The Strange Story of John DeLorean’s Snowcat Factory Is Even More Bizarre Than the DMC-12


The slow speed was exacerbated by the tug’s surprisingly heavy footprint. The unit tipped the scales at a rather impressive 5,700 pounds, much of which could be attributed to the ballast that the workers filled the tugs with in order to ensure that the units would have traction when towing heavy objects.

David Smart, one of Logan’s engineers who became the company’s Manager of Operational Services, said that using a Chrysler powertrain was out of the norm for the company. In fact, he recalls that the option was only used because it was specified in the contract, as DMC-Logan would equip its snow groomers with Ford industrial engines for gasoline power plants, and its diesels would receive either a Caterpillar or Volvo engine.

After the tugs were built, workers needed to verify that the vehicles could tow up to a rated weight, so DMC-Logan built a test track along the northern edge of its property to test all finished products. One former worker told me that staff was instructed to drive the tugs around when they had any downtime, as the Air Force wouldn’t accept delivery of any unit without a certain amount of hours on the clock. As each unit was finished, it began its trek around the 900-foot inclined track. The tugs would tow a prescribed load up the incline, put on its brakes, and take off from a stop to ensure the heavy load could be moved. 

FLIS data shows that DMC-Logan sold each unit for $8,755. Today, that would be the equivalent of around $25,511. Needless to say, the income from the T-40 was pretty good considering it cost around the same as a brand new Toyota Camry—despite being much simpler and using a powertrain developed in the 1960s. It was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to government contracts. DMC-Logan built a number of vehicles for various branches of the U.S. military throughout the years, including during its days under the Thiokol brand.

As for a total production count, the records are unclear and our best guess is around 400. The company would later attempt to bid on one of its largest government contract ever, a procurement request from the U.S. Army for up to 800 Small Unit Support Vehicles. It failed to win the award, prompting Utah Senator Orrin Hatch to intervene. A letter addressed to U.S. Army Secretary John Marsh from Senator Hatch complaining about the decision revealed that the company had built “approximately 500” vehicles for the government, 92 of which were tracked units—this leaves just over 400 units unaccounted for, a number which several of DMC-Logan’s former employees believe add up to the number of T-40s produced between 1981 and 1982.

Signs of Trouble

There’s another reason why DeLorean expanded into aircraft tugs: DMC-Logan hadn’t been quite the financial windfall he expected. Through the 1980s, snowcat competition began to heat up. Companies like Bombardier and PistenBully were knocking on DMC’s door, and the company began to look into ways to increase cash flow. And as a business with seasonal demand, the company regularly operated at a loss for the majority of the year, according to David Smart. Under Thiokol’s ownership, the Logan plant was able to use its parent company as a banker and stay operational while focusing its spending on raw materials, labor, and product development. When ski season came around, the company would rake in the cash, more than making up for its losses.

When the company split from Thiokol, the blank check funding stopped. And as DeLorean’s own financial and legal troubles multiplied, DMC-Logan would be left to figure out a way to stay afloat with no emergency cash-filled life preserver. Soon the company resorted to taking on odd jobs to stay above water. Soon, its 60 percent market share began to dwindle as the company pumped out odds and ends like treadmill frames to skid steer loaders.

“There was really no plan to address and modernize, and really bring our product up to what their competition was doing,” said Smart. “[Competitors] had the money to modernize their products more than us. We tried to do the best we could with the limited amount of engineering and R&D that we could do. But John, he wanted money. He took the money out of the company rather than put money in.”

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