James (Jim, Jimmie) Adema

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James (Jim, Jimmie) Adema

Birthdate: (33)
Birthplace: Grand Rapids, MI, United States
Death: December 14, 1975 (33)
Ironwood, MI, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Adema and Anna Adema
Husband of Private
Father of Private and Private
Brother of Private and Private

Managed by: Donn Charles Meindertsma
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • Private
    • Private
    • Private
    • mother
    • father
    • Private
    • Private

About James (Jim, Jimmie) Adema

Inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

When the name, Jim Adema, was mentioned at the racetrack, all people dropped what they were administering and went to watch Jim.

Jim was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jim's First achievement as a young boy was putting a washing machine motor on his own homemade Go Kart. Jim was impressed at such a young age (early teens) from that time on Jim was always interested in speed and what made them run. Also, Jim was the first person to ever put a 350 Chevy on his own homemade Go Karts.

After Jim graduated from high school he went to work at Grand Rapids Engineering. In time, he was very, very knowledgeable in this field.

Of course, Jim did not Forget about racing during his learning years as a tool and die maker. Jim became more intrigued with the sport of racing. First it was go-karts; then drag racing, then Late Model Asphalt Cars, and finally snowmobiles.

At the age of 26, Jim started to get serious about the sport of snowmobile racing.

In the year of 1968, Jim decided to get married. Jim and Pat ventured to the state of Alaska for their honeymoon. In December they flew back to Michigan to begin racing Sno Jets for Watercraft Sales, Rockford, Michigan. He captured many state championships during his winter and summer campaign.

Both Jim and Pat enjoyed their entire life together racing Sno Jets. It was a very memorial and enjoyable experience, one race fans will never forget.

All of Jim's engineering and ambition put Sno Jet Snowmobiles on the map. Jim was now known as "Mr. Sno Jet."

Jim was the inventor of the first water cooled snowmobile engines, three cylinders on a motor, and of course, his Titanium Track Cleats which he designed and built the die to produce them. Jim was also the first snowmobile racer, in the nation, to use carbide inserts for steering and traction products on snowmobiles. His knowledge goes way beyond recognition! He never seized to amaze one!

Jim's career continued on with the Sno Jet snowmobiles and further advancement in the sport occurred. In 1972, Jim decided to attend the World Championships at Eagle River, Wisconsin. He captured the Mod I and III championships. In 1973, Jim captured the Mod I and III and IV championships. In 1974, Jim returned again to the Derby capturing Mod I and Mod IV world championships.

Jim's knowledge for the Snowmobile Industry was so far advanced we would never know how much he knew! He just kept coming up with new stuff to try and it would work! Then he started manufacturing and selling his own racing components. He was also successful at this goal of his racing career.

In 1975 Jim switched to Yamaha Snowmobiles, as Sno Jets were bought out from Kawasaki Corporation.

On December 14, 1975, Jim's career ended. Jim was racing his first race of the season, competing in the Ironwood Olympus at Ironwood, Michigan, when his fatality occurred at the young age of 33. ______

Reflections of Jim Adema

JIM ADEMA'S FATHER, Sam, bought a washing machine engine at an auction when Jim was in elementary school. Young Jim Adema took the engine home and built a go-kart. A few days later, his father found Jim in the basement with a wood sander, trying to shave the head of the engine to make the go-kart go faster. A few years later, he and friend Jim Terpstra built a go-kart with a Corvette engine that hit 137 miles per hour in a quarter-mile.

   Jim Adema was a racer, and he died a racer.  On Sunday, December 14, 1975, we all lost a favorite man who never took time to look back upon his outstanding achievements and bask in the respect he built for himself.  It's a sad feeling to say good-bye to the unobtrusive man who wore USSA bib number 930 under the bulging, dark blue, down-filled parka with its billowing hood.
   The accident which claimed the 33-year-old resident of Belmont, Mich., took place during the last lap of the World Trophy Cup race, the final race of the Ironwood, Mich., Olympus.  Adema was seeking his third consecutive World Trophy Cup title.
   Driving a modified Yamaha for the first time after eight years with Sno*Jet, Jim was following fellow Yamaha driver Dick Trickle down the backstretch.  The time was reported at approximently 4:30 p.m., according to eyewitnesses.  Heavy, wet snow was falling.  A meeting of drivers had been held prior to the event, a witness said, to poll them about running in the rapidly approaching darkness.  The vote was to race.
   Trickle experienced engine trouble on the back straight and slowed down.  Adema attempted to swerve past the stalled machine, but clipped it from behind.  Adema lost control and was thrown an estimated 100 feet onto the track.  He got to his feet, but Team Bombardier driver Yvon Duhamel of Valcourt, Que., was unalbe to avoid a collision.  His Ski-Doo struck Adema at an estimated 70 miles per hour.  A second machine driven by Joe Wolfe of Michigan also struck Adema.  Neither driver could be faulted.  It was an unavoidable situation.
   Adema was pronounced dead on arrival at Ashland, Wis., Memorial Hospital a few hours later.  Trickle, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and Wolfe were also thrown but escaped injury.  Duhamel sustained a sprained wrist and leg abrasions.
   Adema was the first professional snowmobile racing fatality in the sport's history.  His death stunned the industry and the thousands of racing fans who cheered him as he single-handedly battled the colorful factory teams with his homespun arsenal of machinery and strategy.
   Jim Adema, who was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., area, dedicated his life to winning.  The only things that interrupted his life were his wife, Pat, and his two children, Jamie, 3 1/2, and Amy, five months.
   "He was kind of a loner," Todd Fulbright, Jim's employer and long-time friend from Watercraft Sales, said. "but from the mail, the cards, the people at the funeral, his life sure touched a lot of people. 
   "He had an unusual quality.  At times you thought he didn't want to talk to people, but it was just his way of doing his job.  He was trying to win.  He missed quite a few awards presentations because, just as soon as the race was over, he was working on his equipment for the next week.  I never knew anyone who wanted to work the hours Jim did.  It wasn't unusual at all for him to work 17 or 18 hours a day, seven days a week, to get ready."
   Adema's meticulous preparation showed on the track.  Dressed in his bulky parka and leather hunting boots with woolen socks sticking out, his machines usually in need of a coat of wax, he rolled onto the race track with a single purpose---to win.  He never embarrassed himself.  As one friend said, "He'd race anything at any time, and when he did, he wanted to beat you.  If he couldn't he'd go home and figure out a way to do it next time."
   After Jim Adema had spent five years racing Sno*Jets primarily in Michigan and northern Indiana, he began his climb into the national spotlight at Eagle River, Wis., in January of 1972.  He was a relatively unknown figure when he first eased onto the track with a low-profile, exceptionally lightweight, bright blue Sno*Jet modified racing machine.  He immediately astounded the crowd and his fellow competitors with adept cornering, hugging the inside perimeter of each turn in an era when riding high on the outer banks was still the thing to do.  Working closely with Sno*Jet engineer Duane Aho, Adema helped perfect ThunderJet concepts which revolutionized snowmobile racing technology.
   That weekend, Adema won Mod I and Mod III, and stayed with winner Mike Trapp in the World's Championship race for four laps before traction problems, of all things, knocked him out of the event.
   "It wasn't engine trouble," Aho said.  "That's what people have thought ever since.  What happened was that Jim was trying to develop a new carbide tipped stud.  He had some flown in the night before the race and put them on.  He really felt bad later and apologized for taking a chance.  The stud wasn't quite right; it was before its time."
   The 1972-73 season was one of Jim's biggest.  He won three classes at Eagle River, and also finished third in the World Championship.  And he won his first Kawartha Cup, Canada's most prestigious title.  For the season, he finished second in USSA Central Division Mod III points, third in both Mod II and Mod IV, and sixth in Mod I.  He compiled more total points than any driver in North America, qualifying to wear USSA gold bib numbers, 13, 22, 24, and 55 under the bib allocation system.  But Adema came back for 1973-1974 wearing No. 930.
   "He wore 930 because he was extremely superstitious," Aho said.  "He wouldn't have worn 13 for all the money on earth.  That's why he wore the same parka, white helmet and gloves, too."
   That season, he had another outstanding record, including winning his second Kawartha Cup.  He was the first man to ever win it twice.  He won his first World Trophy Cup at Ironwood, and two more titles at Eagle River, and his first USSA World Series championship.  He earned USSA bib numbers 11, 15, and 64 for 1973-74... but when 1974-75 rolled around, No. 930 was on the track again.
   Jim's racing components business was growing, and Sno*Jet's interest in racing was waning last winter, and the number of places Adema raced was limited.  He made three prominent stops---Ironwood, Eagle River and Weedsport.  At each, he went home a winner.
   Jim Adema was a competitor who won favor among racing fans because of his one-man war against the brightly gleaming factory machinery and the men in colorful, custom-tailored suits.  Adema's motorhome and trailer were no match for the factory semi-trailer vans, either.  He enjoyed the image he portrayed, but in reality, Jim's shop and expertise were a match for all but the very best factories.
   There was never any doubt about his capabilities.  Besides being on adept driver, Jim was a genious in the fine art of preparation.  His engines were right, his handling near perfect every race.  He was his own mechanic, and quite secretive about his equipment.  He knew what to do, and how to do it, and a number of companies in the snowmobile industry were interested in hiring him because of his expertise.
   Jim balked at a number of offers, however.   He set a price---a substantial salary figure---which no factory was eager to pay.  The salary he required wasn't an ego thing, however.  It was business, another of Adema's strengths.
 For Jim to leave his situation with Sno*Jet would have meant a move from a beautiful home he'd built for his family in Michigan, and he would have to sell the business he had launched, and he would have become an employee instead of directing his own destinies.  His change in loyalties from Sno*Jet to Yamaha prior to this season came primarily because of three reasons:  first, Sno*Jet was not racing because of negotiations to sell; secondly, Yamaha offered a program which fit Adema's personal situation; and third, Jim knew Yamaha engines and how to make them go faster.  It was a business transaction.  I had known Jim for years and years," Yamaha's Gordon Muetz said, "but I found I didn't know him well until I had a chance to work with him.  I was going to live with him all season and pick his brain for everything I could.  In the three weeks I did work with him, I learned more about track setup and clutching and handling than I'd learned in three years."
   "Jim was going to help us build a Stock racer for the future.  It was a tragic, tragic loss to his family and sport, and it was a real loss to Yamaha, too."
   Jim adema planned his life.  He didn't ignore the risks his career entailed.  He knew what could happen.  He took every precaution he could take.  What might not have been tended to, his friends throughout the snowmobile world will try to take care of for him now.
   Memorial funds for Jim and Pat Adema's children have been established.  If you would care to contribulte, send your check or money order to the Jim Adema Memorial Trust Fund.....
   Jim Adema's Belmont Enineering will also remain open to continue serving high-performance snowmobilers with parts and accessories. 

...written by an unknown author for SnoTrack magazine

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James (Jim, Jimmie) Adema's Timeline

January 29, 1942
Grand Rapids, MI, United States
December 14, 1975
Age 33
Ironwood, MI, United States