It all began with a brand new riding lawnmower from Kmart back in the late 1960s.
“I was pushing a lawnmower around to mow the grass, and it would take me all day so my grandpa went down and bought me a brand new riding lawnmower. I was 12 or 13 at the time,” said Bill Moss, of Tooele.
After a few weeks of riding it around the yard cutting grass, he decided it still wasn’t fast enough so he made a few modifications. Even at that age, Bill, now 58, was mechanically inclined so he changed some pulleys around to allow for more speed.
“To hear my grandpa tell it is better because he said ‘I looked out the window one day and there goes Billy flying down the lawn cutting grass about every 3 feet he was going so fast.’ He came out, hollered at me and told me to slow her down and cut the grass better. He said, ‘It’s not a hot rod. It’s a lawnmower,’” Moss said.
It’s that same ingenuity that Bill now uses when restoring and modifying the snowmobiles, boats and lawnmowers he collects.
“I started riding snowmobiles back in the 70s when I was 17. I bought an old one back then and started riding it and really liked it,” Moss said.
Like most young kids, he didn’t have enough money, even with a job, to make such a large purchase.
“Bill Smith was like another dad to me. I bought my first one from him,” Moss said. “He’d come every week, collecting the $25 payment from me. That was hard to do because it was lot of money at the time.”
Now that Moss is older, he does the same thing for children. They will come to his shop in the middle of Rush Valley for parts or even a complete snowmobile, and Moss said he encourages the kids to work for him to earn parts.
“I’ve had several people say you’re not making much money. You need to sell the stuff for more, but that’s not why I do it,” Moss said. “I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the love of the snowmobiles and to have fun and to help people, especially kids because they’re the ones that don’t have the money.”
Even before he opens the door to the old shop that was built in the 1950s as a maintenance shop for a pig farm, you can see what lies in store. Outside the shop doors are Ski-Doo watercraft and boats. There are several trailers with different makes and models of vintage snowmobiles.
Then when he does open the door, there are giant shelves full of antique snowmobiles of several makes and models. Moss is the go-to-guy for all things snowmobiles. He knows each of their stories as he starts pointing them out.
“The yellow one there I got in Montrose, Colo. That one in Salt Lake. That one in Tooele. That one in St. John. This one belonged to a friend of mine when we’re kids,” he said.
Then he explained how he used to take his snowmobile to Kamas at his friend’s cabin and ride with them. He obtained his friend’s old snowmobile and said he still remembers when it was brand-new.
“This is a 1971 Polaris Mustang and I’m going to restore it,” he said.
So what does he do with all these snowmobiles he restores? Some of them he sells, some he plays with, some he races and some he enters into competitions.
“The first competition for snowmobiles I entered in was for SnoWest magazine,” he said. “The first year I entered, I didn’t do very well. That was 2004. In 2005, I won first place in all the categories. After that, almost every year I would win something. Now, I’ll usually take a trailer load, maybe five or six of them down.”
He started with one snowmobile, and then when he got out of the military in the 1980s, he bought a few more, and over the years he added to his inventory.
“When I first started riding, I only had the one and it was in 1968 — Scorpion. When I got out of the service in ’88, I picked up a couple more. At one point I had over 300 of them,” Moss said.
Now, out behind his Rush Valley Shop sits rows and rows of old snowmobiles waiting to be restored or salvaged for parts.
One might think Bill would be satisfied with his collection, but he still has rare models he wants to find. He has every model that Polaris made in 1971, except for one.
”All I need is one more ’71 Polaris and I will have the whole set,” he said. “I do have a Playmate, but it’s a ’69.”
It’s not just snowmobiles that hold Bill’s attention. He has old golf carts and a dune buggy from the 1960s that he painted purple with a matching trailer and racing lawn mower.
“I got this little purple buggy from a guy in Layton. It used to be blue color. I brought it here, tore it all apart, stripped it, painted it, put some carpet in it, and those bucket seats. I put a bigger motor. I’ve had a lot of fun with it,” he said.
He drives the buggy all summer. He’s even had this 1962 buggy in several parades.
He said: “I drive it instead of a motorcycle. I have that lawnmower back there that matches it. I did that on purpose because during summer time I go to the races and haul this down to the track and race it.”
He just recently started racing lawnmowers. Now he is trying to get more people involved with lawnmower racing.
“You can buy a lawnmower for $100 or $200, fix it up a little bit and go race it,” he said. Moss said he would like to get a lawnmower racing track in Tooele. Right now he races in the Spanish Fork Races at Mountain View Mowersports Track.
He also has plans to fix one of his snowmobiles for racing on the Salt Flats. Most snowmobiles will go about 100 mph, but with modifications, Moss said he hopes to reach 200 mph.
From modifying his grandpa’s brand new riding lawnmower in the 60s to hiding one of the biggest snowmobile motors in Utah under an old Formula 3 body, it’s in the unexpected speed from modified lawnmowers and snowmobiles that Bill said he finds enjoyment.
“I just want people to think this old man spent a lot of money on track and tunnel on an old Formula 3 that doesn’t go very far,” Moss said, “but then with the motor that’s under the hood, I just kick their butt on the mountain and watch the look on their faces. That’s fun.”