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Trade Winds Hot Rod Racing Sled Repeats Record

Trade Winds Hot Rod Racing Sled Repeats Record

On Feb. 20, Brian Hansen and Doug Hansen repeated history by topping the century mark three times behind the tiller of a specially-built hot rod snowmobile. Based on a 1968 Trade Winds Cheetah racing sled that is claimed to be the first snowmobile to go 100 mph, the finished-just-in-time hot rod version made runs of 102.3, 102.4 and 102.5 miles-per-hour during the 2021 Snodeo, an annual winter event in Manawa, Wis. 
The roots of Trade Winds can be traced to 1958, when Don Craig and Carl Dretzke began building pop-up tent campers in Manawa, Wis. That winter they bolted a go cart motor to a Flexible Flyer and made their first “snowmobile.” Three years later they formed Craig Mfg., to make various outdoors products. In 1964, the Trade Winds name was adopted. In 1966, they got into the snowmobile business and made 300 Tigers. 
The Cheetah was a hopped-up Trade Winds Tiger snowmobile created with racing in mind. A special build of 100 Cheetahs was made in late-1968. They featured powerful opposed-twin JLO engines, gold paint and leopard-print seats. Racing versions with three carburetors and that had their electric starting systems removed were even faster. 
On March 14, 1968 a young Trade Winds driver named Bob Hansen (of the same Hansen family) and a few plant workers took a Cheetah to nearby White Lake. It had a heavily-modified Hirth twin-cylinder engine, Tiltson HD carbs and early style tuned exhaust. With Carl Dretzke watching, the sled first made 95-mph and 99-mph runs. Then, came a third pass, in which Hansen set an unofficial World’s Record of 101 mph.
In March 2020, the family of Don Craig contacted the Manawa Snodeo expressing interest in trying to duplicate the 1968 record run. While Bob Hansen’s achievement was documented in newspaper reports and featured in a movie, the Trade Winds claim of making the first 100-mph run has always been an “unofficial” record.The Craig family wanted to attempt an official record run with the hot rod Cheetah at the 2021 Snodeo. 
The Craig family offered to supply all necessary items to do a special build of a machine based on the record sled. They eventually went as far as locating and shipping a new three-cylinder Hirth crate engine from Australia. The family supported the build with parts and Saturday morning sessions and organized a team of enthusiasts to complete construction of the special-build snowmobile in time for the Snodeo on Feb. 20-21, 2021.
Participants in the project included Jeff Craig; Mark Craig; John Craig; Brian and Doug Hansen; John Gunnell; Norm Wahlbruck; Rob Gaskins; Danny Gaskins; Steve Behnke; Willie Riske and Dave Sarna. They chipped in to build the updated Cheetah recreation out of a passion for the industry, its racing history and for the sake of history.
After the 2021 runs by Brian and Doug, the hot rod Cheetah is headed to World Snowmobile Headquarters in Eagle River, Wis. Sarah Anderson, creative director for the organization has agreed to display the snowmobile in their museum. According to the Craig family, Russ Davis, vice-president of the museum, was a member of the Trade Winds factory racing team at the time that the original record was established in 1968. 
In addition to the Cheetah’s successful runs, the Manawa Snodeo featured a parade, a flyover, modern snowmobile drag racing, oval-track events, lake crosses, a vintage snowmobile show with 44 entries and kiddie kat races for young enthusiasts. A large crowd attended to enjoy these events and to see the hot rod Cheetah in action.