DATE OF INDUCTION: January 21,1999
CAREER SPAN: 1945-1988
AGE AT INDUCTION: 75
David Johnson was one of three men who toiled in a tiny farm implement factory in Roseau, Minnesota in the early days of the sport trying to develop the dream of motorized travel over snow. Co-founder of Polaris Industries in 1945 and builder of the very first “Sno-Cat,” a rear-engine machine sold to one of his neighbors, Johnson had a hand in all phases of the sport during his long career.
One of the first “factory racers” during the 1950s, Johnson raced the early Polaris snowmobiles in a variety of events, sometimes racing against dog teams and often participating in deep snow races where the winner was the machine that wasn’t stuck in the snow at the end of the race. A believer in the idea that racing would improve the product Johnson competed in many endurance and cross-country events well into the 1960s.
As vice president in charge of manufacturing at Polaris for many years Johnson participated as an owner/investor during the management buy-out in 1982 that created the industry-leading Polaris Industries of the 1990s. Always in a leadership position in snowmobiling since its very early day Johnson contributed his expertise to the industry as director of plant services at Polaris until his retirement in 1988.