If I’m not riding a (insert long list of various vehicles here), then the next best thing is standing around talking about them. Sometimes these shop sessions are as good as riding.
And a shop like John Anderson’s is the absolute perfect place for such conversations to occur.
That’s John on the left, flanked by Kale Wainer. By day John works as a Service Technician in Arctic Cat ATV engineering. By night, he’s one of the most prolific and amazing sled builders that I know.
Working out of his modest shop in Thief River Falls, Anderson imagines, restores, builds, concocts, improvises and otherwise creates some spectacular machines, be it snowmobile, motorcycle, automobile or otherwise.
Probably half of my trips to TRF are blessed by an after-hours stop at John’s shop, where there’s always full fridge, a new project he’s working and great stories to share.
After a hectic day of work at Cat, John’s shop is the best place to throttle back. And to step back (in time), because John is a true vintage sled enthusiast and historian.
The object of interest during last week’s shop session was a BEAUTIFUL 1970 Arctic Cat Puma Mod that Anderson restored/assembled over the winter.
Like many of Anderson’s projects, this one started with the slow accumulation of individual parts. A seat-back here, a set of Montana pipes there…
Once Anderson had all the pieces, he spent enough evenings in the shop to put them together… perfectly.
He does 3-4 similar projects every year, and all of them turn out as excellent and lovely as the Puma.
And so on this perfect Monday evening, Kale and I stood staring at the sled, talking and laughing with John about this and the other cool stuff peaking out of corners and underneath covers.
Like this FOX/Arctic Cat Dial-Adjust front arm shock that John found in Arctic Cat Special Services (aka “Salvage”) last year.
And this 900cc counterbalanced triple out of a Thundercat, which John has completely rebuilt in preparation for stuffing it into an AWS chassis Cat.
Well what do we have here, next to the fridge? A couple carbs for a future project, perhaps?
John is one of those guys who seems to have one (or three) of everything. And he knows exactly where everything is.
Before we’d arrived this evening, John was about to swap the new rails with the Bobby Flame-did-some-tail-standing-and-bent-’em rails on skidframe in the background.
Normally a ZR skidframe would be enough inspiration for three guys to sit talk for a good 30 minutes, but there’s so many sweet treasures in John’s shop that a ZR skid seems pretty mundane.
Half the items in John’s shop have interesting stories attached to them.
For instance, the dual-plug 650 Wildcat heads were prototype units that were tried but never used by Arctic Cat.
The 700 heads were units that he and an engine-building partner had made for their own race engines back in the day.
The KMS recoil is an ultra-rare piece from a Moto-Ski Bullet.
And the item on the upper-left is a impeller wear-ring for an Arctic Cat Wetbike.
Yep, John’s shop is a veritable feast for the eyes.
A signed autograph photo from Team Arctic Sno Pro racers Bob Elsner and Jim Dimmerman, given to John in 1981.
And check out the white “Ice Castles” tag wedged into the Dimmer/Elsner frame.
As John pointed out to me, it was his badge for the 1979 cast party for those involved in the production of the movie of the same name (and that featured Arctic Cat sleds).
Not all of the treasures (or future treasures) are inside John’s shop. I’m pretty sure John said that the Pantera AFS in the background will be the chassis for the 900cc triple.
This once-raced Panther chassis will definitely become a beautiful restoration like the Puma.
John’s built a few Arctic Cat mini bikes in recent years. This Whisker model is a runner that his grandkids rip around on.
Thanks to John’s generosity, neither Kale nor I are no longer Arctic Cat-mini-bike-virgins.
Yep, we both had the great joy of riding this little ripper around the block a couple times, to our pure delight.
Actually, Kale rode it a bit further (see the short video below).
Kale didn’t quite make it to Sturgis, but he did his best Easy Rider routine while enjoying a few quiet laps around the neighborhood.
In the couple of hours Kale, John and I spent BSing that evening; we talked about topics that ranged from Anderson (no relation, but a friend of John’s) Drag chassis to still-yet-undiscovered-treasures at Arctic Cat Salvage to the pure joy of riding a mini bike.
We talked about racing, riding and the sleds we loved.
Funny, but there wasn’t a single conversation about women (honey, if you’re reading this, just know that I was thinking about you that night, but just not talking about you).
We made a good dent in the years spanning 1970-81, with nice stops at 1991, 1996 and even some late 2000s.
It was as good as snowmobiling gets for June in Minnesota.
I even won a trophy for being the best BSer.
(As usual, thanks for hosting us John and for letting me snap a few photos for posterity.)
Thanks for reading.