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1969 Panther Replica a Tribute to Roger Janssen

Replica of Roger Janssen's 1969 World Championship Arctic Cat Panther Mod built by Tom Ische

As a tribute to Team Arctic legend Roger Janssen, and to help commemorate the 50th Anniversary Eagle River World’s Championships, collector Tom Ische built a replica of Janssen’s WC-winning 1969 Arctic Cat Panther mod.

Both the sled and Janssen will be at Eagle River this weekend, making a few laps together around the famed oval. What a sight it will be!

 

Arctic Cat racing legend Roger Janssen, 1969 World Champion

Janssen’s dramatic victory at the 1969 World’s Championship was one for the record books, as the Crookston, Minn., racer suffered a wild crash in turn one of the first lap. Janssen feigned injury (above) long enough to force a restart, for which he successfully lobbied to participate in despite the so-called leg injury. Upon the restart, Janssen blitzed to victory.

 

Arctic Cat racing legend Roger Janssen, 1969 World Champion

Arctic Cat Race Win ad for 1969 Eagle River and I-500

Interestingly, Janssen led a first-through-fifth Arctic Cat sweep, with teammates Charlie Lofton, Wayne Burkel, Roger Hibble and Dewey Paulson taking second through fifth.

Recounted in numerous magazines and books afterwards, the Janssen victory remained Team Arctic’s sole win at the famed event until Team Arctic Sno Pro great Bob Elsner won it exactly 10 years later.

When news hit that the Eagle River Derby folks were hoping to have all the past Champions AND their sleds attend this year’s 50th, Arctic Cat collector Tom Ische was struck by the opportunity to honor both the event and Janssen.

How? By building a replica of Janssen’s ’69 Panther mod that Janssen could ride around the Derby track during the weekend’s ceremony.

The reason for a replica rather than the real-deal is that, according to Janssen, the original WC sled was literally in pieces the week after its historic win, no doubt because it was a bruised and battered sled and, back in those days, nobody thought for a minute about the virtue of preserving such artifacts.

So Ische started his replica build with the requisite 1969 P-45 Panther chassis and a 744 JLO twin that he was already in possession of.

Next, he contacted Janssen to set up a time to visit him. Just before Thanksgiving, Tom and his daughter Brianna met with Janssen and his wife, Barb.

 

Roger Janssen and Tom Ische, photo by Brianna Ische

The meeting took place at the Janssen’s home in Crookston, Minn., where Roger and Tom poured over a collection of personal photographs, books, bosscatlegacy.com and other memorabilia in order to determine what, exactly, was needed to replicate the ’69 mod.

According to Ische, this sled is as close as he can get to the original.

“There were variations of that motor back in the day,” says Ische. “Roger didn’t remember exactly what he used at Eagle, so we did our best.”

 

Roger Janssen, photo by Brianna Ische

Janssen provided important details to the build as well as some actual pieces, including some of the stamped “claw” traction used on the track.

When I talked with Ische on Tuesday of this week, he’d just fired-up the big JLO and run the sled around the pond near his shop in Glencoe, Minn.

Well?

“The thing just screams,” exclaimed Ische, referring to the un-baffled mega-phone exhaust! “No wonder Roger has some hearing problems now.

Replica of Roger Janssen's 1969 World Championship Arctic Cat Panther Mod built by Tom Ische

“I was surprised how powerful it was. Hit the gas on this sled and it picks up the front-end six inches!”

The Ische family will haul the ’69 replica to Eagle River this weekend for the whole world to see, and for Janssen to ride around the track (wearing his original suit and helmet!) during a special ceremony of past champions.

 

Replica of Roger Janssen's 1969 World Championship Arctic Cat Panther Mod built by Tom Ische

The time and money invested in this project was considerable, so I asked Tom why he tackled it.

“I did it for Roger and for Arctic Cat fans. People have to remember what a hero that Roger is and what a huge deal it was to win the Derby in 1969.”

Ische might also have another surprise to show fans this weekend at Eagle River. I can’t say anything more, other than I hope he found some extra time to make it happen. If it does happen, I’ll post photos.

For now I personally am looking forward to seeing this and all the other historic machines at Eagle River this weekend. Likewise I’m excited to see Janssen other race legends take to the track.

 

Roger Janssen and wife Barb in 1969

Roger Janssen and his wife Barb celebrate after the World’s Championship victory in 1969.

 

Roger Janssen and wife Barb in 2012, photo by Brianna Ische

Barb and Roger photographed at their home in the fall of 2012, with evidence of Roger’s many, many racing successes in the background.

Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Brianna Ische for taking such great photos of the Janssens and the replica sled.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Great story! Hope fully we will run into the sled out and about some day.. Trail riding!! Old sled sand new are all Great.. Go Cat GO!

  2. Roger.. I can’t begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to being out on the track with ” THE BULLIT ” !!
    We,ve signed autographs shoulder to shoulder at Arctic’s 50th but I will be honored to ride along side you as a fellow Champion and Team Arctic Driver, on the Derby Track…
    Thank you Tom and Brianna… Jim Dimmerman

  3. Tom you always go above and beyond the call of duty! I hope someone posts videos because I want to hear that beast!
    Hmmm, another surprise, I hope that means Tom is hauling it there in the glass sided Boss Cat truck!

  4. I have a hunch that those of us that could not be at the 50th running of the Eagle River World Championship this weekend are going to be missing out on some pretty memorable things. Lets hope that we can read a good recap here on ArcticInsider. Great job on the 1969 racer Tom, I’ll look forward to seeing it and all of your collection soon.

  5. Another great story John & another great snowmobile built by Tom Ische. I talked to Tom this morning & the other surprise was almost ready for Eagle River!!! I will be in Eagle River too & can’t wait to see the “Bullet” on the ’69 Panther!!!

  6. What a great looking snowmobile! What a great driver! Roger Janssen was my idol when I was a kid – wish I could be there to watch him do his laps in person. When my dad was a dealer he built a 1970 760 JLO Panther mod with megaphones. The sled was brand new at the time. One of my fondest childhood memories was hearing that sled run. It literally drowned out every other sled on the race track! I’m guessing that’s just about what this sled will sound like. I hope someone gets the parade laps on video, it will be awesome to see! Beautiful job on the sled build Tom! And Roger – you’re still my hero!

  7. Great job Tom on the sled and John on the article.
    Roger was also my hero. I’ll never forget the story Roger told me of how the accident happened at the derby, had a gas tank leak, and ran out of gas on his victory lap with Miss Wisconsin!

  8. The only thing missing is Roger’s classic, full sized yellow tint windshield. Roger swore by the yellow windshield as it would allow him to see through the snow dust that occured when, on the outside chance, he was behind the leader of the race.

    Roger and Barb are good people and have brought so much to the hobby.

    Carl

  9. This was sooo awesome to see. Very historic standing in turn 4 with the Janssen’s this past weekend. Watching Roger ride around on what turned into a one-lunger and Barb saying “that’s what happened to him in ’69!!” was great. All the young racers that went over to help Roger get that thing fired up was telling of the respect he has.

  10. We had the good fortune of sitting with Roger for a while in the sitting area at the hotel. I had never met him before and what a great guy. He told us a number of stories including that 1969 race at Eagle River. He won a After the spill – and with all the steam coming off the sled and with the tan colored windshield, they thought his sled was on fire. It of course wasn’t. Interesting too… he made it to turn 1 after crossing the finish line and ran out of fuel. The spill at the start caused a pin hole in the fuel tank. Charlie Lofton finished 2nd place on 1 ski — I didn’t know that either. Joel Overbaugh replaced Roger on team Chaparral and was then killed months later while racing. Then there was the time…. it really was great to meet him and hear him talk about his racing days. He and his wife spend winters now in Arizona.

  11. After seeing first hand some of Tom Ische’s work, I was really impressed.

    Elsner’s sled was assume and how about the pizza cutters on the skis of Roger’s 69 race sled!

  12. Super nice work on this sled. It was great to see this sled and all the others and drivers at Eagle River. Thanks to all for all the hard work and taking the time out to be there. The parade laps of the Champions and their sleds was awesome, ( I think Jim D. wanted to go back to the starting line and have at it ! ). Thanks all !

  13. When i met with Roger he laughed when i asked him about the pizza cutters. He said he never ran them on his eagle river sled but after he won the race the company sent him box loads of the things in hopes he would endorse the product.

    Roger and Barb also let me copy a couple of photos from NY (I think) showing roger muscling around a 760 panther with no hood on it as well as one showing him flying by on a (372?) machine equipped with cookie cutters. You can find these photos on the BossCatLegacy website. Thanks Barb!

    Lastly, does anyone know why Roger was leaning so far to the right on his sled when he crossed the finish line? Roger claims there was a hell of a racket coming from under the hood and he thought the clutch was ready to let go and he didnt want to catch any shrapnel if it let loose.

    Ed Mayo in Wis will be showing his Roger Janssen tribute sled at shows as soon as this fall. Ed has a REAL P45J sled with an NOS 760 that was free air modified INSIDE the arctic cat factory. Complete with factory shaved plenum and flywheel, twin HD carbs, megaphones and correct yellow tint windshield AND the correct plastic fuel tank this sled will be one to look for!

    Carl

  14. Thanks for all the comments on the 69 Panther and the 79 Sno Pro, they were fun projects. The 69 we had a blast with, we went up to Rogers and spent the day with Roger and Barb, what great people. With all the info we got from Roger on the sled we did the best we could, we did have the yellow windshield on it at first but it cracked, also Roger wanted the recoil on this sled so he could start it if he had to. The chassis we started with is a correct tagged P45J sled. Roger did supply us with a hand full of parts to put on the sled, which was great. He said the pizza cutters would be great to put on the sled if we had them, so we put them on. Since Eagle River, we installed the yellow windshield and the plastic fuel tank. It was great to see Roger go on the track with this sled and all the other great champions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this sled in Rogers garage in the near future. Thanks Tom

  15. Great Job on the Replica. About 15 years ago I picked up this 1969 Big Mouth Panther with a 372 Single Cyl, with cookie cutter on skis that came from NY. Then while looking through the Arctic Cat Legend book page 64, I saw the same sled and Roger was driving it. I made a few calls and (Corky), Gerald Fischer called me with Rogers phone number. I called him and we talked for half hour, a great guy to talk to. He said it is very possible my sled was one of his race sleds. Any way it is not for sale but I will be driving it in the parade lap and mayby passing BRETT MALLORY at the race at the Potter County Snowmobile Club in Coudersport Pa. this week end. My son,grandson and I have 108 Arctic Cats out of 178 Vintage Sleds including a Cutter Kitchen and 1965 2wd Arctic Cat Cub. Yes we love Arctic Cats

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