When Mike Frolik was little, the family snowmobile was the best thing around.
It was a 1970 Polaris Mustang and he and his four brothers could not wait to get home from school to ride it, the Ramsey man said.
But when he was 10, the beloved snowmobile met with an accident.
One night when his parents, Gordon and Sylvia, went out to dinner, the boys were using the snowmobile on their one-acre Ramsey property.
While looking back at Mike, who was riding a sled behind the snowmobile, his brother Phil drove it into the part of well that was above ground, Mike said.
“We put the cover on the snowmobile so it looked like the front end was still intact,” he said of hiding the evidence of the accident from his parents.
But those 33-year-old memories and a chance encounter with a rotting snowmobile frame resulted in a tearful surprise at the Midwest Vintage Snowmobile Show at the end of January.
As Gordon walked around the corner, he saw his white and blue Polaris waiting for him.
“It looked like it did the day they took it out of the crate,” Gordon said.
But it did not start out like that.
Last August, Mike spotted a similar rusted out Polaris Mustang snowmobile in a junk yard.
“It was a rust bucket and it was full of trash,” Mike said.
The stench was so bad that you could not stand near it, he said.
The family snowmobile “was a big part of our family and it got left behind because these guys were raising a family of five kids and didn’t have money to fix it,” Mike said.
According to Mike, he thought it would be nice to have a new snowmobile again.
For six months, Mike scoured junk yards, barns and garages throughout the state and even as far away as Ohio for the original Polaris Mustang parts.
Some of the parts were nearly impossible to find, like the aluminum trim that was special to the model snowmobile, Mike said.
But Mike did find the trim, which looked brand new, while digging in someone’s rafter looking for parts.
“Most of the parts I found came through word of month,” Mike said.
Mike ended up buying three to four other sleds just to make one complete snowmobile, said Sylvia.
According to Mike, he put in about 100 hours doing just the body work, including sanding off the blue paint job several times.
“I wanted it perfect,” he said.
But along the way. Mike was keeping it a secret from his dad.
In the early days of the project, he would have his dad help him move the frame, Mike said.
One day Gordon asked him who the snowmobile was for, but Mike’s only reply was “a customer.”
“I told him to call (the customer) and tell him it was a pile of junk and it is out in the scrap pile,” Gordon said.
Once the lower half of the snowmobile was painted blue like the original Polaris Mustang, Mike had to keep his dad from seeing it.
“Every time I would see him coming (down the street), I would close the garage door,” Mike said.
With their talks now outside of the garage, Gordon was starting to think his son did not like him anymore, according to Sylvia.
Gordon said Mike would hurry him along, she said.
Just before presenting the snowmobile to Gordon, Mike told him the truth about how he felt.
“He was a good dad,” Mike said.
With the key in hand, which include a key fob from McCullum’s in St. Francis, the now closed store where the Froliks purchased the snowmobile in 1970, Gordon was ready to take the snowmobile for a ride.
They were both crying as were all of Michael’s buddies, wives and girlfriends, said Sylvia.
“It was pretty exciting,” Gordon said.
With Sylvia behind him, Gordon put the first 1.8 miles on the sled.
When Sylvia was pregnant with Mike, who was born six months after they bought the snowmobile, they fit differently, he said.
They don’t fit as well now, Gordon said.
But the snowmobile looks like it did when it came from the factory, he said.
The original snowmobile was the first toy the family could afford. When they bought it, only three of their five children had been born, Sylvia said.
They would dress the children in their pajamas under their snowsuits when they were really young and Gordon would take the boys out for a ride to put them to sleep, she said.
They bought the snowmobile, trailer and a snowmobile suit for their oldest, Phil, for $900, Gordon said.
When asked how much he paid to restore the snowmobile he found in the junk yard, Mike said he did not want to say in front of his parents.
It was around $6,000, he said.
This was the second time that Mike had surprised his father.
In 2008, Mike surprised his father with a restored 1968 El Camino, Gordon’s dream car.
Gordon bought an El Camino, tore it apart and it stayed like that for 17 years, Mike said.
“Now I have given him his dream car and given back the snowmobile we wrecked,” he said.
The snowmobile is more special than the car, Gordon said.
The snowmobile won first place at the Midwest Vintage Snowmobile Show as well as the North Branch Winterfest Vintage Snowmobile Expo in February.
Tammy Sakry is at firstname.lastname@example.org