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Vintage Road Trip Part One: Back to CPC


(7/24/2014)

Recently I joined my friends Tom Rowland and Jim Dimmerman on a 2-day road trip to Wisconsin whose theme was "1982 prototype snowmobiles" from Arctic Cat and Scorpion.

It was a road trip of epic laughter and education.

 

Vintage sled road trip with Jim Dimmerman & Tom Rowland.

We adopted an unusual (but effective) means of driving for this road trip. Tom (left) would sit in the driver's seat and either talk on the phone, text, or talk to Jim and I.

Meanwhile, Jim (right) would steer the truck, while I captured the moments for posterity.

In hindsight, I'm not sure who was operating the gas/brake?

 

Vintage sled road trip with Jim Dimmerman & Tom Rowland.

Like any entertaining road trip, this one came together hastily and with a complete lack of preparation. This fact emerged halfway into the drive from the Twin Cities to Janesville, Wis., when Dimmerman noticed a completely bald and ballooning tire on Rowland's trailer.

We fixed it in record time and all was good vehicle-wise for the remainder of the trip.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

We headed to Janesville to meet up with Jim Grafft, owner of Certified Parts Corporation, whom Rowland and I visited during another epic road trip a couple summer's ago. That link and the associated stories within it are worth the read for anyone who missed it.

On this year's CPC portion of the trip, the goal was to answer a few questions posed during that first visit with Grafft, as well as pick up a prototype Scorpion from Grafft's collection.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

One of the questions we'd hoped to answer was about the Arctic Cat Sno Pro hoods in Grafft's collection. Specifically, were the 1978 Arctic Cat Sno Pro hood with Dimmerman's name, as well as the 1979 Sno Pro hood with Bob Elsner's name, some of the actual hoods raced by these two Team Arctic legends?

No doubt, the prospect that the '79 hood might have been the Eagle River World Championship hood added some intrigue and anticipation for the three of us.

Having Dimmerman himself along would go a looooong way towards finding an answer.

So we met Jim Grafft (right) at one of his storage buildings and, as was the case a couple years ago, he was gracious and generous with his time. All the more remarkable was the fact that the town had suffered severe weather earlier in the morning, knocking out power to most homes and businesses. Grafft certainly had more important matters to attend to, but he helped us with our mission nonetheless.

So we took the hoods out into the sun for inspection.

Team Arctic Cat Sno Pro hood.

Besides the specific pin striping, the defining characteristic of the 1979 Factory Team Sno Pro hoods was the metal flake within the gel coat.

When Kenny Halvorson built the original hoods, he used a very light dose of metal flake. So light, in fact, that it's barely noticeable.

Since there were only two drivers who had '79 Sno Pros, there are VERY FEW true '79 hoods in existence.

And sure enough, Dimmerman concluded that this was indeed a factory '79 hood (as well as true factory '78 and '81 hoods). But were these hoods actually raced?

 

Jim Dimmerman checks out a Team Arctic Sno Pro hood with his name.

Pretty dang cool seeing Dimmerman comb over a hood that might have been his own back in 1978!

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Ditto for the 1979 hood with Elsner's name on it.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

As it turns out, Dimmerman believes that these three hoods never saw a lap around a track. The clues were lack of scuffmarks underneath the hoods, where they would have mated with the bellypan, as well as any compromises to the gel coat.

Based on what Dimmerman remembers from his time at Cat, and on what Grafft remembers when he got these hoods in 1981, it's most likely that they were used for promotional photography.

Still, they're damn cool and very rare hoods.

I snapped this photo of Dimmerman and Grafft with the hoods, and then it was time to do some more digging.

 

Jim Dimmerman checks out a Team Arctic Sno Pro hood with his name.

Back into storage it goes, although Grafft has plans to put all three hoods on display somewhere in the future.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

With the power back on, we could do a little more looking inside the storage building.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

No, none of these machines are for sale (yes, we asked). Grafft isn't exactly sure of their future, but he's leaning towards having a few restored.

 

Prototype Scorpion Sierra snowmobile for 1982. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Having looked through the sleds for a while, it was time to grab the prototype 1982 Scorpion that was part of the day's mission.

 

Prototype Scorpion Sierra snowmobile for 1982. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Tom Rowland offered to take the sled home to Thomas Sno Sports, his Arctic Cat dealership in Ogilvie, Minn., where he would clean and restore (as in original preservation) so that it could be displayed at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and other possible locations.

 

Prototype Scorpion Sierra snowmobile for 1982. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The model was to called "Sierra."

 

Prototype Scorpion Sierra snowmobile for 1982. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

It featured a 440 fan-cooled engine and a parts spec that suggested it was the equivalent of an Arctic Cat Panther.

 

Prototype Scorpion Sierra snowmobile for 1982. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Prototype Scorpion Sierra snowmobile for 1982. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

It also appeared to have outboard-mounted shocks for the spec, although the suspension in this unit was a traditional sliderail with inboard shocks.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After we loaded the Sierra into the trailer, we brought out this prototype sled and tried to get Dimmerman to drive it, but he wasn't having ANYTHING to do with that suggestion.

 

1982 Scorpion Sidewinder prototype hood. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Before leaving this storage building we shot pix of another hood from Grafft's collection: a prototype 1982 Scorpion Sidewinder hood.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The graphics were clearly cut/mask style, as if they were still trying to decide the final style and/or placement, prior to Arctic Enterprises (and Scorpion's) bankruptcy in 1981.

With our goals complete at this storage facility, we had one more stop to make with Grafft...

The "new" Comet Clutch factory.

...at the Hoffco/Comet clutch facility that they own in nearby Edgerton, Wis.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Grafft purchase the Comet business in 2009 and, now run by his son Jay (left) has built it back into a solid company, with all manufacturing occurring in a massive 200,000-sq.-ft. building.

 

Vintage snowmobile road trip: Arctic Cat stuff with CPC. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

The "new" Comet Clutch factory.

They're manufacturing Dusters, 102-C, 108 and all kinds of other clutches, as well as replacement pieces for these and other Comet-sourced machines.

For snowmobilers who want a nicely-priced, quality clutch for their older machines, the Comet brand is alive and well as a great option.

 

The "new" Comet Clutch factory.

The "new" Comet Clutch factory.

It was great to visit this storied brand's new digs, to see that good ol' domestic manufacturing still exists, and to spend several hours with the Grafft family.

Yet it was also time to head north, to Wausau, Wis., for the next three stops of this road trip.

 

Jim Dimmerman and fellow racer Ronald talk snowmobile racing. Photo: arcticinsider.com

On the way to Wausau, Dimmerman stopped to see an old friend. They hadn't talked much in the past few years, so it was good for them to catch-up with each other.

With that detour out of the way, it was time to meet up with a guy who was selling a 1982 prototype Arctic Cat Panther.

 

Tom Rowland buys another 1982 prototype Arctic Cat. By arcticinsider.com

Yep, "1982" and "prototype" were definitely a theme of this trip. And this machine was one that Rowland was considering adding to his awesome collection of '82 prototype Arctic Cats.

 

Tom Rowland buys another 1982 prototype Arctic Cat. By arcticinsider.com

Actually, this is a machine that Rowland had purchased and owned once prior, but a long, convoluted and bizarre story ended that brief affair.

This time around, Rowland was looking to give it a permanent home. So the three of us listened to all the salient features described to us by the seller.

 

Tom Rowland buys another 1982 prototype Arctic Cat. By arcticinsider.com

And while Rowland distracted the seller, Dimmerman dove in for a closer inspection. Or something like that...

This '82 proto Panther had a liquid-cooled engine (a 440 bottom end with a 500 top end). The seller had purchased it many years ago from Gordon Rhode (remember the name, he'll feature prominently in part's two and three of this series), but was no longer interested in owning it.

 

Tom Rowland buys another 1982 prototype Arctic Cat. By arcticinsider.com

Rowland was satisfied with the machine and, after we gave the seller a serious 1-2-3 working over, a price was agreed upon and the transfer made!

 

Tom Rowland buys another 1982 prototype Arctic Cat. By arcticinsider.com

And for the first time all day, I actually did some work by moving it to the trailer.

Having been on the road since 4am; driven somewhere around 400 miles (with Dimmerman doing the steering from the passenger side of the cab); smelled the funk of old sleds in storage; walked a couple miles in the Comet building; raced to Wausau; and loaded two sleds into a trailer, our day was only partially complete.

Maybe the best part of the whole trip was just 20 minutes away, at the shop of Arctic Cat collector Randy Springer!

Which will be part two of this road trip story, coming soon.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (9):

s.t.i.c.s.9 says:
7/24/2014 9:11:00 PM

Nice shoes!
GM says:
7/25/2014 7:42:00 AM

I believe that Dan Oosdyke at Shell Lake, WI would know more about the Scorpion prototypes. He was a Cross Country racer, technician and test rider at Scorpion in Crosby and then with the A/C guys at TRF. He had to have worked with these sleds. (I also worked at Scorpion at the time and remember seeing John Lundberg placing the decals on the 1st Sidewinder mock-up)
pluedy says:
7/25/2014 7:43:00 AM

Nice story...and you only used "epic" twice.
Scott Watters says:
7/25/2014 9:22:00 AM

Nice shoes.....ha looks like John has been doing some Yoga in his spare time!
John Sandberg says:
7/25/2014 2:29:00 PM

s.t.i.c.s.9 and Scott: those shoes help with my 32-in. vertical leap, as well as matching my natural skin tone.

pluedy: I was going to use "game-changing", "next-level", "dominating", "paradigm-shift" and "badass", but they seemed even more over used. Maybe I'm reading too many of your press releases?
Tom Rowland says:
7/25/2014 10:08:00 PM

It did actually take two of us to drive the truck as a guy in the back seat was constantly telling us where/how to drive.

While touring the Comet manufacturing facility one of the many things that struck me was learning just how many clutches that many of us consider vintage are now again available for purchase. I think if you need new swing-arms for the Salisbury 600 on your 1962 Polar 500, a new drive clutch for your 1970 Panther 760 or a new 102-C for your 1979 El Tigre 6000 they have what you need.

GM (above): Do you recall approximately what month/year the earliest work was being done on the snowmobile that would eventually become the Scorpion Sidewinder? I've never really heard much of the back-story on that model.

Jim Dimmerman says:
7/27/2014 8:26:00 AM

Fast facts from the "Litter Box"...For those of you who remember or have the 1978/79 Team Arctic Press Kits.. The sleds featured in those kits have THESE hoods on them !! One of the biggest tell tale's is there are no hood pin holes in them. Only the show/photo sleds had this. All of our mailbox's were held down with pins.(I am looking for my press kits and will post some photos later.)
There is something to say about the feelings that overcome you when you are about to step into a building filled with snowmobile history...the walk down a flashlight lit hallway, carefully placing your feet as not to trip, and then the light switch turns on...I'll tellin' you it's a rush ! Thank You so much Jim Grafft..
Paul Nadeau says:
7/28/2014 6:12:00 AM

What another great story and adventure, can't wait to read part 2, I would have paid to be in the back seat to listen to all of the stories, directions on how to get there and how to drive. Tom and Jim congrats to getting everyone there safe and sound and thank you John for giving these 2 gents the guidance they needed to make the trip successful. Thank you Jim Grafft for allowing this great team to walk through snowmobile history. Good luck Tom on restoring the Scorpion, please keep us informed through the process, story, photo's, etc. Hey Jim, next time you visit Jim's place, get Tom or John to distract him and run away with that hood. I am sure it would look great in your man cave if the Mrs. allows it LOL !!! Thanks to all 3 of you for keeping Arctic Cat's racing history in the forefront! It certainly brings back a lot of good memories of those days, that I lived through John's articles when he wrote for Snow Week! Being from the east that was the only way to keep on top of things racing, especially you Jim and your racing days at Arctic Cat. Can't wait to see the press kit! Keep up the great work John!!
GM says:
8/4/2014 1:58:00 PM

To Tom R:
The Sidewinder was a reskinned El Tigre. The hood/seat design was done during early-1980 with production-level field testing being done in the winter of 1980-81. I left Scorpion to join Yamaha in May 1980 and Dan went to TRF to work on the final calibration of the Scorpion Sidewinder.

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