It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for American automobile manufacturer Chrysler. In the late 1970s, Chrysler was in such deep water financially that it decided to do something crazy. The auto manufacturer made a huge bet outside of its car dealerships on what can only be described as a snow bike. The Chrysler Sno-Runner was a strange cross between a snowmobile and a mini bike.
So, how did Chrysler go from classic cars to the Chrysler Sno-Runner? The Sno-Runner wasn’t Chrysler’s first foray into other types of vehicles. Chrysler Marine was an entire division of the automaker dedicated to boats. The Sno-Runner was truly an anomaly even amongst Chrysler’s strangest creations, and is still a trending topic to this day amongst lovers of wild vintage vehicles. There’s a reason this thing is so hard to find.
History of the Chrysler Sno-Runner
Produced from 1979-1982, the Sno-Runner used a single-speed gearbox with a handlebar lever brake and kill switch. It also featured a single ski up front, but with measly horsepower easily under 10, the snow machine was hardly made for deep powder snow. The two-stroke Power Bee 820 single-cylinder engine was originally manufactured by West Bend. Even modded Sno-Runners barely reach a top speed of 40 MPH. Imagine a moped trying to plow through snow. But, with a single headlight and taillight, at least you could ride this machine really slowly at night.
Believe it or not, the Sno-Runner actually had a competitor: the Sears XW22 Sno-Cycle. Speaking of Sears, remember when they actually tried making cars? Well, that’s a story for another time.
In any case, the late ’70s and early ’80s were a crazy time in America. They were a time of financial success and opulence, so Chrysler got away with creating this strange invention. Chrysler eventually had to sell their remaining models to merchandise liquidator Comb because of the less than stellar sales, and Sno-Runners was briefly re-branded as “SnoRabbits.”
Though the Sno-Runner didn’t have the best initial reception, it still developed a cult following. They are still available online, but good luck finding them. Sites like eBay and Bring a Trailer used to sell them, but today they’re typically sold in a one-off capacity on other auction sites. Prices vary greatly depending on the year and whether or not the machine was refurbished with brand-new parts, such as carburetors or fuel tanks.
If you had the chance, would you purchase Chrysler’s wildest product?
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This post was originally published on May 5, 2021.