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Vergas man collects, restores snowmobiles

Darrell Dey has been collecting snowmobiles and memorabilia for about 25 years. He enjoys restoring the sleds and building scale models of them, but most of all, he said he enjoys the people he's met through his hobby. Brian Basham/Tribune

Darrell Dey is a self-described hoarder. He is also a collector and tinkerer of many machines.

He started out collecting and restoring old tractors and Maytag washers.

"I needed something for the winters," the Vergas man said.

And thus he started collecting vintage snowmobiles about 25 years ago.

He said he has multiple outbuildings filled with machines and parts, and he's done purchasing any more. That doesn't stop him from tinkering with the machines he has though.

One of his favorites is a 1963 Arctic Cat 450.

"I like the history of the snowmobile, the story behind it," he said of snowmobiles in general.

He has also built half-scale models, including a 1963 Arctic Cat 500 that now hangs in the Spicer Zorbaz.

He said it was difficult to sell the first sled he built or restored, but it's since gotten easier. There's always another one to work on anyway.

"I'm never bored," he said.

Along with the machines, Dey has also collected quite a bit of memorabilia over the years. Right now, a few pieces are on display in the Frazee-Vergas High School, where he works.

He has a signed copy of the book "Breaking Trail" by Edgar Hetteen, the man who started Polaris.

He also has a book and pictures of Walt Pederson and his trek to the North Pole. Pederson was a part of the 1968 Plaisted Expedition of the first snowmobilers to reach the North Pole. Pederson owned a Ski-Doo dealership in St. Cloud.

Dey also has memorabilia on display in Billy's Bar in Vergas.

He said he has boxes and boxes of memorabilia that he has found over the years. The hunt for snowmobiles and keepsakes is more fun than the actual products. He also enjoys the people he meets along the way, he added.

Going to vintage snowmobile rallies and other events, he has met a lot of people. Just being known as a snowmobile collector has garnered him some new friends as well.

Dey takes his sleds to all area vintage snowmobile rallies, but with 20 sleds, how does he decide which to bring?

"The ones that start," he said.

"I have gas engines my dad and I restored that are stuck again so I start all over," he said with a laugh.

He said that the trophies he's won for his sleds in the past haven't meant that much to him, because he's there for the fun of it.

That is, except for the Peer's Choice award he received at the Antique Snowmobile Rendezvous in Pequot Lakes rally, the biggest in the area.

"It's fun," he said of his hobby. "The people are the most fun."