Google search engineGoogle search engine
HomeFeaturesJohn's Shop: Anderson's Perfect Hangout

John’s Shop: Anderson’s Perfect Hangout

John Anderson's 1970 Arctic Cat 634 Puma Mod. Photo by

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.


John Anderson's 1970 Arctic Cat 634 Puma Mod. Photo by

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.


John Anderson's 1970 Arctic Cat 634 Puma Mod. Photo by

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.


John Anderson's 1970 Arctic Cat 634 Puma Mod. Photo by

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.


FOX-built Dial-Adjust shock for Arctic Cat. Photo by

Like this FOX/Arctic Cat Dial-Adjust front arm shock that John found in Arctic Cat Special Services (aka “Salvage”) last year.


Arctic Cat-Suzuki 900 triple engine. Photo by

And this 900cc counterbalanced triple out of a Thundercat, which John has completely rebuilt in preparation for stuffing it into an AWS chassis Cat.


Inside John Anderson's perfect sled shop. Photo by

Well what do we have here, next to the fridge? A couple carbs for a future project, perhaps?


Inside John Anderson's perfect sled shop. Photo by

John is one of those guys who seems to have one (or three) of everything. And he knows exactly where everything is.


Inside John Anderson's perfect sled shop. Photo by

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.


Inside John Anderson's sweet sled shop. Photo by

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.


Inside John Anderson's perfect sled shop. Photo by

Inside John Anderson's perfect sled shop. Photo by

Yep, John’s shop is a veritable feast for the eyes.


Bob Elsner - Jim Dimmerman Autograph stock. Photo by

Bob Elsner - Jim Dimmerman Autograph stock. Photo by

A signed autograph photo from Team Arctic Sno Pro racers Bob Elsner and Jim Dimmerman, given to John in 1981.


Inside John Anderson's perfect sled shop. Photo by

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).


More Arctic Cat project 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.


Arctic Cat Panther race sled. Photo by

This once-raced Panther chassis will definitely become a beautiful restoration like the Puma.


John Anderson's Arctic Cat Whisker mini bike. Photo by

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.


Me sitting on Anderson's 1970 Arctic Cat 634 Puma Mod. Photo by

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.



  1. Shop time is the best. Often times building, tinkering and reminiscing over a cold Pabst is more fun than riding. Cool stuff John Anderson!

  2. John is a great example of someone whose Arctic Cat knowledge and passion spans a time nearly as long as the brand itself. I always look forward to a conversation or visit with him, (or a ride in one of his vintage cars/trucks). I didn’t know John had a role in the movie Ice Castles, I thought that was Robby Benson.

  3. Great story and pictures…I love the vintage sleds!
    People ask me what I do now that there is no snow.
    Actually, the vintage snowmobile season kicks into high gear right after Memorial Day! I just picked up 5 Cats this week, from 1967 to 1970 to restore, and I have more phone calls from guys who need help with restoration projects.

  4. Great article about a great guy! Whether it’s a trivial detail, or a hard to find part, John is always generous with help and advice… and I have been the beneficiary of that a few times now. Thanks John!

  5. I had a 1969 Panther 634 Hirth with the pipes and my brother Frank had a 1970 with a 634 Hirth and pipes and we rode them everywhere. I had 10,000 miles on my odometer and burned it down on my way to school one morning. By 10:30 that night I had a new 634 replacement in the machine and went for a break in drive. Many good snowmobile memories with those sleds.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular