Don Brown's I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney
Don Brown's I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney | Steve DuCheney Photo
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Last year, we ran a story about that time in 1970 when Don Brown, 26 at the time, drove his Chaparral snowmobile to a successful first place finish at the International 500 (I-500) snowmobile race at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Read that story and check out the photos here.

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Don Brown with his I-500 winning Chaparral snowmobile, circa 1970 | Photo courtesy of Steve DuCheney

Don and his family are well known to longtime Old Mission Peninsula residents. His dad, Ed Brown, was a schoolbus driver for Old Mission Peninsula School, and his mom, Jo, was a cook at the school. My husband Tim and I bought the property we now live on from the Browns in the 1990s.

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Don Brown’s Chaparral Team in 1970 | Photo Courtesy of Steve DuCheney

Well, we have an update to the I-500 story! While Don’s original snowmobile was stolen years ago (Got any leads? Email me, jane@oldmission.net), his nephew Steve DuCheney (his mom is Don’s sister, Pat DuCheney) has been working on a replica of the machine. (He even drove out to check on an old snowmobile engine we had here – not quite what he needed, though).

Steve’s replica project is now complete, with help from Mel Winnie (M&M Sports Center), Dan Walker (D. Walker Studio), Paul and Todd Berret (Barret’s Auto & Marine Interiors), Paul Buckler, OMP’s Rocko Fouch, and Brad Wheat (Craig’s Body Shop on the OMP).

The I-500 story actually originated when we ran a story about Brad Wheat’s historic paint board at Craig’s Body Shop (decades of paint!), and we learned that he was doing the paint on the snowmobile.

That snowmobile replica is now on display at the Soo. It can be seen at the Kewadin Casino all of race week and at the track on race day – which is this Saturday.

Don Brown's I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney
Don Brown’s I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney | Steve DuCheney Photo

But that’s not all! Before the big race on Saturday, Don Brown will be riding the snowmobile around the I-500 track. Bundle up if you’re planning on going – even though my weather app says it’ll be a balmy 15 degrees at the Soo on race day.

Great job, Steve! This is super exciting for the Old Mission Peninsula, especially for those of us who were around when Don won the race in 1970.

Don Brown's I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney
Don Brown’s I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney | Steve DuCheney Photo
Don Brown's I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney
Don Brown’s I-500 Snowmobile Replica, built by nephew Steve DuCheney | Steve DuCheney Photo

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I was at LLSC in 1970. Race weekend always meant snowmobilers buzzing the girls dorm and kids throwing water balloons at snowmobiles who weren’t suppose to be on campus. The track was in walking distance of the dorm. We’d buy two buttons and stay till we got cold then come back and trade off with someone. Good memories.

  2. I am so honored that you would write such a nice tribute to me!!!! I will be at the track on Saturday to ride that winning sled in a parade LAP AT 9:OO a.m. – WHAT A THRILL!

    ALL OF THIS WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE if my NEPHEW, Steve DuCheney had not taken it upon himself to replicate my winning sled. The original sled was given to the I-500 museum and was stolen at some time later. Steve’s dedication and hard work brought that winning sled back to life, right down to all of the decals.

    I would like to thank every one who helped make this happen!!!

    GRATEFUL DON BROWN

    • Thanks so much for the note, Don! What a thrill that you’ll be doing that lap on Saturday! It’s just amazing to me that this story has come full circle after nearly 50 years.

      Tim isn’t too cold-weather hardy these days – otherwise we’d be there! Hopefully someone will do video or take some photos I can add to the story after Saturday.

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