Michiganʼs Magazine
for Snowmobiling and ATV

Vintage Sled of the Month: Polaris Charger

In this story, we are introducing Mike, an avid snowmobiler with Autism. Autism hasn’t slowed Mike’s passion for vintage Polaris snowmobiles and we’re sure you will enjoy hearing about his work.

When Mike was 11 years old, his Dad was working at TV5 when a co-worker asked if he wanted to test ride a Polaris Charger.  Mike’s Dad really liked the way the sled rode and how it looked. So in 1971, he bought his first charger from Northlin Sales & Service in Kawkawlin.  After meeting with Mike, I can just imagine walking into a 1970’s dealership and  picturing the pristine Chargers, sitting on a Northland trailer – just ready to be pulled home by the family Suburban!  Of course every good dealership had a big display of snowmobile suits, helmets, gloves and boots. We may chuckle at the old style of clothing now, but many of us can remember dreaming of just the right combination of sled and clothing.

I can just picture Mike’s dad, driving home with that first Charger, thinking  about turning around and getting the second one… all while planning to take his wife and two sons on their first ride to Sand Lake. Mike’s family enjoyed the weekend with family friends and a nearly perfect 30 degree day ride in deep snow. As Mike was describing the ride, I couldn’t help but imagine some of the deep woods bon fires that went along with rides just like this one. Someone always packed a few marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for a trail s’mores snack break. Then it would be back on the sleds to continue the journey. And, well let’s just say it was always good to pack a snack, because just about every type of 1970s sleds were notorious for needing a repair or two along the trail… if ya gotta stop, might as well make the best of it and create a couple great memories along the way.

Mike had such great memories of the family trip, that as the charger began to age and the paint began to fade, he decided to restore the Charger to its former condition. Mike’s restoration process took about 3 years to tear down, clean and repaint.  He was determined to take his time and do it right. What a great way to pay tribute to his Dad’s memory.

The process paid off and the two one owner Chargers are now a stand out when on the trail. People can not believe how well they both look and the incredible amount of maintenance and care that has gone into keeping the Chargers in showroom style. 

In 2015 after completing the restoration, Mike reached out to the family that sold his Dad the Chargers all those years ago.  The owner of the Northlin Sales and Service shop had passed away and the shop closed, but his wife was very glad to hear from Mike and his family. It meant a great deal to her that Mike still had not only both Chargers, but the trailer and bill of sale and other documents from that day all those years ago. She told Mike that he had made her day by calling and letting her know how her husband’s business had made such a unique difference in Mike’s life. 

As you read this article, I hope you were able to picture a dealership you visited as a kid.  For me, there was an Arctic Cat dealership just 5 miles from our house. I can clearly remember the smell of the shop, the dark paneling on the walls and the light colored floors.  When I walked in and looked off to my left there was (in my mind) the biggest parts counter ever created, then straight ahead was the Panther.  One of my all time favorite sleds at that time. Hanging just above the sled was the most amazing matching black snowmobile suit that had many, many little kids dreaming of the day – one of those sleds might make it home to their yard… Hope you had a memory of your own to enjoy as you read our story!

And, if you need more inspiration, make sure to stop into the Top of the Lake
Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway. The museum is located along the north side of US-2 and is a great spot to stop in and see the history of snowmobiling come to life. Make sure to say hello to proprietors Marilyn and Charlie.  They do a great job making vintage and classic snowmobiling fans feel at home checking out all the displays.

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