Robert J. Carlson
DATE OF INDUCTION: February 22, 2007
CAREER SPAN: 1971–1980
BRANDS REPRESENTED: John Deere
AGE AT INDUCTION: 71
A snowmobile industry visionary who led one of the most remarkable and successful racing efforts in the history of Cross-Country snowmobile racing during the 1970’s and 80’s, Robert J. (“RJ”) Carlson of Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, brought relentless drive, clear vision and remarkable managerial skills to a race program that propelled the John Deere snowmobile brand from non-participant to international champion in the space of just three racing seasons. His efforts as a daring and energetic corporate vice president transformed the Deere snowmobile image and product forever.
Starting with a dealer oriented Cross-Country racing program for the 1974 racing season centered on a mildly race-prepared Deere model called the 295 S, Carlson began assembling a group of experienced and talented racing individuals, designers, technicians and drivers to mold a true team effort aimed at making the familiar green-and-yellow colors of John Deere as respected in snowmobiling as they had always been in the agriculture world.
Ramping up for the 1975 season with a well-organized race series directed by the International Cross-Country Snowmobile Federation he helped create an all-new Deere competitions model called the 340 S, The Enduro Team Deere program resulted in several top finishes and a remarkable competition record in its second season. Building on this success, the following 1976 season saw the appearance of the very serious and successful Liquidator, a legendary racer that scored many Cross-Country victories including The Winnipeg-to-St. Paul I-500.