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Snowmobile Status Symbols


(5/16/2013)

FOX SHOX for snowmobiles: A status symbol

As I was posting the story about the new FOX SHOX Museum the other day, I looked at several pix of the iconic, 1990s-era FOX shocks, which brought me down Memory Lane.

To my eyes, what was so visually iconic about the first several generations of FOX SHOX was their distinctive gold anodizing. When a sled was equipped with these shocks (particularly on the front suspension) it was immediately identifiable as a cool performance sled.

There was a bit of the chicken-or-egg dynamic going on here, as of course it was the cool sleds that came equipped with the FOX SHOX, including the 1990 Arctic Cat EXT Special, the subsequent Specials (Prowler and EXT), followed by the ZR models. I’d even rank the Polaris Indy XC and XCR sleds as cool, in part because of the FOX shocks and other race-oriented dedication.

Of course, these sleds weren’t just adorned with shock coolness simply because of the gold-anodizing… the FOX units definitely worked better (and were calibrated better for performance riding) than the cheap tube shocks that were OE spec at the time.

But for sure the gold FOX bodies were an immediate visual that told anyone within sight what kind of sled this was, and perhaps what kind of rider it was who owned it.

I can think of a few other components that in the late 1980s and early 1990s held some sort of visual status, at least to my eyes: handlebar hooks; a curved brake lever (that matched the handlebar hook); welded strength/support plates on the skis; padded ski loops; seat side pads.

Come to think of it, I believe that the short windshield was somewhat rare back in those years and, thus, also exuded another sort of visual status.

Of course not all of these status items were shared by all sledders. I’m sure there were people who thought gold shocks, hooked handlebars and low windshields were as obnoxious as loud pipes were for other sledders.

Clearly for me, the components that oozed coolness or status were those that were derived from racing. It’s funny: once many of those items became standard spec on production sleds (such as hooked bars, padded seats, low windshields), they no longer held the same sort of swagger.

Some evolved, however, and have continued to hold status. When FOX SHOX went to the clicker-style remote reservoirs, those too became new level of cool, just as the FLOAT and EVOL X shocks (with Kashima coating) are the latest in visual eye candy.

I have two questions for you. 1. What status/cool features stood out in your mind over the years? 2. Are there current components (OE or aftermarket) that exude the new cool?

 

 

Kirk Hibbert winning the 1990 Jeep 500 aboard the Arctic Cat EXT Special

Brian Sturgeon won Eagle River on the 1990 Arctic Cat EXT Special

As the first production sled equipped with FOX SHOX, the 1990 Arctic Cat EXT Special broke new ground when it came to coolness (and race success). When Kirk Hibbert (two above) won the 1990 Jeep 500 with it, while Brian Sturgeon (above) won Eagle River and dozens of other races, it brought immediate attention, and especially to its gold-annodized shocks.


KLYMAX brand handlebar hooks for snowmobiles

For the longest time, curved handlebar hooks were the domain of racers and a select few of trail riders who fabricated their own. When companies like KLYMAX helped bring the bolt-on hook to the masses, another status symbol was born.

 

My homemade curved brake lever for Arctic Cat Wilwood hydro brakes

Curved brake levers were another component that I thought was cool. For the longest time, having such an item meant that you had access to some form of fabrication, because they hadn't yet reached the aftermarket's radar. The above lever is one that I cut/welded for the Arctic Cat ZR440 I raced during the 1994 cross-country season.

 

1997 Arctic Cat ZR580 owned by Tom Rowland, photo by ArcticInsider.com

The 1997 Arctic Cat ZR580 EFI was one of the first sleds to come stock with SO many of the "status" components that I thought were cool, including: FOX SHOX, padded seat and lower windshield. The Dial-Adjust front arm adjuster on the handlebars was perhaps one of the more rare and coolest of all status symbols, eliciting all kinds of conversation among people who wanted to know what, exactly, it did (it allowed you to shorten/lengthen the amount of front-arm travel on the rear suspension, effectively adding/reducing ski pressure).

 

FOX clicker reservoir shox

FOX Clicker-style remote reservoir shocks were an evolution of the brand's status symbols.

 

2013 Arctic Cat Tucker Hibbert-Edition F800 RR

Cool/status symbols have evolved over the years, however, in my eyes FOX SHOX have continued to remain one of the most favored. Today, it's the FLOAT X EVOL with Kashima coating that sets the new standard for eye candy (and performance), which is one reason why they're equipped on the 2013 Arctic Cat Tucker Hibbert-edition F800 RR



Comments (34):

AJ says:
5/16/2013 1:51:00 PM

Don't forget track-lug heights, and the colored tracks!
Greg says:
5/16/2013 4:00:00 PM

I always thought the cobra windshields were cool when they came out. had more flaring to them than the stock shields at the time. You also need to add plastic skis to the list. The SLP skeleton skis were a tough looking piece of hardcore performance back in those days.
Dave says:
5/16/2013 6:38:00 PM

Past cool: A quality track studding job, reverse gear, plastic skis when everything stock was still steel, Snow Glows at night (no other accessory ever turned more heads), and Lettertech vinyl numbers to match the sled decals and color scheme.

Present cool: Ceramic-coated exhaust system, LED lighting anywhere for anything, and a heated tank bag to keep your camera or cell phone warm enough to function when you need it. You can't see or can't tell the coolest stuff like cryogenically treated components.
Paul Hein says:
5/16/2013 8:39:00 PM

White skis are #1 now days for me ! Oh and probably a Monster decal. I really liked the headlight covers , especially on the Firecats. I haven't seen a new Pro chassis with headlight covers on.
Darin says:
5/16/2013 9:49:00 PM

Holeshot skid plates were THE thing to have in the mid 90's
always loved headlight covers and still put them on my procross now too.
sesnopro says:
5/17/2013 6:28:00 AM

Billet idlers and anything Titanium
Dulpher says:
5/17/2013 8:22:00 AM

I always thought these customizing "trends" were funny, but made companies quite a bit of money for the time(s)...Sportech headlight covers, any form of neon running board trim and/or plastic ski covers, the "kiss my ass" snow flap, neon snow glow lights, various colored air vent kits, xtra-10/12 suspension kits and most recently the 10+10=20" bar risers, fart can mufflers and handguards.
Tom Rowland says:
5/17/2013 9:34:00 AM

These comments above bring back a lot of old memories! I was going to mention the colored plastic a-arm and spindle covers that were a big deal in the early 1990s, too. How about the leather suits in the 1980s? Paul Hein: I have seen your driving style become more aggressive when you add the Monster decals.
Todd Ulschmid says:
5/17/2013 10:24:00 AM

I liked the use of powder coating and anodizing of slide rails, A-arms, etc. I anodize the rails on every sled I've owned since 2003.
Andy Mo says:
5/17/2013 3:30:00 PM

The easiest way to make almost anything cool is to simply install an Arctic Insider decal. Instant results for not a lot of money!

RL says:
5/17/2013 3:55:00 PM

The old cool:
When I got my 92 EXT special I thought the fox shocks with remote reservoirs were the bomb and anything without them was inferior.
Handlebar hooks definitely looked cool and were functional. Before them I would literally wear a hole in my left hand palm of my cool Arctic Cat multi colored leather gloves every season.
Anyone that put twin pipes on their sled, or the tripple aluminum canisters that made my 96 ZRT 600 sound so sweet.
One more. My 98 ZR 600 efi le cc. Again the fox remote reservoir front clicker shocks and the dial adjust front arm made me think everything else was just inferior. On the first trip to the U.P. on that sled made me realize just how cool the dial adjust was, while riding down the long railroad grades the conditions changed from the ride there to the ride back. I was darting all over the trail and so was everyone else (1doo and 1 poo) I just turned the dial left a bit and no more darting. That was cool, to bad so many riders would over crank that dial and broke them.
I almost forgot to ad motocross helmets and No Fear stickers.

The new cool:
Any sled with fox floats, especially the $1500.00 a pair variety.
Retro graphics on any brand sled.
EFI control boxes Boondocker Dynojet etc.
Cats oem handlebars (no aftermarket hooks needed)
Front and rear suspensions that are easy to adjust.
Mid height dark or tinted windshields that actually work.
Snowmobile engine reverse.
If you have the money, aftermarket products are endless.

I'm sure I forgot a ton of stuff, so I'm left with a request to Arctic Cat.
Bring back the front arm dial adjust, I miss it.




Snopro21 says:
5/17/2013 5:47:00 PM

The new cool would be custom sled wraps, Evol X shocks, hand guards, blacked out headlight covers, C&A skis cause stock skis suck.
paul hein says:
5/17/2013 9:10:00 PM

Tom Rowland: I need the Monster boost to keep up with you on the demo rides ! Reading this makes me think about all the purple colored items that were available from brake levers to ski skins. I had a purple dash plate that went around the gauges on my 96' ZR 580 , that was after a little upside down riding were I cracked the hood between the tac and speedo.
Going way back I remember all the goofy sewn on patches on peoples one piece snowmobile suits. My favorite was 2 ducks doing the "nasty" and the caption "Fly United ". My mom wouldn't sew it on my suit for me. lol
John Sandberg you should do it piece on that bit of history !
Eric says:
5/18/2013 3:51:00 PM

Yet another great story. I remember the plastic trim on the running boards, plastic skis, skid plates with TEAM ARCTIC on it. Motocross bike style bars. I even had an American flag on the rear storage flap after seeing Blair with a Canadian one on his sled. Miss those days! Don't know how I ever rode a sled without hooks. Ceramic pipes were always great too in my book. Never had one but enyed those who did.

There weren't really racer wannabes back then since I remember alot of guys trail running their race stuff!

Sleds are just all around more friendly nowadays and I can't think of stuff that stands out like it did back then.

Tom Rowland says:
5/18/2013 4:55:00 PM

Eric: Were the skid plates with TEAM ARCTIC on them widely available, or, were they race team issue only? I too thought they were super cool, but don't recall ever being able to get one through regular dealer-ordering?

As you mentioned above...it was also common here in central MN to see sleds out trail riding that had just done battle in some Heartland, MRP or maybe even the Thunder Bay CC races.
Wade Schroeder says:
5/19/2013 3:59:00 PM

My sleds where always tricked with aftermarket stuff. I was good friends with Greg Vaith he was a Blackmagic dealer. My sleds always had a BIG Black Magic logo on the windshield and a VSS Racing logo. Heart throb clutch kits where huge. I never used the kits Greg always put the right combo out of them. Hooks and brake lever. First person around to have magic twins on a 97 440 zr. Think I had set number 3 or so ever built they were not even painted yet when I picked them up. Can't forget the plasitc wheel covers and plastic tubes on the running boards. Then top it off with a Hole Shot skid plate top of the line. Hood screens also where huge back then bought a few sets of them in the day. Being around 18 years old I always had about the quickest and most tricked out arctic cat sled around theses parts. I think every dime I made went to Arctic cat or Blackmagic for a couple of years. Being 18 and always having two brand new or close to new sleds every year.
RACEKID says:
5/20/2013 8:45:00 AM

Arctic Cat was always ahead of the game when it came to clothing and accessories.
Clothing that was unique to the model of sled and an accessory catolog that was many pages deep.
The other manufacture riders were envious and Team Arctic always had some cool looking race apparel for many years.
Not only did the sleds look great with some trick stuff, so did the racers compared to the rest of the field.
I loved it when the racers painted their hood a different color but kept the original decals!
John Sandberg says:
5/20/2013 12:17:00 PM

Wow, there are some GREAT memories here!

I think Black Magic during the Tim Berg era definitely was on the forefront of offering new stuff, whether it was purely visual or performance-oriented.

One of the responses above triggered another product memory: the bright/neon-orange "ZR" decal that went over top of the stock reddish-looking one on the '93 and '94 models. Action Graphics sold a pile of those babies.
Todd Ulschmid says:
5/20/2013 3:10:00 PM

BINGO! Those bright/neon-orange Action Graphic overlayed ZR's were awesome! Yep, I had them on my 95 ZR580 EFI. They looked way cool!
Tom Mahon says:
5/20/2013 4:51:00 PM

John , any update on the release of Evol X video from AC ?
Wade Schroeder says:
5/20/2013 9:15:00 PM

Black Magic I worshipped blackmagic back in the day. I was getting the Black Magic stuff before anyone knew what it was almost. I wish Tim still owned them they where top notch. But all good things must come to a end. That era If you didn't have a Blackmagic product of some kind on a Cat you where missing out. Just the Big lettering sticker just made the sled 10mph faster.
Eric says:
5/21/2013 5:16:00 AM

Tom, cant remember if those were available to the consumer or not? I do remember one of the local Cat dealers had one hanging up on the wall at their shop for sale. I was pretty young at the time but remember wanting it!
hugh says:
5/22/2013 9:56:00 AM

Thankfully some trends die. We were much younger and anyone in our group showing up with a beer can exhaust or worse, neon lites got the NCIS cuff up back of the head. Now it's our kids, show up with fart can exhaust or handguards and you get cuffed, only harder.
Wade Schroeder says:
7/20/2013 12:23:00 AM

Yeah but hugh. The cans we had sounded better! Back then. The ones now days most the sleds are 4 strokes they sound like crap. There is no ping ping ping sound too the pipes its just bluhhhhhhhhhhhh. Everyone laughs at me because I have a 4 inch outlet can on my 4 cylinder car. The only thing is I have a WRX they sound good they have a rumble and a lop too because of the boxer style motor. Not like a inline 4 Honda BLUHHHHHHH BLUHHH. A lot people tell me all the time even older guys I like the sound of that. You have a miss though they tell me. I laugh all boxer motors have that little lop. There like boxer motor?? Yeah you know the opposed motor. But yeah anyways the cans now sound like crap. MRP or whatever there called I like to smash everyone.
Paul Wilkie says:
3/5/2015 7:58:00 AM

I am looking for a custome two finger brake lever to allow me to cover my brake lever with two fingers and still maintain a solid grasp on the the left hand grip. I own a vintage 1998 AC ZL00 that is absolutely great; I would like to push the envelope a little farther with a more comfortable riding positioin for my left hand while still covering the brake lever for quick reaction.

Hopping you can help with this request?

Paul Wilkie
Wllston, MI In the Heart of the Beautiful Manistee National Forest
734 5590 6763
Hakim says:
10/9/2015 2:30:00 AM

Thank you for posting these viedos! Wow it's mesmerizing! I'm holding my breath watching it. You and your dogs are truly remarkable :) I hope to one day see the Iditarod /Alaska /the dogs and you Aliy in person. thank you again for sharing!
Hakim says:
10/9/2015 2:31:00 AM

Thank you for posting these viedos! Wow it's mesmerizing! I'm holding my breath watching it. You and your dogs are truly remarkable :) I hope to one day see the Iditarod /Alaska /the dogs and you Aliy in person. thank you again for sharing!
Hakim says:
10/9/2015 2:31:00 AM

Thank you for posting these viedos! Wow it's mesmerizing! I'm holding my breath watching it. You and your dogs are truly remarkable :) I hope to one day see the Iditarod /Alaska /the dogs and you Aliy in person. thank you again for sharing!
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