Neil George’s earliest memory of riding an Elan snowmobile is more than two decades old.
The soon-to-be 35-year-old remembers getting ready for a snowmobile run with his father and a family friend. George was 12 at the time.
His companions are riding new machines, while George is keeping pace on their backcountry trek to Gallants. It’s a 50-kilometre drive by car, so it’s safe to say it’s a couple of hours both ways by snowmobile.
George remembers his father and his friend being amazed at the snowmobile their younger companion was using. Not only did it successfully make the trip but it more than held its own with their more powerful and modern machines.
Elans were always around for George. His friends all had one for beating around the area and he’s been fascinated by snowmobiles — and the Elan — ever since.
About four years ago, George re-built a 1977 Elan from the ground up. In a unique twist, George used an engine for the build that he had sold to a friend of his father’s when he was 15.
That was 2013 and his thirst for collecting snowmobiles was only starting to take hold. Another Elan build is planned for this summer.
There’s also a 1977 Polaris Colt George has plans on restoring.
New collectors of any medium often start with what they consider to be their holy grail. If Captain Ahab had his white whale, collectors will set their sights on an item that is mythical in stature.
When I started collecting vinyl, I aimed to start with an original pressing of Guns N’Roses "Appetite for Destruction" with its original cover. That’s the one before the record was pulled from shelves and replaced with a more safe-for-work cover. It still eludes me to this day, but that’s a tale for another day.
Back to George and his desire to kick off his Elan collection with the 1973 edition of the sturdy snowmobile. Made between 1971 and 1996, Elans were produced by Ski-Doo and rarely changed design in that time.
He’s looking for the edition put out in '73 by Bombardier with the 250 SS with 22 horsepower, twin carborators and tuned exhaust. Just 33,973 were ever made, making it a fine option to begin a collection with.
It’ll be a sizeable conversation starter for sled enthusiasts if he search bears fruit.
He's never actually seen one.
“I’m interested because of its rarity — It’s just a little hobby and I want to have a bit of fun," George said.
The desire to collect the vintage machines is based in a willingness to preserve a piece of history and be able to show his future children what their father did for fun when he was their age.
In his shed, George’s rebuilt Elan sits next to his 2013 Polaris Assault. At times, he’ll look at both and wonder how he and his friends ever rode the Elans back in their youth.
It’s the same as that car buff who likes to park his new vehicle next to a Ford Model T. Technology has taken such a leap it becomes hard to really fathom where we’ve come from.
“It’s something you break out on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon … and have a bit of fun with it,” said George. “I usually take it out of my shed four or five times a winter and ride it on the trails behind my house.
“It usually turns a few heads.”