You know the magnificent (and mean-looking) 1972 Arctic Cat EXT hood/belly combo? It was primarily designed and crafted in fiberglass by Kenny Halvorson.
The same Kenny Halvorson who produced most of the patterns and molds for Arctic Cat from the early ’70s through 1981.
Ditto for the reproduction Z, EXT, big mouth Panther and Sno Pro hoods that grace the majority of rebuilt, restored and/or reproduced show sleds throughout the world.
Fact is, Kenny Halvorson has left some mighty impressive tracks, er, hoods on a career that goes back nearly five decades.
This past fall I spent a day at his shop on the outskirts of Thief River Falls.
Kenny Halvorson, standing in his shop on the outskirts of Thief River Falls this past November.
Kenny’s career in the snowmobile industry began in 1960s with Arctic Cat, where he worked as a stylist, fiberglass artist and creator of design molds.
While he did a lot of design work, including the ’72 EXT, Kenny’s primary role was to cast others’ drawings into three-dimensional objects, as well as making patterns and molds for these projects.
He’s the guy who made all the fiberglass racing hoods and bodywork back in the Team Arctic Sno Pro era, along with hundreds of other projects.
He was (and is still) a master of fiberglass.
The fall of Arctic Enterprises in 1981 might have ended his employment at Cat, but it hardly changed his career.
With a stellar reputation for his artistry, Halvorson continued working as an independent for hire. He designed the cab/body for the original ASV TrackTruck, built hoods for oval race teams and otherwise became the go-to guy for dozens of projects for a wide assortment of industries.
Kenny was full-throttle into his solo career when the Cat came back, so he passed on the opportunity to go back into the Engineering department. But he remained close to the company and worked on various engineering projects.
In the mid- to late-1980s he started getting requests for reproduction hoods for older Arctic Cats. A ’76 Sno Pro hood here, a big-mouth Panther hood there. So Kenny built some molds and started laying glass.
It was a decade before collecting and restoring vintage snowmobiles began in earnest, but it foreshadowed what was to come. And word got around that Kenny was the go-to guy for this kind of stuff.
By the time vintage sleds had blossomed into a cottage industry, Kenny was a great source for all the popular Arctic Cat hoods, bellypans and other body panels: Sno Pros, big-mouths (both standard and race versions), EXTs, El Tigres.
Likewise, he was the guy who could build a mold and produce hoods for any other brand, usually working off an original hood but often recreating a classic via pictures from a magazine.
In fact, Kenny built reproduction hoods for some pretty interesting projects, including the Kawasaki Shark and ’74 Ski-Doo Sno Pro. He even built bodywork for two separate Boss Cat I reproduction projects, using only photographs to recreate the 20-ft. long fiberglass body.
And in an instant that spanned a few decades, Kenny Halvorson built a career and business of producing snowmobile hoods for collectors, restorers, race teams and even other companies.
That business takes place in Thief River Falls, Minn., in a modern building that replaced the wreckage of his first shop, which tragically burned down in 2004 (Kenny lost almost all of his molds and hoods. But he eventually rebuilt almost everything.)
He has three employees and roughly 200 molds. Together they produce upwards of 200 hoods a year, plus many special one-off projects.
Truth be told, it’s the one-off stuff that Kenny enjoys the most. Projects like designing and building the hoods for Wahl Bros. Racing sleds/drivers (a role he’s played for nearly 25 years); building molds for prototype snowmobile components; or any number of custom car and boat projects for former colleagues.
Yes, Kenny and crew are the go-to source for all kinds of snowmobile fiberglass needs. They are in such demand that Kenny works entirely on word-of-mouth referrals. There is no advertising, no social media and no outreach.
This is a 71-year-old guy who’s perfectly content to keep his business manageable and enjoyable, working only on his terms. But lest you think he’s terse or curmudgeonly, think again.
Kenny is a humble, kind and genuinely good soul with a sharp memory of his remarkable career. He’s a bonafide motor head who loves cars, motorcycles and snowmobiles.
His passion for snowmobiles inspired two of his three sons to work for Arctic Cat Engineering (Trevor, who has worked as a technician, and Troy who is the Mountain Team Lead Engineer).
Kenny is one of those guys who goes quietly about his business, seldom divulging to strangers any information about his many professional contributions and accomplishments.
He was kind and gracious in allowing me to photograph his shop area, and to ask him a pile of questions for this story. (Thanks Kenny!)
I hope you enjoy seeing the pictures of his operation.
Kenny is holding a Ski-Doo collectors book illustrating a 1974 Blizzard Sno Pro, one of the many technical and detailed reproductions he’s built in the modern era of vintage collecting/restoration.
Kenny and his crew produce hoods, bellypans, faux windshields and other assorted bodywork for snowmobiles.
Here Eddy does some sanding on a hood for the Wahl Bros. Racing team.
Mike, working on a different hood project.
Outside of the shop there are hundreds of hoods, pans and molds.
I saw hoods and molds for Arctic Cat, Polaris, Rupp, Viking, Ski-Doo, Scorpion and more.
Arctic Cat has tapped Kenny to help with small-batch production on various engineering projects over the years. Here are some of the pieces used to create molds during the initial development of the ProCross and ProClimb prototypes.
Bodywork for a Scorpion Sno Pro racer.
While Kenny and crew work primarily in fiberglass, they do dabble in carbon fiber on occasion.
Any guesses what this is?
If there’s a popular vintage sled among collectors/restorers, chances are good that Kenny has a mold for the hood.
Arctic Cat Sno Pro hoods are a popular item, and one that Kenny produces in all vintages.
Pumas, Tigers, Big-Mouths, EXTs… they’re all here.
Glittering metal flake on a sunny day.
Kenny also has a fair number of snowmobiles and cars that are waiting in the weeds.
Thankfully Kenny was in a nostalgic mood the day I visited him. He invited me in his home to look at a few photo albums, which was an awesome treat for which I’m very grateful.
Like so many people of the Arctic Enterprises era, Kenny did a fair bit of racing in his day, mostly in cross-country and oval competition.
Some of the coolest photos in Kenny’s collection showed the original prototype of what would become the 1972 Arctic Cat EXT (on left in the photo above).
According to Kenny, the sled was built and ready to go out west for testing. All that was missing was the hood. Ever the resourceful guy, Kenny took a bellypan, flipped it upside down and did a little shaping.
“I built it just to have some kind of hood for the test trip, but everyone liked the shape,” says Kenny. “Up to that point, all Arctic Cats had been kind of square-looking. But this was more rounded and different.
“When we returned from the trip, I did more work and refinement to the shape. And we ended up using it for the production models.”
One of Kenny’s three sons posing on the original Boss Cat II.
A photo of the Twin-Track oval sled that Dave Wahl raced at the end of the 1991 season wearing Arctic Cat livery. Kenny designed and built the bodywork for this sled, and for almost all of the sleds raced since by the Wahl Bros. team.
I saw this race result from an early Goodridge 100 XC race among Kenny’s albums. Some familiar names caught my eye.
Again, I’m grateful to Kenny for taking the time to show me his place and all the cool stuff.
Thanks for reading.