Polaris entered the ATV market in 1985.
The first Trail Boss was a very sporty
4WD with a two-stroke Fuji motor.
of Polaris itself. Prior to production,
the two engineers were flown to
Mount McKinley in Alaska for test-
ing. They had supplies for two days,
and then they were to be retrieved
by air. However, a storm prevented
the airplane from retrieving them,
and the two Polaris employees
struggled to survive for nine long,
cold days. Luckily, the storm broke
before the situation reached dire
levels. The good news was that the
numbered over 100, dropped to only
four, and Textron wanted out. Luckily,
the man that Textron had placed in
charge of the company was W. Hall
Wendel Jr., and he believed in
Polaris’ future. He found people to
invest in the company and buy it
from the parent company—and then
resigned from Textron to lead a new,
independent Polaris. Again, the story
is very similar to that of Harley-
Comet performed well throughout
the ordeal, and that encouraged the
company to proceed with produc-
tion. Unfortunately, it didn’t perform
as well in the less-icy conditions of
the lower 49 states, and Polaris had
its own survival crisis. Within the
company, they joked that of the 300
Comets manufactured, 800 of them
were returned. Polaris recovered,
though, because of the patience,
persistence and innovation of the
people involved. They regrouped,
redesigned the product and became
the leader in the young snowmobile
industry. The next Polaris snowmo-
bile was the Maverick, and it was a
There were other times in the company’s history that looked bad too.
From 1968 to 1980, Polaris was owned
by Textron. That marriage had started out well, and it allowed Polaris to
grow. But large conglomerates aren’t
especially well-known for the
patience and persistence that had
served the company earlier—ask
any motorsports historian about the
times when Harley-Davison was
owned by AMF. It was all about the
bottom line. The snowmobile market
shrunk dramatically in the late ‘70s.
The total market went from 495,000
units a year in 1971 to 87,000 in 1983.
Makers of snowmobiles, which once
The first Polaris to bear the name
Scrambler was actually a three-wheeler.
It arrived just in time for the federal
government to include the company in a
lawsuit against the entire ATV industry.
When electronic fuel injection arrived,
Polaris was one of the first to eliminate
the bugs and glitches.
The made-in-USA Liberty motors first
appeared in the Magnum line.
A 1996 Sportsman with four wheels
instead of six.
By 1998 Polaris had a solid 25 percent
share of the ATV market, thanks to the
By 2004, the Polaris Sportsman 700
Twin was direct competition for the
The first Ranger had six wheels and
was the beginning of a new industry.