This is an original Polaris Star Car, a 1960s production open-wheeled racer that was designed to look like a miniature Formula 1 or Indy car from the era.
Thanks to its rear-mounted snowmobile engine the Polaris Star Car was said to be capable of speeds in excess of 80 mph, and some claim that the cars went over 100 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Fast Facts – The Polaris Star Car
- The Polaris Star Car was introduced in 1965 an sold until 1968, after which time Polaris tried to recall them all to destroy them – it’s believed just 20 or so have survived to the modern day.
- The reason they were recalled is said to be due to legal liabilities – the little open-wheelers were said to be capable of speeds between 80 and 100 mph, far quicker than the brakes or tires could safely handle.
- Power was provided by a 372cc Rockwell/JLO two-stroke snowmobile engine sourced from a Polaris snowmobile from the same decade. The theory being that instead of your snowmobile engine sitting idle in the summer you could take it out and use it in your Polaris Star Car.
- The Polaris Star Car you see here is an original unrestored example with its engine still in place. It’s been in storage for over 30 years and now requires a full restoration, alternatively it could be used as a display piece in its current condition.
The Star Car: A Snowmobile Powered Racing Car
Polaris has been building snowmobiles since their first prototype was made in 1954 in Roseau, Minnesota. The company soon became major manufacturers of the vehicles, and the snowmobiles themselves helped to transform winter life for people living in the cooler northern latitudes.
Perhaps the key issue with snowmobiles then and now is the fact that they spend half the year or more in storage, unusable due to the lack of snow on the ground.
The Star Car was conceived by the team at Polaris to be powered by one of their snowmobile engines. With just a few bolts removed the engine could be transplanted into the Star Car in the summertime, then back into the snowmobile in the winter.
This largely solved the issue of the immobile snowmobile and opened up new revenue opportunities for the company, selling leisure vehicles for use year-round.
The Polaris Star Car featured a tubular steel chassis with a fiberglass monoposto body fitted over the top, the engine was mounted in the rear and powered the rear two axles via a chain drive. The engine was a 372cc Rockwell/JLO two-stroke snowmobile engine producing 18 bhp.
The Star Car made use of double torsion bar front suspension and a partial leaf spring arrangement was used in the rear. Although it looked like a go kart it was actually larger and technically an open-wheeled racing car.
Surprisingly the vehicle was only fitted with brakes in the rear, possibly a result of the location of the brakes on snowmobiles. The disc brakes fitted to the Star Car were woefully inadequate given the car’s speed, and the tires weren’t much better.
As a result of these issues the Star Car proved quite dangerous in the wrong hands, production was ceased after just three years due to concerns about legal liabilities. Interestingly Polaris issued a recall in 1968 for every Star Car that had been sold, all were returned with the exception of approximately 20 which were kept by their owners.
They’re now a collectible little historical curiosity and they can be a great deal of fun to drive, just so long as you remember not to push them too hard.
The Polaris Star Car Shown Here
The car you see here is a rare find – an original Polaris Star Car still fitted with the correct engine and still wearing its factory-applied livery.
This car hasn’t been started or driven in over 30 years and so it’s clearly now a project that will require a full restoration and an engine rebuild before any driving is attempted. Engine parts should be relatively easy to source given their use in Polaris snowmobiles.
If you’d like to read more about this unusual vintage racer or place a bid you can visit the listing here on Bring a Trailer. It’s being offered for sale out of Wylie, Texas.
Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer
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