John Deere’s Horicon, Wisconsin plant began snowmobile production in 1971 producing two models, the 300 (339ccs) and 400 (463ccs). A new slogan was adopted: ”Nothing Runs Like A Deere”.
With aggressive marketing and an already-established dealer network in place, sales topped 12,740 units one year later.
In 1973 the large selling JDX was introduced and in 1978 came the price-point direct drive Spitfire. It is said about 225,000 John Deere sleds were built between 1971 and 1983.
Other John Deere model names were: Cyclone, Liquidator, Liquifire, Snowfire, Cross Country and Trailfire.
From the outset John Deere was passionate about racing and Executive Vice President, Robert Carlson, was its biggest fan.
“Enduro Team Deere” dominated cross-country racing from 1974 through to the end of the decade and Brian Nelson won the 1-500 in 1976 for the brand.
Due to lack of finances Deere’s official race program ended in 1977 but a contingency program for private J-D teams was continued.
John Deere used Kohler and Kioritz (CCW) engines for many years and later went to Kawasaki power. The company had its own clutch brand, the Duster, but used Comets on its highest performance models.
From 1982 to 1984, there was a deep recession and the snowmobile industry was suffering – too many makers, not enough buyers.
Robert Carlson had left Deere and the company merely faded out of the business. Polaris Industries bought the snowmobile-related assets and parts supply.