Last Friday I joined two friends in a day of work, er, adventure to see a vintage 1970 Arctic Cat Panther being sold by some scammer on craigslist.
In addition to the vintage sled scam, we were also celebrating the 40th birthday of the ringleader, Kale Wainer. In the midst of the spiraling mid-life crisis that occurs with this milestone and that could have seen Kale buying a new Harley, new Mustang, new boat or new wardrobe, he opted for the more sensible solution: a new vintage sled.
I piled into the Frontier (short guy gets the back seat) with Kale and Pat Bourgeois (right, editor of OSM magazine and press-release-writer-magnificent) as we headed north out of the Twin Cities towards Alexandria, Minn., where Kale had arranged with the craigslist scammer, er, wheeler-dealer, to see the 1970 Panther.
I’m not sure if it was a blessing or an omen that, 20 minutes into the drive, the sky started dumping snow?!?
The cruel irony of snow in mid-April (after the wimpiest winter in recent memory) brought laughter and excitement to the three amigos. Springtime snows are Mother Nature’s way joking on winter lovers.
This particular snow was no joke to the guy towing this skid loader. In a 30-mile stretch of freeway, we saw no less than eight vehicles that suffered from “holy-crapeth!” spin outs.
Kale responded by standing on the gas to get out of the snow zone as quickly as he could.
When we arrived at the seller’s house near Alexandria, he launched his sales pitch with, “Have I got a deal for YOU,” while pointing at an old Polaris Indy. He followed up that line with, “What’s it gonna take to get you into this Yamaha SS 440, or a rare Polaris twin-pipe TX?”
Having been soaked with sales-spooge just two minutes into the meeting, we MIGHT have walked away in frustration. But the problem was that the seller was Jeff Oberg, who just so happened to be a friend of ours. In addition to hocking all kinds of vintage snowmobile stuff to unsuspecting buyers, Oberg is a part-time rider/writer for Snow Goer magazine, as well as a good guy.
I wasn’t interested in the old Polaris stuff, but this cool old Arctic Cat sign grabbed my attention. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for sale, even though Oberg did say, “Everything is for sale.”
Of course, he broke out into a maniacal laugh after he muttered that well-worn cliche.
After spraying ourselves clean of the used car sales pitches with a can of carb cleaner, we moseyed to another of Oberg’s garages containing the stash of options that were the object of Kale’s desire: old 1970 Arctic Cat Panthers.
Pat (left) and Kale checked out the two options. I’ll refer to the one on the left as Hoover, because it sucked in Kale with a cleaning force that I’ve never seen before. He was practically powerless to its gravity.
Sensing Kale’s complete lack of restraint, Oberg moved in with some craigslist classics, beginning with, “It runs on spray” and followed by “I just needs a carb cleaning.”
Pat desperately tried to throw bucket of reality on Kale’s burning desire, pointing out various problems with the Panther, but I’m not sure Kale heard anything other than siren of a Panther humming along a trail, whisking him along in harmonious bliss.
Even though no deal had yet been agreed to, Oberg was clearly in the driver’s seat of this situation, and suggested that we load the sled into Kale’s truck “just to see if it fits.”
It wasn’t until the sled was loaded that Kale noticed what 45 years of rust does to a skidframe.
But Oberg quickly shifted his attention by proclaiming that a full-cleated track is great for fast cornering on icy trails and accelerating on glare ice.
So smitten by the old Cat, Kale actually believed him.
And when Kale saw the “Arctic Cat” branded tail light lens, he relinquished any remaining doubts about buying the sled.
Aware that Kale was a lost cause, Pat tested out the Panther’s cornering prowess and proclaimed, “It’s not just good…it’s good enough!”
Kale: “What do you want for it.”
Oberg: “How much you got?”
Kale: “This is everything in my wallet.”
Oberg: “This is a good start, and I know where there’s a cash machine.”
And as Kale drove away, Oberg’s maniacal laugh echoed throughout Alexandria.
While this might be the last time Oberg* saw the sled, if all things go according to plan it won’t be the last time you see it. Kale has some great ideas for it that I’ll highlight here in the coming months.
And thanks for reading!
*Despite my gentle, ever-so-slight teasing in this story, Jeff Oberg is actually not a scammer, but someone I would gladly buy vintage stuff from now and in the future. Truth!