Not quite a snow motorcycle (snowtercycle?) and not quite a snow-tank, the Chrysler Sno-Runner probably wouldn’t ever have gone into production if Chrysler wasn’t absolutely desperate. It was the late 1970s, and the company was in serious financial trouble. These conditions meant that it was ready to roll the dice on just about anything that it thought could save it. Enter … the Chrysler Sno-Runner, somehow.
To simply dismiss it as a quirky machine would be to seriously undersell what you’re looking at. The Sno-Runner has a single ski up front, another ski directly behind it, and a track in the rear to get power to the ground from the chain drive.
It’s made to hold just one person at a time, and there’s even a sticker on this particular example advising you to never ride with a pillion. Reports from people who’ve ridden them say they only do well on hard-packed snow, and can't handle the soft, powdery stuff—more on why that is in a moment, and I’ll warn you, it’s frustrating.
That buzz you’ll hear if you watch the startup video comes from a Power Bee 820 two-stroke, 134cc single-cylinder engine, originally made for chainsaws. It made approximately 8 horsepower when new, and found its way into other recreational vehicles as well. Naturally, that includes go-karts, because why not?
It was intended as a lightweight, fun, purely recreational snow machine—a mini-snowmobile, of sorts. A clever five-pin system meant you could easily break the whole thing down and carry it around wherever you needed to go, with no tools necessary. Your premixed fuel and oil went into the frame, which was also a handy 1.33-gallon fuel tank. It weighed 71 pounds, which isn’t exactly a sack of feathers, but also doesn’t seem unreasonable for its size. The Sno-Runner hit the market at an MSRP of $699 in 1979.
What went wrong? Remember that entire 8 horsepower that the Power Bee engine supposedly made? It’s not clear whether Chrysler purposely chose to restrict it with its exhaust header and muffler choices, or whether it was simply an unfortunate case of parts bin mining with unintended consequences. In either case, that 8 horsepower suddenly became 7—and when the numbers are that small to begin with, it makes a huge difference. That, Hagerty posits, is likely why the Sno-Runner was so terrible at handling powder. As units were sold, their top speed was around 25 mph, in optimal conditions, with a fairly lightweight pilot, a stiff and bracing tailwind, and etc.
Gallery: 1979 Chrysler Sno-Runner
The great thing about all kinds of vehicles is, no matter how strange they might seem, they’re always lovable to someone. Quite often, the people who love them also expend serious energy in modifying them to fit their vision of what that vehicle should be. In this regard, the Sno-Runner is no different—and this particular example, which is currently up for auction on Bring A Trailer, is no exception. While much of it is stock, it does feature the following key upgrades: a 15-tooth main sprocket and clutch, as well as a high-flow pod air filter. The seller doesn’t give any information on what these changes are like to live with, but aren’t you curious to find out?
Other service performed prior to sale includes a full carburetor rebuild, installation of a heavy-duty kill switch, and also headlight bulb and starter clock spring replacement. It comes with a bunch of spare parts, plenty of OEM literature that you’ll see in the photos, and is sold on an Arizona bill of sale. It’s being offered at no reserve, and bidding at the time of writing is up to $2,450. The auction ends on Friday, February 26, 2021, so don’t let time melt away if you want it.