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Whiz Kid

If Jason Johnson works on it, you can bet it runs. Check out his unique collection of vintage Massey Ferguson Ski Whiz snowmobiles.

By Des Keller

Given the trove of vintage equipment tucked away on Jason Johnson’s family farm, you might think it a remarkable feat that one person could’ve collected it all. And you’d be right, especially considering the 30-year-old Belle Plaine, Minnesota, resident did so in just 16 years.

The collection fills two large outbuildings on the farm, one of which is packed to the walls with tractors, plows, trailers and other implements. The other is stuffed with snowmobiles of various brands dating back to the early 1960s.

Johnson, who got his start collecting and restoring classic tractors with his father, Robert Radoush, has found an even deeper passion for snowmobiles—in particular, the Massey Ferguson® Ski Whiz. Now a manager of a truck collision-repair shop, Johnson says he became smitten a decade ago when he spotted his first Ski Whiz at a machinery show.

“I liked the way the Ski Whiz looked,” he says of the boxy, utilitarian design, “so I decided to get one.” He now has more than 30 Ski Whiz snowmobiles, all of them fully operational, plus an uncounted number that don’t run. “I cannibalize parts from those machines,” he says.

Johnson keeps a half-dozen of his favorite Ski Whiz restorations in his home garage, prize among them his 1971 “Cadillac” Ski Whiz 500 SST. New, the 500 SST cost about $1,200 and featured chrome bumpers, a wood-grain dash and a windshield strip. “It was just a little fancier machine overall.”

Massey Ferguson made Ski Whiz snowmobiles from 1968 to 1974, then had Scorpion make the Ski Whiz with a sleeker, more rounded design until the line ended for good in 1977.

He has purchased a number of Ski Whiz machines that ran but needed to be rebuilt. He rarely sells his machines, but he has traded with other collectors—mostly to help them get parts they needed. He knows a couple of collectors—one in Michigan and another in Minnesota—who have as many or more snowmobiles as he does. “Who knows where we’ll go from here,” says Johnson, who is still on the hunt for three more Ski Whiz model versions. “I think I need a few more buildings.”

A previous story about Johnson and his collection ran in Massey Harris Ferguson Legacy Quarterly. To learn more about the magazine, see legacyquarterly.com.