.

      This participant-judged event is presented by the Oatka Valley Snowmobile Association with help from numerous mostly local sponsors. Yamaha was this year’s featured brand. Mini-bikes and ATVs were a late addition to the show but aside from one large display of mostly Yamaha trikes, didn’t account for many entries.

      Best of Show went to Ralph Sonkey of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, for his original 1974 Kohler Sno Pro 650 triple. Sonkey is a serious three-cylinder collector, and got a chance to add this very rare machine to his collection. He says it contains a lot of Bombardier parts, which isn’t a surprise because the machine was one of a batch of just five sleds initially built for Kohler of Canada to compete in the new Sno Pro racing concept in the 1974 season.

      Best of Featured Brand went to veteran Vintage sled restoration artist Mark Elwell of Arkport, NY, for his beautifully rebuilt 1971 Yamaha SS 433, one of several Yammies from the 70s and 80s that he entered.

      The new Oatka Valley Snowmobile Association Choice Award went to James Blunden of Sherburne, NY, for his beautifully restored 1973 Chaparral Firebird 250 which was shown with a Chaparral suit, helmet, banner, and various other supporting materials that created a great display for the red sled.

      The nicest and maybe the most historic trio of sleds on exhibition was in the substantial Yamaha exhibit put together by Elwell, Jan Lesterhuis, and Gerry Murphy. A 1974 GPX 433 shown by Lesterhuiswas next to Murphy’s 1975 GPX 433 that was next to the derivative 1977 Exciter 440 also owned by Lesterhuis. Other notable Yamaha entries included Murphy’s grass racer replica 1972 GP 292 with a GYT kit, Elwell’s very clean and all original 1984 Phazer SE, and Murphy’s clean original 1986 Vmax 540.

      Other entries of note included a seldom-seen Arctic Cat House Cat shown by Pennsylvanian Bill Sowers. The bottom end (sub-Kitty Cat model) of the 1972 Arctic Cat line was an inflatable “snowmobile” styled after the big Cats and powered by the leg muscles of the rug rats it was made to carry. Henry Briscoe’s Arctic Cat competition sled display included Turf Tiger grass racer, a 1971 EXT Special, a King Cat 800,and a Sno Pro. He also exhibited a beautifully restored Cat Ramrod mini-bike. Steve Eichman brought a really nicely done 1972 EXT 650. Doug and Bob Crandell had their usual display of super clean Cats. And Adam Leubner showed a 1982 Arctic Cat Puma prototype with direct drive and a huge driven clutch mounted directly to the drive shaft. This model was never produced because Arctic Enterprises was forced into bankruptcy very soon after this rare prototype was constructed.

      Jeff Goole exhibited his 1995 Lynx 440 race sled from Finland, another very rare sight in North America. Richard Kepler showed a pair of 1974 Sno*Jet Sabre Jets, the commonly seen model with the 440 Yamaha engine and the rare one with theHirth 281RO 650 engine. Pete Kemp had his usual superlative line-up of Polaris and Polaris-built beauties. And Bruce Lindsley showed his georgeous 1972 Polaris Starfire 650 that is now dedicated to the memory of Gail Barber from nearby Bliss, NY. Barber was the biggest Polaris dealer in New York State for a time, and tireless promoter of the sport even after he left the dealer business. Tom Dickerson showed his usual nice group of Scorpions including a custom pinstriped 1980 Sting. First time show entrant Jim Van Wormer showed a pair of nicely restored John Deere green machines, and took home first place in class F with his 1974 model 300.

      One of the more interesting machines on display was an original 1974 Alsport Tri-Sport three wheeler powered by a Kohler 340 sled engine exhibited by show co-organizer Tim Rosenberg. Snowmobile engines like this K340-2AX axial fan twin represented a major power upgrade for the three wheelers of the early 70s that were more typically powered by four-cycle lawn mower engines or small industrial engines, so these vehicles certainly have a legitimate claim to be seen at snowmobile shows.

      Throw in a bunch of parts swappers, souvenir t-shirts and other apparel on sale, an excellent chicken barbecue, and other attractions, and the 6th annual Don Cummings Show was a complete vintage snowmobile experience. This show continues to improve every year, and we are already looking forward to next spring’s event.

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