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Tell Us a Story: Brian Espeseth and the 1982 Arctic Cat Prototypes


(10/2/2013)

Brian Espeseth retired earlier this year from a long, illustrious career at Arctic Cat dating back to 1975. Espo is truly one of the all-time greats, a real legend.

Awhile back I interviewed him. And like typical conversations with Espo, he started talking and telling stories while completely ignoring what had been my general outline.

So instead of running a typical interview, I'll post a few of his stories, including this one about how he sold 13 of the prototype 1982 Arctic Cats.

 

Arctic Cat's Brian Espeseth

When Arctic Enterprises was in the midst of shutting its doors in 1981, life here in TRF was pretty doom-and-gloom for a lot of people, myself included. It was so tough that people were walking away from their homes and moving away. Those of us who stayed had to rethink what our lives were going to be like.

I was living in a trailer house at the time. And when Certified Parts Corp. bought the inventory of Arctic Cat parts, it was my job to help pack and ship the stuff from Arctic to CPC.

While this was going on I was pretty intrigued with some of the stuff I saw coming into the Arctic Salvage department. All kinds of Arctic Cat demo machines were being returned, many of them were perfectly good. The Salvage department was turning around and reselling them at pretty decent prices.

That’s when the light bulb went on in my head: I could buy and resell these machines myself, and hopefully make a little money.

With no money of my own at the time, I arranged with a local bank for financing and then purchased my first batch of machines. Then I prettied the sleds up and began to hustle sales, hauling them around northwest Minnesota with my pitch. And it worked!

For the next handful of months, in the summer and fall of 1981, I ended up buying and selling about 80 Arctic Cat snowmobiles, 15 Wet Bikes and seven boats/trailers.

Wayne Konickson, my friend and longtime Arctic Cat employee, helped me with the project.

What makes this story most interesting though was the last batch of 21 sleds that I bought. Of those 21, 13 were prototype 1982 model Arctic Cats… the Cats “that never were” because of the bankruptcy.

Those 13 models represented half of all the 1982 prototypes that had been built! There were El Tigres, Cougars and Pumas. Two of the machines were the Sand Cats built for desert use. One machine was 4-stroke powered.

Obviously these sleds were pretty special, so I wanted to find a larger audience to promote their sale. I placed a classified ad in the back of Snow Week magazine: “The Last of the Arctic Cats,” along with my phone number.

We made decals for the machines, cleaned them up nicely and priced them at $3,500 each. That seemed like a really high price at the time, especially since I’d paid something like $1,000 for each of them.

The ad worked wonders, not just for the ’82 prototypes but also for the regular production sleds I was selling.

Five of the ’82 protos went to a guy in New York, which I later learned was a broker who actually bought them on behalf of Ski-Doo. Apparently Ski-Doo was pretty interested to see what Arctic Cat was working on for 1982.

I wonder what ever happened to those sleds?

In the years that followed, I’ve occasionally wished I’d saved those 1982s, because of their historical importance. But I dismiss those thoughts pretty quickly, because the money I made doing it was used to invest in starting Arctco. As part of the original group of investors, I can tell you that every investment dollar was needed for the successful relaunch of Arctic Cat.

Helping to be part of THAT gives me far greater satisfaction than having a barn packed with prototype sleds.

 

The classified ad Espo placed in Snow Week magazine for the '82 proto Cats

Here's the actual ad that Brian Espeseth placed in Snow Week for the 1982 Arctic Cat prototypes he was selling.

 

Espeseth's sales sheet for the 1982 Arctic Cat prototypes

This was the sales sheet that Brian Espeseth created to help sell the 1982 Arctic Cat prototypes that he was selling in late 1981.

 

Another sales sheet for the 1982 Arctic Cat prototype snowmobiles

Another sales sheet for the '82 prototype Arctic Cats.



Comments (25):

Mike F says:
10/2/2013 8:59:00 PM

Really good stuff....Thanks "Espo"!
RL says:
10/2/2013 11:11:00 PM

Great American spirit story. A true example of turning lemons into lemonade.
Well done.
John Zanon says:
10/3/2013 6:22:00 AM

Brian is one employee that without his career, Arctic Cat wouldn't be the same.
I think the biggest rivalry in snowmobiling is Arctic Cat vs. Ski-Doo...
I love what he had to say in the 50th Anniversary video...something like at the races, all the Arctic Cat guys park together, Polaris guys park together, and the Ski-Doo guys,...what few of them!!!
Great.
Greg Spaulding says:
10/3/2013 7:02:00 AM

Brian Who?
Jim Dimmerman says:
10/3/2013 7:24:00 AM

Hey Espo..congratulations on your retirement. A HUGE asset to Arctic Cat for all these years. I say your name every time I drive thru Winger...
I see you neglected to expand on your life in the "trailer house"...come on Brian, please,please...Jim
Auggie says:
10/3/2013 11:15:00 AM

Greg, I was also wondering who that is ??
Brandon says:
10/3/2013 12:11:00 PM

John Z, I always got a charge out of that comment in the video as well. In fact, one of my work buddies is a Ski-Doo rider. I borrowed him the DVD, but he has yet to watch it. I am curious as to how he will react to that comment!
Thanks Espo for all that you have done with A/C!
ESPO says:
10/3/2013 4:26:00 PM

It appears clear to me that Greg S. and Auggie are getting old and there memory is starting to go. So sad!!!!!!!
ESPO says:
10/3/2013 4:59:00 PM

Sorry Jim, The year that You, Bob and I stayed in the trailer, has a lot of great stories, like the quarter game and Mouse stopping over after the Lon's nightly tour. I'll have to update the Sandman on some of those stories.
Rob says:
10/4/2013 6:59:00 AM

I could and have listened to Espo stories all night.
Jason Espeseth says:
10/4/2013 11:26:00 AM

Good work dad!!! Proud of you;)
Auggie says:
10/4/2013 4:26:00 PM

Rob, what you need to do is ask ESPO about his fishing trip stories to the Lake of the Woods. Great fun !! Oh that's right, now I remember who you are.
Tom Rowland says:
10/4/2013 6:11:00 PM

It's interesting to hear about the 82 protos heading to New York and eventually to Bombardier. A few years ago a truck driver was here delivering new Arctic Cats and we started talking about old times and old sleds. He stated that he once either hauled some 82 prototypes out to the Ski Doo distributor in Malone NY, or, maybe he said he simply saw them at that distributor..I do not recall that part of the conversation 100%. At the time I thought that seemed highly unlikely, but, the fact that he seemed to even recall the model names of some of the 82s made make think that it could maybe be possible. Now it turns out that was true. I guess I really do need to start believing everything I hear.
Mark Piccarreto says:
10/4/2013 7:51:00 PM

1982 was the Holy Grail of model years. 11th grade of high school I was riding a very tired '76 Jag. Prepared to buy a brand new '82 Jag I was very excited to have a 440 in a new body style. Why not quiz some people at Cat (Skime etc.) and write an arctical. Tom Rowland has a lot info but I'm sure there is a lot of other info about the magic lineup that could be revealed.

Needless to say I got sidetracked for those 2 years and continued to ride that old Jag into 1986 when I pulled the trigger for an AFS Couger. I'm a junkie for info on those '82s.
John Zanon says:
10/4/2013 9:40:00 PM

Brandon:
Russ Ebert once said "There's a difference between being ****y and confident"...but sometimes you can't help but cross that line!
Tom Rowland:
If I have room, I might stop by to pick up that 2012 SnoPro 500 for Kernz Racing in Wisconsin...we'll be coming from TRF with 3 new race sleds!
It's Ben Spo says:
10/8/2013 10:53:00 PM

Thats My Pops! If you All want to here a story! Ask him to tekk the fish story! Id recomend grabbing a chair and a take a leak before this comedy show.
Auggie says:
10/12/2013 10:22:00 AM

Yup Ben, it would take hours to tell them fish stories :) :)
Chris Fukes says:
10/20/2013 7:33:00 AM

I worked in Malone in the 80s and 90s down the road from Elliott & Hutchins the bombardier distributor and one of the 82 pumas cam in for service had direct drive no chain case I could have bought it but no cash it was bought from bombardier
Adam says:
10/22/2013 4:21:00 PM

Brian,

Thank you on multiple points, two of which:

- Your part in saving Arctic Cat

- Your part in selling those '82 cats, so that we all can dream about finding one someday.

Enjoy your retirement
haga norman says:
6/18/2014 4:57:00 PM

I could not resist commenting. exceptionally well written!
haga norman http://norman-haga.blogspot.com/
Adam says:
9/10/2014 2:34:00 PM

Chris Fukes,

Please contact me. I am interested to learn more about the 82 Puma you mentioned in your post. Actually, I am very interested in learning more about any 1982 Arctic Cat that is out there.
Dan Larson says:
12/17/2014 9:43:00 PM

Nice article.

Don't know who all had the 1982 Cougar I owned before it got to me but after sitting on it for probably over 15 years in my barn I sold it to Adam. I'm looking forward to seeing it again some day... I do miss it...
Bret Nordine says:
10/4/2016 10:36:00 PM

Hey Brian!
Congratulations on your long list of accomplishments! It was fun to recall your business ventures and the beginning of Arctco! Always enjoy seeing you at the races each winter. Take care! Nice story
Randy says:
1/4/2017 9:06:00 PM

My brother bought one of these '82 Puma's in Malone NY when he worked for Bombardier/Elliot & Hutchens around 83. I used to ride this machine back then and loved it but I was only about 13 years old and have many fond memories of riding it. I always would've loved to found years later and thought I had at one point. It was the single cylinder puma with the offset headlight. I remember my brother saying he got a really good deal on the machine direct from Bombardier.
Randy says:
1/4/2017 9:22:00 PM

I think it was a single cylinder. I do know it was air cooled and not direct drive. What a fun sled to ride but it was very heavy to a kid my age back then.

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