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1969 Thunderbolt

1969 Thunderbolt

This is one of two Thunderbolts ever built and the only one currently assembled with a motor and is operable. The second machine is in North Dakota.

Henry Leseman of Ada, MN did specialized work for Arctic Cat and made parts for many other snowmobile manufacturers. He was encouraged to build his own snowmobile and he did so using the best features of Arctic Cat and Viking along with some ideas of his own. This was the start of Thor Industries and the Thunderbolt snowmobile. Two prototypes were built and tested in the summer of 1969. One Thunderbolt was sent to an East coast distributor to be shown at a show in Montreal, with the intention of encouraging dealers to sell this machine. At the same time, the company that was committed to the funding backed out since the industry was beginning to struggle. This particular machine was given to the distributor by Henry.
Henry Leseman sold his business and began a company in Venezuela in 1972. Henry sold one of the Thunderbolts before he left for Venezuela to a man from North Dakota. In 1982, Mr. Ernol (Bud) Knapp of Cedar Springs, MI was doing research on the Thunderbolt and met with Henry, who lives in Arkansas. Bud was later able to purchase this Thunderbolt in Dover, New Hampshire.

On Sept 20, 2019, The Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum was awarded a grant of $12,500 for Operational Support from the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA – ART WORKS). The grant was awarded through the MCACA peer review process and was one of 561 applications to compete for MCACA fiscal year 2019 funding. The grant requires a 1:1 match and helped the museum leverage the $12,500 of support from its annual income and the many donations from supporters. In particular the museum has received grants from the Graymont Community Economic Development Fund and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. It has also received significant donations from the Antique Snowmobile Club of America, The Midwest Vintage Snowmobile Shows, Inc., many snowmobile clubs, several recreational and snowmobile shows, the museum’s internal $1,000.00 Challenge, and many museum members. The grant funds will be applied to museum operating costs. Applicable costs include internal operations, marketing, travel to shows within the State of Michigan and cost of employees. The MCACA peer review process allows for each grant applicant to be competitively considered by a panel of in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals. This ensures the taxpayers, who support this project through legislative appropriations, and all other visitors or residents in Michigan will have access to the highest quality arts and cultural experiences. A complete list of grant awards around the state is available by contacting MCACA at (517) 241-4011, or by visiting the MCACA website at www.michigan.gov/arts
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Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum
P.O. Box 2
W11660 US-2
Naubinway, MI 49762
Hours: 906 477-6298
Appointment: 906 477 6192

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