29 March 2022
Examining some extremely rare models of AMF snowmobiles from the Corgi Juniors range.
One of the most unusual models in the Corgi Juniors range was the AMF Ski-Daddler Snowmobile, a type of vehicle very rarely seen in diecast form. The Corgi model was introduced in 1972, as part of a twin-pack with a related trailer, and may have been the first diecast power sled ever made. The set was withdrawn a few years later, although a modified version of the snowmobile was released in 1978.
AMERICAN MACHINE & FOUNDRY
The Ski-Daddler snowmobile was manufactured by American Machine & Foundry (AMF), a large conglomerate that produced a wide range of industrial, military and consumer products. The company was founded in 1900 to produce cigarette manufacturing machines, and other industrial labour-saving devices such as stitching machines and pretzel-twisters. In the 1940s, AMF developed automated systems for ten-pin bowling alleys that automatically re-set the pins, something that the company is still best known for today. Post War, AMF diversified into an incredibly wide range of different products - from consumer goods, such as garden furniture and bicycles, through to nuclear reactors and ballistic missile systems. Many of these product lines were the result of acquiring smaller companies and AMF owned the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company for many years.
In the 1960s, snowmobiles were a growing trend, and AMF saw this as an area to diversify into. As AMF had experience in producing bicycles and motorcycles, it was decided that these would be manufactured from scratch at a subsidiary company. AMF snowmobiles, marketed as ‘Power Sleds’ were affordably priced and aimed strictly at the leisure and sporting sector. These early snowmobiles sold well initially, but soon developed a reputation for unreliability, and had rather boxy looks.
For 1970, a re-designed snowmobile called the Ski-Daddler (a pun on the word ‘skedaddle’, meaning to move off) was introduced, and in terms of looks and performance it was a big improvement over the earlier models. The sleek design featured a rounded fibreglass engine cover at the front, and a wraparound chrome bumper. All models were painted orange with black undersides, and featured a console to separate the driver from the two-stroke motor. A pop-up headlight was fitted in front of the windscreen.
The Ski-Daddler was propelled by a thick rubber track and was steered by skis using motorcycle-style handlebars. The Ski-Daddler sold fairly well, but in 1972 AMF decided to stop producing snowmobiles under its own name, and instead marketed them under the name of its better-known subsidiary company, Harley-Davidson. However, this venture only lasted until 1975. In later years, AMF would sell off most of its unprofitable businesses and concentrate on its lucrative bowling division.
In 1972, Corgi introduced the ‘Twin Pack’ range, which incorporated a pair of themed models in a double-width blister card. These generally included two standard models from the Juniors line, usually a car or tractor with a trailer such as a horse float or speedboat, or two related models such as a wrecker truck with a car to tow. However, one set consisted of two brand new castings - AMF Ski-Daddler Snowmobile and Trailer. These models were only sold in this set and were not available separately.
AMF SKI-DADDLER SNOWMOBILE
Corgi’s model of the Ski-Daddler was to a much larger scale than most others in the Juniors series and was about 1/43 scale. It had two diecast components - the underside, painted black and incorporating the rear backrest, and the engine cover, which was painted orange. The base moulding had a fairly crude representation of the crawler tread cast underneath. While it may have been possible to have a working tread, this model was introduced in the early days of Corgi Juniors, and was fitted with low-friction Whizzwheels so it could be raced on plastic tracks. The wheels were very thin Whizzwheels without chrome hubs, and the axles were crimped to the base. Obviously, the wheels were meant to be low-key. The front ones were partly hidden by the skis, but the rear ones were quite obvious. An all-purpose red plastic component was sandwiched between the two diecast parts, incorporating the front bumper, skis, console and seat. Red wasn’t really the correct colour to use, as it clashed with the orange paint, the bumper should have been chrome, and the seats were normally black or orange. A clear windscreen was fitted between the engine cover and the console. The cover had an AMF logo, but no representation of the pop-up headlight flap. A blue driver figure was attached, with painted details including a white helmet, silver visor, pink face, black boots and gloves, holding a silver handlebar.
A small trailer was included in the twin pack, and could be attached to a loop at the back of the snowmobile. AMF produced a trailer called the ‘Tow Sled’ that could be pulled by the Ski-Daddler, but it was a mod-looking, orange sled that echoed the looks of the snowmobile. The trailer modelled by Corgi appears not to be an AMF product.
The model consists of a single diecast piece, which makes up the base of the trailer, the towing-hitch and the backrest, and is painted orange. The other main component is in red plastic, and includes the skis and sides of the trailer. A single axle is crimped to the base with two narrow Whizzwheels. Mounted in the trailer is a small figure; it's unclear whether it is meant to be a man or a child, but it is smaller than the driver figure. It has a pink face, and is wearing a yellow snow-suit with a white helmet, blue scarf, plus black gloves and boots. The figure can swivel from side to side.
The AMF Ski-Daddler Snowmobile and Trailer set was not a big seller, and was only available for a couple of years. However, the snowmobile was destined to reappear…
In 1978, the Snowmobile was reintroduced as a single model in the main Corgi Juniors line under number E18. It was recoloured and also had some casting modifications. The base now had a hollow section in the centre, and the lower part of the seat was gone. This was replaced with lower sides on the plastic seat sections, presumably as a cost-cutting measure. The towing hook was also gone, as there was no longer a trailer for it to pull. The base and the engine cover were now both painted gloss black, while the plastic piece incorporating the skis, bumper, console and seat was in mustard yellow. The wheels were now standard-width Whizzwheels, and the base had been altered to accommodate them. The wheels were usually all black, although some models were issued with chrome hubs. In the 1978 Corgi catalogue, a pre-production sample was shown with a brown driver which had no painted details. However, the model was released with a blue-suited driver identical to the original release. It is possible that these new models were made using surplus components from 1972, as in 1978 Corgi Juniors were no longer issued with painted figures. Presumably the new version of the Snowmobile was no more popular than the original release, as it only remained in the range for two years.
While originally a poor seller, the Snowmobile and Trailer set now command high prices, particularly when in the original Twin Pack. The 1978 re-release can also be hard to find, as it was on sale for a fairly short period. Loose models are frequently found with broken skis.