Article from the Fall 2019 Cokato Finnish-American Historical Society Newsletter (page 5). Used with permission, Find out more about the CFAHS here.
This all-terrain vehicle, fondly known as the "Snowmobile" has a unique history. It has its beginnings in Cokato and ended back in Cokato. It is now part of the vehicle collection of the Cokato Museum.
The first conversion was made so it could be used by the mail carrier in the winter. Country roads were generally not plowed until the creamery trucks with plows attached to the front of their trucks cleared a path. This began to happen in the early 1940's.
The Cokato mail carriers covered their routes during the 1920's and 30s in these "snowmobile cars." The car on the left belonged to Carl Piekert. Also pictured (l-r) Albin Dahlin, Charles Osberg, Else Larson, and Algot Eastlund.
This curious machine had its origin in Cokato. Carl Piekert, a rural mail carrier bought this 1918 Model-T Ford around 1926. The mail carrier conversion kit was sold exclusively through Ford dealerships. The kit included a pair of skis for the front and cleated tracks to go over the rear wheels. A large box-like enclosure made of heavy paper and wood was included to be fitted to a frame after part of the cab was removed.
Another set of wheels had to be installed in front of the rear wheels so the track could operate properly. These dummy wheels had no power because they were not connected to the transmission.
This snowmobile attachment "put a Ford on snowshoes". On snowy winter days this was the only motorized vehicle that could get thorough the drifts. The skis came in three different widths to match the trails made by the horses and sleights. With two speeds forward and one reverse it could go through a lot of snow.
The vehicle was used from late 1920's into the early 1940's to deliver mail on his route north of Cokato to people such as: Leola Engstrom, Ole Nelson, Marion Hempel, Emma Leinonen, Virgil Morris, Fred Herman, Hjalmer Salmela and Mildred Haapala to name a few. It was not only used to deliver mail but in cases of medical emergencies, Dr. O.J. Freed would use this wonderful machine.
Sold in 1962 to Benard Bajari
Benard, an avid sportsman wanted to use the snowmobile for hunting and ice fishing on Lake Millie Lacs. He made several improvements to the machine. He raised the gas tank so that when he went up the hills the fuel would still get to the carburetor. He put the front wheels back on and adjusted the ski to go up when not traveling on snow. To get more power and speed out of the machine he rebuilt the tran8mission with parts from the junk yard. This snowmobile has five speeds forward and three speeds reverse. If speeds of thirty miles per hour were obtained, folks would hold their breath and hope the chains did not fly off.
In 1994 the snowmobile was donated to the Cokato Museum by Mr. & Mrs. Benard Bajari in memory of their nephew, Clifford Keskey.