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Arctic Cat Prototype Engine Display


Andy Olson with the Arctic Cat prototype engine display

Of the many interesting displays at the Arctic Cat 50th celebration, one that kept catching my eye was the prototype engine display produced by the engineering department (and Andy Olson in particular). That's Andy in the above photo.

For those who missed it, here are some pix along with the information that accompanied each.


Prototype 1100cc triple for the Arctic Cat Thundercat

1100cc Thundercat engine

-Increased from 999cc

-New cylinder design triple exhaust port and exhaust valve

-Prototyped in 2000, never produced


Prototype 295cc single

295cc Fan-Cooled single cylinder

-Same fan as 440cc twin cylinder engine

-Designed to replace the 250cc free-air single used on the Lynx

-Never produced


Prototype 440cc Lightweight twin

440cc L/W “Lightweight”

-First prototype in 1979

- Original design 47 lbs., 56-hp

-Never produced until 1989 for the 1990 Prowler

-In the Prowler, the engine weighed 53 lbs. due to a larger magneto (for greater electrical output) and full-circle crankshaft.

-Increased to 68 hp in 1991 (I assume some of the reason for this was because of the Jeep/I-500 racing rules of the time, which allowed a maximum of 68-hp. –Ed.)


Prototype 500cc triple

500cc Liquid-Cooled Triple

-Based off of the 600 ZRT engine

-Planned for the 1995-96 season

-Never produced due to cost and low demand


Prototype Laydown twins

Laydown Engines: the engines that would debut in the 2002 Sno Pro race sled, then the 2003 Firecats, and have evolved into today's 800 H.O.

-First prototype based off of a 640cc Tigershark engine (not shown) in 1997.

First prototype 440cc laydown engine

-Second proto (above) based off of a 1998 “stand up” 440cc engine, machined and modified to the “laydown” induction system, in 1998. (Built by Arctic Cat engineers. -Ed.)

Third prototype 440 laydown

-Third prototype (above), built in 1998, had the reed valves relocated to the front of the crankcase, with the cooling lines in the case. (Built by Arctic Cat engineers. -Ed.)

First Suzuki-built laydown 440 engine

-First Suzuki-built prototype of the laydown 440 engine (above).


Carbon-fiber piston

Carbon-fiber pistons! I’ve been told it didn’t pan out, and that the cost would be prohibitive.


Prototype single cylinder Arctic Cat engine

This prototype single-cylinder had no informational placard next to it. It started life as a 800 laydown twin.

Prototype single cylinder Arctic Cat engine

Personally, the idea of a narrow, light 400cc EFI single that produces in the neighborhood of 70 hp gets me REALLY fired-up. I can image a few applications for such an engine, such as so-called “youth” sled that was perhaps sized about 20% smaller than today’s sleds (think early AFS Jag dimensions).

I also wonder what an engine like this would be like in an ATV?


Yep, interesting times ahead for Arctic Cat engines, with an end to the Suzuki supply coming after the 2014 model season. Obviously the company is hard at work on that next chapter.

Arctic Cat's Greg Spaulding (l) and Donn Eide

Two of the guys responsible for many prototype engines over the years: Greg Spaulding (l) and Donn Eide.

Any ideas of what you think is coming?

Comments (22):

Flintstone says:
8/5/2011 11:59:00 PM

I would like to see them continue to build more powerful,lighter, longer lasting maintenance free,4 stroke engines. I believe the future of the sport will be putting on more miles and going faster doing it!! Fuel efficiency and emmisions is also going to be huge in the coming years..

I love 2 strokes but the rate at which they wear out is unacceptable and they do not have the capability to make the kind of Horsepower and reliability that I need.

If everything that has been said of the 2012 F1100 turbo is true and it is the real deal then I would have to say that my f1000 is the last 2 stroke I own.

I can't wait to take delivery of my new turbo this fall!!
akrider says:
8/6/2011 1:13:00 AM

Ever since I switched to Yamaha in late '05 I thought the future was 4-strokes. If the weight could be brought down, there really is no down side to a 4-stroke for trail use. Even with the mountain sleds a 4-stroke has reliability on its side as any sled is way too heavy when its engine burns down or lets go down inside some bowl and has to be towed out.

I'm really curious how the F1100 will fair this winter. We know the the turbo has power, but that is too complicated for me. I personally thing injected, EPA compliant 2-strokes are a dead end road. They are required to be run leaner and leaner and no one can say they are simple with all the electronic controls and ever more sophisticated injection systems. I'm not sure I understand Cat's logic by going away from Suzuki and their knowledge of high performance 4-strokes. You guys must have something in mind?
Tom rowland says:
8/6/2011 10:11:00 AM

I would love to see them working on a 2012 version of the 1979 el tigre that many people are starting to relive our youth on. Produce it with modern day materials and modern day manufacturing techniques, a sled like that would have a super-high fun factor to many riders. It would fill a small niche in the marketplace, and, further seperate "us from them". A medium horsepower liquid under the hood, modern day track lugs, etc...would be interesting.
Alley Cat says:
8/6/2011 10:24:00 AM

I agree that single would work in a atv, and a very light sled. I would do the test riding for nothing too!!!
Mark says:
8/6/2011 10:28:00 AM

Uh, Tom; it's called a Sno Pro 500. says:
8/6/2011 10:38:00 AM

[gets on soapbox]

That 400cc single looks like a neat engine. Like Sandberg, I'm a champion of the concept of a smaller-scale sled. However, as much as I'd like to see a smaller-scale sled, I've been told a 7/8 or 3/4-scale sled costs just as much to manufacture as a full-size sled. I would imagine the manufacturers don't want to take the risk to build a loss leader or switch over an entire line to smaller scale sleds and risk alienating their core buyers. Look at the backlash Cat saw with calling the 1100 their 600-class sled (without even riding it first) and look at how many core buyers shy away from the 500 Sno Pro because it's engine isn't "big enough" (again, with many having never ridden it). Imagine the backlash at slotting a smaller-scale sled into that class. Even if such a sled had the same power/weight ratio as, say, an F6, my bet would be that most would label it a "kids" sled, or look at the engine specs and deem it "not big enough." Unfortunately the manufacturers have made their own beds by continually building larger, more powerful machines and conditioning their core buyers that bigger is better. Not to mention the snowmobile media who shamelessly feeds that concept (how many magazines wrote that the 500 Sno Pro was fun BUT, it would be funner with an 800?). No doubt a 400cc 2-stroke single would be a cheap engine to produce, far cheaper than a comparable 4-stroke. If combined with already-available parts (or even already available chassis designs *cough* Firecat *cough*) could it be a part of a cheap, fun-to-ride sled consumers would demand? I'd like to think so. Cheap in my mind is $5K or under. What I'd like to know is what consumers think cheap is and what they expect for that price? And what to manufacturer's think is cheap? The big thing is getting more people on the snow and into the sport. I would bet there are a lot of people who have a casual interest in the sport but see the prices of new sleds and get scared away. To me, the fact that visits to OEM Web sites far surpass actual buyer numbers are proof of this.

[gets off soapbox]
Joe Rainville says:
8/6/2011 3:37:00 PM

Cool article John.

The third engine down, the lightweight 440, is very intersting to me, as my 1980(ish) Oster Direct Drive Proto has the same motor, but it's complete. That was the sled in Tom Rowlands display of 48, it was sans body work putting the IFS and motor in clear view.

I would love to hear anything more about that motor, or sled, if any of the engineers would like to share their knowledge.

-Joe Rainville
flintstone says:
8/6/2011 7:31:00 PM

As far as price goes... I don't really care how much they cost upfront, so long as they maintain some value years down the road... the firecats were bargains considering they still have excellent re-sale value, the twin spar not so good!!
s.t.i.c.s.9 says:
8/6/2011 7:51:00 PM

I have one of those lightweight 440's in a '91 Pantera. Almost 10K on the clock, runs like a dream.
Ted Loveland says:
8/7/2011 9:46:00 AM

Hope the 2 stroke engine does not go away. I personally am only able to put between 800 to 1200 miles on a sled annually because of work and most often lack of snow, so having an engine last 40-50,000 miles is not a major decider for me. Light weight, throttle response, less complexity and ease of service if needed are what I am looking for (and I actually love the odor of 2 stroke exhaust). How satisfying it must be to develop and test new technologies and have them perform to and beyond expectations, keep up the good work Cat!
Tom Rowland says:
8/7/2011 4:25:00 PM

While its true that we have have a good snowmobile with our present day Sno Pro 500...I and a few others wonder if a niche market exists for a sled like the 78-84 El Tigre models were, including leaf spring suspensions? Simple, light, great power-to-weight ratio, lower cost, etc. Kind of like the present day Camaros that GM produces? It could have an appeal to a certain type of rider. I certainly don't want a sled like this for my daily rider, but, maybe to be the second or third sled in my group of riders.
Dave Nehring says:
8/7/2011 9:57:00 PM


Maybe there's something coming from Cat that may be somewhat similar to what you're looking for - don't see it having leaf spring suspension, though.

Eric aka IBLEEDGREEN says:
8/8/2011 8:39:00 AM


I couldn't agree more!

That gives me a helluva an idea, I have a 75 Lynx chassis (jackshaft) and a 94 ZR440 motor, rubber track/susp that we are using for our vintage I-500 sleds, 04 snopro seating, C/A Pro's leafers. Would be fun to say the least.


Dave......stop teasing!!!!
Captain says:
8/8/2011 1:06:00 PM

I like the idea of the "throw back" cross country, BUT I just dont see it being practical. You reference the new Chevy Camaro, well they have completely updated drivetrain. True the looks and controls may have a resemblance to days gone by, but there is no comparison in ride, etc.
I think for it to make it AC would have to put a modern suspension on it. It would probably cost them more to put something like leaf springs on it than to just put an A-arm suspension under it due to retooling, etc.
The sport can be very cost prohibitive now with the economy the way it is so trying new ways to getting new people into the sport is important. Just not sure how successful this would be.
Roger Kraus says:
8/10/2011 8:38:00 PM

That 1100 valve motor was what we were waiting for in 02/03. What a disapointment to see they really had it and I don't have one. Oh well, we take real good care of the 00 & 01 and still love the feel of WFO! says:
8/11/2011 11:56:00 AM

I think you'd be looking at an even smaller market for a throwback machine than you are with the 500 Sno Pro. Like Captain said, everyone says they want crank down windows and non-power seats, no AC, etc. in the name of performance but when it comes down to it no one actually buys the stuff. And the auto manufacturer's surveys also show the stuff won't sell. Imagine a media intro where Cat announces its new free-air leaf spring machine. Having said that, is there a market for, say, a turn-key Brian Nelson re-creation sled? I would think so, just like there's a market for turn-key resto-mod muscle cars.
Tom Rowland says:
8/12/2011 9:27:00 PM

Good points that some of you make here, maybe the new-for-2013 "1979" El Tigre leaf springer would not sell to the masses? I may have just still had vintage fever after attending the 50th celebration. It does create some excitement though when your favorite brand offers something that is a little daring...a little outside-of-the-box. Maybe other models or even a different product could fill that void? On the subject of getting new people into the sport...I am not convinced that it is the cost of a new snowmobile in itself that has slowed new people coming to this great sport. Even the most casual inexperienced potential first time buyer can find out in about 30 minuets on the internet, or, with one visit to a well stocked dealership that $5000-$6000 will buy a quality used 2007-2009 F6, F8 or 1100 Z1. I think it is safe to say that Inviters, Freestyles, etc brought very few permanent new riders to our sport. I don't know exactly how to attract the all-important new people to snowmobiling, but, I dont think a new boring $5000 model will do it on it's own.
Andrew Faryna says:
1/4/2013 2:14:00 PM

I really agree cat needs a 3/4 or 7/8 scale sled, perhaps a 400 single liquid or a 440 fan would work for i t. The fct is that an 8 to 12 year old kid needs a smaller framed sled to ride and they sure as hell ain't gonna be happy riding a kitty cat. I believe smaller ladies would prefer this size machine too, rather than having to put so much work into using body English on a more than 500# sled. My 10 yr old son currently rides a 92 jag and its perfect for his 70 lbs. Not to hard to muscle around but keeps up on the trail if we arnt really getting it on the big bores. If they want to sell any sleds 25 yrs from now that's the demographic they need to get hooked. After all, that's how they got me(panther 399) and most of you I'm sure. If they had this sled my boy would be getting it. Untill then I hope I can keep finding these old gems in descent shape.
Nyle says:
4/17/2014 11:04:00 AM

Can you tell me the stroke of the crank on a 2004 Arctic Cat 440 Firecat?

Thanks for your time, Nyle
eric j paine says:
1/12/2016 4:16:00 PM

I have a 90 440 Suzuki motor prowler I cant get spark how do you troubleshoot
jeff says:
2/25/2017 8:35:00 PM

I was reading your 400 cc (that started out as an 800cc) I would love to run that motor on my open muscle kart (dirt oval) my competition are 4 stroke jawa and gm motors producing 80hp 919 815 9841
Jeff Fournier says:
4/7/2017 6:42:00 PM

Love those triple's hopefully someday they will bring them back. Wonder what the HP was on the 1100 and the 500? Nothing like a triple triple running across a frozen lake, make me all warm inside!!!

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