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CPC Revisited: Episode 3 – A Barn Full of Sleds


(7/10/2012)

For a four year period beginning in 1982, Certified Parts Corporation of Janesville, Wis., and its owner, Jim Grafft, were an integral, brand-saving chapter in the Arctic Cat story.

For a short history CPC and how I ended up there, please CLICK HERE for Episode 1 of CPC Revisited.

To see what we uncovered at the first warehouse where we met Grafft, CLICK HERE for Episode 2.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

After meeting Jim Grafft and perusing the main CPC warehouse, our second stop proved to be the proverbial "Barn Find."

Not an actual barn, mind you, but a storage building that contained oodles of treasure for fans of old motorized goodness. Like this vintage Jeep Jeepster project and two Johnson snowmobiles.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

In other rooms, half-covered snowmobiles like this Arctic Cat Cheetah served as tasty appetizers for what would become a vintage fan's full-course meal.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

Question #1: Beyond Tom Rowland (left) and Jim Grafft sits?

a. The vintage snowmobile project of your dreams.

b. A prototype snowmobile that begs you to think about what might have been.

c. The perfect "motorcycle" to attend your next Hell's Angels meeting.

d. All the above.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

The answer?

d. All the above!

It doesn't happen too frequently, which is why it's all the more wonderful, but when we first gazed into this room, there was a collective pause, where we scanned the room for a few moments in a feeble attempt to take it all in. Eyes dancing from sled to sled, it takes a many glances before you land on one particular machine and really start to think about it.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

For Eric Bergstrom, "landing" meant imagining himself as a badass 1-percenter aboard this Rupp Centaur three-wheeler, blazing a path of destruction everywhere he rode.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

After surveying the room's contents, Rowland began the delicate walk over and between sleds in order to get a closer look.

It's funny, but the three of us visitors were very respectful and delicate as we navigated the room, yet each of us felt running and screaming and diving in head-first.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

While of course I was mostly interested in the Arctic Cat snowmobiles in the room, I also paused at the other sleds that caught my eye. Like this Boa-Ski that, as a kid paging through snowmobile magazines as a kid, ALWAYS looked dang-cool.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

A connoisseur of rare Arctic Cats, Rowland bee-lined it to a sled that, to someone like me, appeared to be a regular old Cat. In this case, a 1980 Lynx.

Thankfully, Rowland sensed something unusual and, after opening the hood, confirmed his intuition while gazing at prototype engine!

It's a 300cc single-cylinder mill with oil injection, which was slated for the 1982 Arctic Cat Puma (had Arctic Enterprises survived) and perhaps for the prototype "snow bike" concept that Arctic Cat had been contemplating in the early 1980s.

Rowland actually owns one of these engines, which he says was an all-new design and not an existing Suzuki sled engine that had been retrofitted for new duty.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

Rowland was so ecstatic about finding a prototype Arctic Cat that he immediately time-warped to his younger days as a rogue California surfer who turned the surfing world on its head by tossing aside a standard board for a jet-powered juggernaut.

After 10 minutes of listening to him make jet-like sounds while hanging ten, we shifted our attention to peeking into more rooms in this building of barn-finds.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

Who here besides me would like to see these prices again?

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

In another room sat a couple dozen mini bikes/motorcycles whose names have been lost to time, but that instantly transported me to my youth.

Zundapp, Speedway, Penton, Indian, Fox, Alsport/Steen...

These are some of the brands that, 40 years ago, would capture my imagination when parked outside small-engine shops and the occasional hardware store, glittering with newness and temptation. No doubt, as a kid there were only two things in the world that I desired with every fiber in my body: a snowmobile of my own, and a mini bike.

These are also some of the brands that Grafft/CPC purchased a few decades ago, in much the same way that he purchased the remnants of Arctic Enterprises.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

Check out the El Tigre on the right! This was a model sold by JC Penney for a short while in the 1970s, until (presumably) Arctic Enterprises told their lawyers about the trademark infringement.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

As much as I enjoyed the two-wheeled treasure, I couldn't help but imagine the reaction of a motorcycle collector upon seeing this stash for the first time?

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

But like I mentioned before, we were there mainly to see the snowmobile stash. And wouldn't you know it... there was a Scorpion Sidewinder hood keeping the dust off of some mini bikes.

Interestingly, Rowland pointed out that the "Scorpion" graphics on this hood weren't the same as those that appeared on the final production of 1981 Sidewinders. The speculation, of course, was that the graphics here might have been slated for production on the '82 models.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

But the best snowmobile hood find of the day was yet to come. And that discover also elicited the best quote of the day, which came from Bergstrom:

"Sandberg... whatever you're looking at, it isn't as amazing as what's in here."

He was spot-on with that statement!

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

To walk into a room and see a 1981 Arctic Sno Pro hood... literally took my breath away.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

I think I even gasped when I saw the scuffs and cracking of fiberglass suggesting that this was no mere display hood, but rather a hood that had been raced!

But wait! What's that over there, where Rowland is standing.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

It's a 1979 Arctic Cat Sno Pro hood, with the name Bob Elsner and a #1 leaving NO doubt as to its significance.

And behind it, perched on a pile of boxes, one of Jim Dimmerman's Sno Pro hoods from the 1978 season!

After Rowland, Bergstrom and I stopped jumping up and down and screaming like school girls, we stood and gazed at the undeniable, historical beauty resting in the room.

Simply amazing!

Grafft had few details about the three hoods, other than he remembered that they were on display at the CPC warehouse for many years before he moved them to this storage facility.

1979 was the year Elsner won the Eagle River World's Championships. Given that he raced several classes in those days, it's most likely that this isn't the same hood that crossed the finish line in first at the Derby.

But it begs the answer to a burning question: Does anyone know the whereabouts of Elsner's Derby-winning Sno Pro?

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

One question that had confounded Rowland for years was answered in this room: What did the metal-flake look like on the '79 Sno Pro hood?

Sadly, the photo doesn't show it well enough, but there is gold metal-flake here (used rather sparingly, I might add), which Dimmerman says was used only in 1979 and only on the Factory Team Arctic sleds of his and Elsner's.

Witnessing the satisfaction in Rowland's face upon solving this mystery was another highlight of the day. For historians like him, finding a "missing piece of the puzzle" is as good as it gets.

 

CPC Revisited: Arctic Cat History image by ArcticInsider.com

Rowland was so stoked that he went for another imaginative ride on the Surf Jet.

We only allowed him a few minutes of surfing, however, because there were more buildings to see, with more missing puzzle pieces that would be discovered.

Which you'll see in Episode 4, coming soon...

Thanks for reading.



Comments (17):

Don Amber says:
7/10/2012 10:11:00 AM

Tom, real surfers don't hang onto a rope......just sayin. Very envious of you fellows. What a great time machine trip. Thank you so much for sharing the trip with us. DA
Bob Vojvodich says:
7/10/2012 1:55:00 PM

Fantastic story! I too remember loving to look at the CPC calender. What a great find, with those Snopro hoods, the Sidewinders and all of the other goodies. John you mentioned that none of it was for sale. If that is the case, let us know what are the plans for this stuff. Hopefully it will be put on display somewhere in the future. It would be a shame for it to sit collecting dust for another couple of decades...
Alley Cat says:
7/10/2012 6:38:00 PM

Mongo Like Sno-Pro!. Mongo says show more! Show More......
John Sandberg says:
7/10/2012 8:41:00 PM

Bob: In the final episode, I'll wrap up loose ends like those in your comments.

All: I had a nice chat with collector Tom Ische today, who informed me that Bob Elsner's Eagle River-winning 1979 Arctic Cat Sno Pro is sitting...

... in the corner of Elsner's garage!

Whew! I love that answer.

Ische also informed me that the 1981 Sno Pro hood in the above photos was undoubtedly Dimmerman's, as that was his number during the '81 season. Which is especially funny, because when asked the question directly, Dimmerman couldn't remember! (It's okay Jim, because once you get old like me, you start to... to... we'll, let's see here. You start to... Hmm, I forget.)

Mike F says:
7/10/2012 9:54:00 PM

Sweet write up as always. Love the old Sno Pro hoods. Takes me way back! Thanks!
Darin says:
7/10/2012 11:00:00 PM

thanks for sharing, it would be nice if the sno pro hoods
were up for a silent auction!
Arcticbuster says:
7/11/2012 8:47:00 AM

Tom,

As usual, your stories keep getting better and better and your views and comments on growing up with this era of sleds (and motorcycles in this report) echo what I grew up and experienced as well. Looking forward with both anticipation and some sadness that it will be the final report from this great location.

Arcticbuster
Alley Cat says:
7/11/2012 9:51:00 AM

If we can not buy it. Put it some place that I can come to see it. Its just wrong to see it in a pile. Sno Pro was so great!!
The Cat Kid says:
7/11/2012 9:59:00 AM

Rumour has it that While on the Surfing Tour Tidal Wave Tom Rowland met and dated Cat Girl ciru 1980. I love this John keep it up!!! What happend with going back to Rohner's in Willmar?
Tom Rowland says:
7/11/2012 11:18:00 AM

I ran to the motorized surf board thinking that it just had to be the predecessor to the 1994 Barracuda, but, I was wrong of course. So glad that you were able to use that image John, twice.

It sounds like someone should be encouraging Bob Elsner to load up his historic Sno Pro and go see Loren Anderson at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum in St Germain WI. Loren and his staff are planning a huge 6-month-long celebration honoring this, the 50th anniversary of the Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby...it kicks off this October. I think I can speak for most of the past/present snowmobile race community in saying that it would be great to see Bob and hear him share some of his memories.
RL says:
7/11/2012 12:43:00 PM

I remember seeing the scorpion sidewinder adds in all the mags of the time. Oh did I want one so bad,and still do. I had to settle with a choice of the sleds my dad had including my favorite 72 EXT 440 twin. Second was a 75 Z 440 that my aunt raced at Eagle River and set some kind of track record for that era. I do not remember what for though. If anyone knows how to find such information on Eagle River track records I would sure appreciate it. Any way I can't wait for the next article. And how about those mini-bikes I never knew Speedway made them. Keep up the good work.
jeff says:
7/11/2012 5:32:00 PM

Awesome, but i agree to have those hoods just laying around. those need to be hung on the wall.
That 81 hood has an interesting team arctic decal on the nose, and does not appear to have the rad area cut out(judging by the reflection in photo)?
No sign of an 82 hood? Steve Olson had one at one time, but there has never been a picture of it.
Eric Bergstrom says:
7/11/2012 8:45:00 PM

I am also very happy to know that Bob has his Eagle River sled... it would be a shame for a sled of that historical significance to have disappeared over the years. When I think about how exciting it was to see his '79 hood in person, it's probably safe to say that my poker face would be replaced by hyperventilation in the event that his Eagle River sled could be viewed in person.

Jeff,
I also love the Team Arctic decal on the front of the '81 hood. I'm not sure about the reason for the radiator area not being cut out though... maybe they were running a single cylinder 300cc fanner in there? Just kidding. Couldn't resist.
akrider says:
7/13/2012 1:03:00 AM

Great series of articles, they've been an enjoyable read. Looking forward to #4.
Todd Ulschmid says:
7/13/2012 10:44:00 AM

Need more metal-flake! Great series of articles! Awesome adventure into history. Thanks for sharing!
SpeedyCat says:
7/13/2012 4:52:00 PM

Did any of those mini bikes happen to be Arctic Cat mini bikes?
CRJPilot says:
7/18/2012 6:53:00 PM

I just finished a tour of Elvis' Graceland in Memphis, Tn. He once owned the Rupp Trike pictured above as well as a rupp snowmobile, they were on display along with showing videos of the king grass dragging all around his 14acre compound, even jumping it!!! So weird to see in memphis on a 100 degree day!

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