AmSnow.com is now SnoWest.com
Ski-Doo offered him $10,000 to use a 1975 245 TNT snowmobile for the jump. Knievel wanted $1 million, but Ski-Doo didn’t agree. As a result, Knievel took off all the Ski-Doo decals and painted it bright orange, which went well with the nice orange nose cone.
Knievel’s snowmobile jumping career ended before he could attempt jumping the sled even once. In an earlier filming of the “Death Defiers” show, Knievel was to jump his motorcycle over a tank of sharks, but Knievel missed the jump in practice and crashed hard. He never performed the jump again. Knievel then hired Ron Phillips to jump the Ski-Doo snowmobile off a ski jumping ramp in Chicago, Ill., for $25,000. Phillips was a well-known snowmobile racer, and he was also from Butte, Mont. But Ron didn’t have a chance to practice the jump beforehand.
Phillips should have been going around 90 mph at the end of the ramp. Those who saw the ill-fated attempt said he flew 25 feet and straight up in the air before falling off the rear of the snowmobile. The Ski-Doo landed on the rear of the tunnel, buckling it badly. Phillips suffered a career-ending spinal injury.
This Ski-Doo sled lived on though. It was brought back to Butte, Mont., and patched up so it could be trail ridden. Now everyone can see this amazing piece of snowmobile history. The Gottschalk family from central Minnesota owns the sled now, and they’ve restored it to original pre-jump condition.
Back in 1975, I had the chance to test a sled like this, and WOW, what a sled! Being 41¾ inches wide made it very stable with an overall length of 102 inches. The aluminum tunnel and frame and fiberglass hood made the overall height only 33 inches – low to give you that fast feeling, with no windshield. It was very light, weighing only around 320 lbs. dry. A Rotax twin cylinder engine with rotary valve induction powered the TNT.
If you ever see one at a vintage show, stop and ask if you can sit on it, and see how natural the sled feels. Perfect!