Old Sled Sighting: John Deere Spitfire

Here's another old sled that made an appearance at a recent Cranbrook Snowmobile Club vintage ride—the John Deere Spitfire.

A vintage John Deere Spitfire, owned by Mark Sanderman, Cranbrook.
A vintage John Deere Spitfire, owned by Mark Sanderman, Cranbrook. Photo courtesy Doug Williamson

Here's another old sled that made an appearance at a recent Cranbrook Snowmobile Club vintage ride. Doug Williamson was there to capture a photo of this flashy green John Deere Spitfire, owned by club member Mark Sanderman.

The John Deere Snowmobile line of snowmobiles was produced by John Deere Horicon Works of Horicon, Wisconsin. Logically, production would shift between the snowmobiles and lawn & garden equipment, based on the season.

Interestingly enough, the popular slogan "Nothing Runs Like a Deere" was first used to promote the company's snowmobile line in 1972. Then from 1978 to 1980, John Deere began to use the slogan "Big John - Little John." In 1980, they introduced another new slogan, "Ride the new breed of Deere.” Also in 1980, John Deere was the official supplier of snowmobiles for the Winter Olympic Games held in Lake Placid, New York.

In 1982-1984, with the snowmobile market in a downward spiral, the driving force behind the John Deere snowmobile program, key executive VP Robert Carlson, left the company. The exit of this company executive undoubtedly made ending the snowmobile program an easy decision for John Deere.

The parts supply and all snowmobile-related resources were sold to Polaris with the understanding that Polaris would continue where John Deere that left off—selling snowmobiles and parts to the John Deere dealers who wanted to continue to sell the snowmobiles. As history tells us that plan never played out—John Deere snowmobiles and parts ceased to be produced.

John Deere designed, built and sold snowmobiles from 1972 to 1984. The distinctive green John Deere machines are now popular with vintage collectors across the snowbelt.

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