This section makes note of important company developments by calendar year (not model year).
1959 - In April, Trail-A-Sled, Inc (TAS) is founded in the central Minnesota community of Crosby-Ironton and begins full-time operations in a small garage in the city's Lakeview district. The firm consists of three founders and one employee. Work is immediately begun on a large air-sled and other fiberglass-based products.
1960 - The firm grows to three employees and continues work on a range of fiberglass-based products.
1961 - The TAS air-sled wins a major design award. TAS pontoon boats are met with rave reviews and earn a reputation for stability, quality and innovation. Inspired in part by the Bombardier Ski Doo, TAS begins to experiment with tracked snow machines. The air-sled is featured at Dayton's Southdale location in Edina, Minn. and retails for $2,570.
1962 - On Friday, February 9th the Crosby-manufactured Trail-A-Sled made an appearance on the national TV show, "Today." The Trail-A-Sled was featured in a story on winter fishing on Mille Lacs Lake.
1963 - Concentrating entirely on the production of Scorpion snowmobiles, the firm begins experimenting with a vulcanization process in an attempt to eliminate the cumbersome cleated track system.
On Wednesday, April 3rd the Crosby-Ironton Courier ran the following line, "Another creation by Trail-A-Sled made its appearance in the recent heavy snows. It is powered by a six horsepower air-cooled motor and goes a top speed of 20 miles per hour. It is driven by a steel-cleated track and steered by two front skis." Interestingly, the term "snowmobile" is not yet used in the media. In fact, people don't seem to know what to call it!
1964 - The firm earns it's first major order (for 100 rubber-tracked Scorpions). Watercraft production is officially suspended. Dick Harrison's continuous rubber track is granted patent protection by the United States government. The firm begins making machines for Sno-Ro (Laurentide) in Montreal, Canada. The company's payroll rises to 20 persons.
1965 - As the firm's rubber-tracked machines take hold, the company expands to 53 employees and produces up to 20 units per day. The company is awarded a major contract with Sears Roebuck and hits an annual payroll of $200,000.
1966 - The firm continues to grow and leases the city-owned Arena facility as well as several other area buildings. Employment tops-out at 125 persons and production peaks at 50 units per day.
1967 - The firm's Rubber Drives, Inc. division was in full force, able to produce six tracks per hour, as well as numerous additional rubber-based parts - many of which are sold to other manufacturers. The firm also operates separate fiberglass fabrication, welding and assembly facilities. A TAS plant manager Cliff Kittelson sets a world distance jumping record. David "Pappy" Burns begins his historic Alaskan Epic. In February, United States Vice President Hubert H Humphrey declares Minnesota's Central Lakes to be the "Official Snowmobile Capital of the World." Production peaks at 85 units per day with 153 employees and a $1 million payroll. Inland Steel Company, among the area's largest employers, ceases underground mining operations in June, idling much of the Cuyuna Range workforce. A devastating fire in November cripples Trail-A-Sled, Inc. and the community at large. Company administrative records are completely destroyed by the blaze. In a miraculous turn-around, the firm slowly rebuilds for the future and breaks ground for a new facility. The Trail-A-Sail marketing campaign is announced.
1968 - In January the first ever Serpent Lake Snowmobile Derby is conducted with local businessman Bruce Pirner serving as general manager. Glen Gutzman is named SBA Small Businessman of the Year. Annual payroll nears $2 million with 300 employees.
In June the firm begins to transition into it's new 70,000 sq ft processing facility (consisting principally of a 38,500 sq ft assembly plant, 15,000 sq ft welding plant, 15,000 sq ft building housing sister-company Rubber Drives, Inc., 3,000 sq ft administration building and a 1,500 sq ft research facility). One highlight of the firm's new capabilities is a $50,000 natural gas paint drying process. Eight-month production capacity is now capable of 50,000 snowmobiles (but only 20,000 are planned for 1969). According to general manager Earl Hamilton, "today we are the second largest manufacturer of snowmobiles in Minnesota and the fourth largest in the nation."
1969 - In January the second annual Serpent Lake Snowmobile Derby is held before a capacity crowd. Led by co-chairmen Bruce Pirner and David Zontelli, the event drew 60 entries (up from 44 last year). In February, Trail-A-Sled, Inc. is sold to Fuqua Industries who later changes it's name to Scorpion, Inc. The company claims to be the second largest Minnesota-based manufacturer of snowmobiles. Employment hits 400 persons with a payroll of $2.5 million. Plans are announced for expansion to 140,000 sq ft of production space. In November, the International and Distributor racing teams (soon to be known as Corzine's Kamikazes) opened the season with a heroic indoor race at the Duluth Arena.
In December, Argosy Magazine publishes 'Bighorn Sheep by Snowmobile,' a fascinating study of Scorpion's roll in preserving this endangered subspecies.
1970 - Fuqua completes expansion at 150,000 sq ft. The firm's founders resign in October. Benefiting from corporate ownership, Scorpion, Inc. produced 22,000 machines and continued to expand their manufacturing facility with employment exceeding 500 persons. Warren E. Daoust (previously VP of Marketing) is named President & COO effective December 18th.
On October 28, 1970 the Crosby-Ironton Courier noted, "Effective Monday, October 5, 1970, President Glen Gutzman and Vice-President Richard Harrison elected to retire from active management of Scorpion, Inc. The two pioneers of the snowmobile industry will, however, continue their association in a consulting capacity and be available to Scorpion management. Fuqua Industries, Inc. announce the appointment of William R. (Bill) Smith as President and Chief Executive Officer of Scorpion, Inc." (See the newspaper's October 26, 2005 "Remember When" segment.)
1971 - The innovative Stingerette (a first of it's kind machine catered toward women) is unveiled as production nears 200 units per day. The industry is hit by the first in a string of unusually mild winters. Daoust pushes hard as 20,000 units are produced (for the 1972 build) and employment peaks at over 500 (this was to be the firm's, and in many ways the industry's, biggest year). The internal battle cry is "number 2 by 72."
As noted in the Crosby-Ironton Courier on February 3, 1971, "Darrel Northburg finished in 19th place in the Winnipeg to St. Paul International 500 snowmobile race that kicked-off the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Considering that 300 racers started out at Winnipeg and that only 69 finished the grueling 587-mile run, finishing in 19th place is a distinct honor. Northburg represented the Scorpion firm."
In November, an expansion program calling for a 140' x 144' one quarter million dollar addition to the main assembly plant at Scorpion, Inc. was started. According to Scorpion officials the structure will contain two stories and will be utilized for storage and export parts.
1972 - Snow conditions remain unusually mild and like much of the industry, the firm is caught with large amounts of unsold inventory.
In October, Crosby-area businessmen Jinx Ferrari and John Waffensmith launched the Scorpion Snow Hut. The grand opening festivities featured a Scorpion Stingeroo as the door prize, won by Mrs. Fred Allen of Ironton. With Ken Ross running the service operation and Jim Auge heading-up sales, the Snow Hut would soon become the world's largest Scorpion dealership.
1973 - The Arab-Israeli War, and it's resultant oil embargo triggered a world-wide economic recession, crippling many recreational industries, including snowmobiling. In an attempt to cut their losses, Fuqua sells the firm back to an internal management group (led by Harvey Paulson) after losing millions of dollars. Snow conditions are once again unusually mild, negatively impacting sales.
1974 – Fran Scott, Scorpion's Director of Personnel announces employment at 415 people with about one half working on a short-season basis.
In January Scorpion purchased Brutanza Engineering of Brooten Minnesota and it's coveted liquid cooled engine, soon installing Brut's legendary machine-head Gerry Reese as Scorpion's new Director of Engineering. Gerry formerly served as President of Brutanza and brings a long career in the snowmobile industry to the Cuyuna Range. Gerry began his career with Polaris Industries, set several speed records and won the Winnipeg 500 Mile Race.
January also saw Hollywood's legendary Rifleman Chuck Connors visit the Cuyuna Range to film promotional spots for next year's models.
In August, the Rockwell Recreational Engine purchase is announced (soon to be relocated from Germany to Crosby and renamed the Cuyuna).
In October, Scorpion announces plans to build snowmobiles for Massey-Ferguson beginning with model year 1976. Already running the largest agricultural equipment business in the world, this agreement allows Massey-Ferguson to focus on other lines of business while maintaining a powerful presence in snowmobiling - particularly in Canada where the firm is based (and where Scorpion's sales are small, accounting for only 5-10% of Canadian sales). The agreement culminated two months of negotiation and a legendary performance by Scorpion engineers who built a working prototype which sealed the deal in only five days. Scorpion executives hoped that the agreement would expand the firm's production season by eight to ten weeks per year. Massey snowmobiles are slated to utilize the new Rockwell Recreational Engine (soon to be renamed the Cuyuna).
1975 – Roger Ebert's strong showing on a family-friendly stock 340 Whip in the 500 mile St. Paul to Winnipeg endurance race was featured prominently in company marketing materials.
On Wednesday, July 23rd the Crosby-Ironton Courier noted, "Tours of groups and individuals are held daily at Scorpion Inc., where the famous Scorpion snowmobiles are seen in production at the plant in Crosby. Appointments are not necessary unless the group is sizable. However, those planning to tour should be on time as each tour starts promptly at 9:30 and 10:30 am."
1977 – The company announces employment of 450 persons and a production capacity of 200 snowmobiles per day. From a high of 133 in 1971, the number of snowmobile brands has been reduced to 11 (spread across 6 manufacturers). In August, Scorpion, Inc. announced its entry into a second market area, the manufacturing of two-wheeled moped motorcycles.
As indicated in the Brainerd Dispatch, "The annual Scorpion March of Dimes Celebrity Snowmobile Marathon was held Feb. 4-5 living up to its advance billing, attracting more than 1,500 snowmobilers, celebrities, and volunteers and generating pledges of more than $25,000."
1978 – Scorpion’s snowmobile line is supplemented by three models of Mopeds (SC 2X, SC 2, SC1). Scorpion is purchased by Arctic Enterprises in March, reducing the industry to only six manufacturers. In July, Arctic announces plans to move their Heavy Hauler trailer business to Crosby-Ironton and begins a $500,000 25,000 sq ft expansion to accommodate their goal of 20,000 trailers per year. The firm is officially renamed as Scorpion Industries, Inc. Sadly, this would prove to be the last calendar year in which snowmobiles were mass produced on the Cuyuna Range (in the summer and fall of 1978 for model year 1979).
1979 – In February, employment runs at 360 and Heavy Hauler Trailers begin rolling-off the assembly line. Both the community and company anticipate more products, employment and further investment in the months to come. Also in February, citing licensing problems and a declining market, phase-out of moped manufacture is announced. In March, the Scorpion Squadron Sno Pro racing team returned from Finland and Sweden with three first-place and one second-place trophies - bringing the season to an end with seventeen firsts, twelves seconds, and eight third-place trophies. In July, Arctic Cat announces record sales numbers for the combined companies. Roger Worth (former attorney for Arctic Enterprises) is appointed President. In December, Scorpion Squadron racer Brad Hulings wins the Hetteen Cup in Alexandria, Minnesota. 14,000 units are manufactured.
1980 – In January, layoffs begin hitting the Crosby-Ironton manufacturing facility. The Crosby-Ironton Courier covered the reductions as follows, "A significant layoff took place at Scorpion Industries, Inc. last week. The major share of the most recent terminations are at the management level. Firm officials said they are assessing the situation and that no further comment is available at present." Also in January, Brad Hulings of Crosby came in second at the finish of the 15-lap Eagle River annual snowmobile derby. In March, sighting a number of economic and industry woes (namely sluggish economic conditions, historically high interest rates and rising fuel prices), Arctic Cat embarks upon a consolidation strategy and the Crosby-Ironton manufacturing facility is officially put up for sale. As manufacturing transitions to Thief River Falls, Arctic adds only one new Scorpion model - the Sidewinder for 1981.
1981 – In February, under extreme pressure from creditors, Arctic Cat files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Large amount of parts and equipment are sold at auction for bargain basement prices. Although not officially announced at the time, the bankruptcy filing led directly to the ultimate demise of Scorpion. The brand never survived the reorganization process. Scorpion was finished, if only for a time ...
Shortly thereafter, with the purchase of engine manufacturing assets, Cuyuna Development Co. (led by president Roger Worth) announced their intention to manufacture small engines in a portion of the former Scorpion plant in Crosby.
1982 – In May, many of Arctic's assets are sold to Certified Parts Corporation of Janesville, Wisconsin including licensing rights to Scorpion snowmobiles.
In November, Roger Worth, president of Cuyuna Engine Co. of Crosby was among four selectees to the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame.