Leroy Kapsner (L) and Leon Raiter (grey vest) were integral to the styling of all the products produced at Arctic Cat during the 1970s and early ’80s. Leroy managed the Styling Department, and Leon was one of the principal stylists.
Not long after the formal introductions that day at Thomas SnoSports, the boxes of pictures and drawings were opened followed immediately by shock-and-awe, questions and amazement on the part of Aaron Scheele (middle), Tom Rowland (reaching for the pic), Mike Fanum (r) and myself.
Leroy and Leon were patient and great about answering the questions and providing some background information to some of this stuff.
Having made a career of styling various products in several industries (most notably in the boating industry), Leon had a portfolio of some of his contributions at Arctic Cat. Below are some of the pages from it:
Here’s the page on the 1982 Arctic Cat Cougar, a machine that seemed likely to have been a hit had Arctic Enterprises stayed in the game.
Still to this day, there’s something both magical and somber about seeing pictures of the 1982 models. I think the magic is that these sleds represent the continued progression of what was a company that produced outstanding machines that touched our souls. And I’m certain that the somberness is the fact that the ’82s also represent the end of that era.
The 1982 el Tigre was another stunner. I love how Leon included the “Fastest Production Snowmobile in the World” element to this page. It’s a reference to the Snow Goer Shootout for the ’82 model year, in which the Tiger won the title for top-speed and elapsed time.
Speaking of 1982s, there is perhaps no other collector more fascinated by these machines (and who owns as many) as Tom Rowland. For this occasion he brought them into the shop for everyone to see and discuss.
As artdcat mentioned in the comments of Part I, Leon was the guy who created the famous swirled “Pantera” graphic.
As I mentioned in Part I, Leon was responsible for the designs and styling of many products produced by Arctic Cat. This page highlights the 1981 Scorpion Sno Pro oval racer, which Brad Hulings piloted to the World Championship title that year (and which serves as the basis for Jim Dimmerman’s Phantom).
The wind-cheating windshield was the hallmark styling element of this sled, and something that would influence multiple race sleds for years to come.
As you can see from Leon’s note, he designed the graphics for the Spirit outboard line.
This is a cool page from the portfolio that explains the steps required to design a snowmobile hood in that era. Obviously this was a time pre-CAD, and much more labor (and time) intensive.
This machine was the 1981 Arctic Cat Sno Pro racer, which was piloted by Dimmerman and Bob Elsner. Looking at the many items from Leon’s portfolio, I was impressed by his ability to so closely produce a three-dimensional version of his original design sketches.
For instance, here’s the original artwork of the 1978-80 Arctic Cat Sno Pro, an all-time classic…
…and here is an image of a 1978 250 Sno Pro from the Ische Family Collection. The shape is remarkably faithful to the original drawing. And stunning.
Talking with Leon, it’s plainly evident that he was/is very thoughtful and intentional about design and styling. A few of his quotes:
“In my designs, I always try to create movement.
“The graphics have to enhance the shape of the hood, be a part of it rather than just stuck onto the hood. All the elements of shape, color, graphics and texture should complement each other. And when they do, it all becomes one.”
While he doesn’t have all of his original drawings, Leon has a nice collection of many greats. Ever since the Arctic Cat 50th Anniversary celebration, he’s been kicking around ideas of how he could share these drawings with those of us who want to see them.
One idea he has is to sell reproduction prints suitable for hanging on a wall, which I think is an awesome option. (Leon, if you’re reading this, here’s my credit card number for reserving one of each that you produce: 3451 2087 3433 2870 exp. 7/14.)
Another one of Leon’s Sno Pro creations, this time for the Woody’s racing effort that included Steve Thorsen.
Some more interesting stuff, including the various options for tail section styling.
There were a lot of soon-to-be snowmobile projects cooking at Arctic Enterprises before the fall, including a couple of different IFS options. Here’s the drawing of a recreational (not high-performance) Sport model slated for 1983…
…and here is the actual prototype of that machine, which is owned by Tom Rowland.
It’s interesting listening to Leroy and Leon talk about some of these machines. Certain machines they remember vividly, while others are a bit fuzzy.
They literally produced hundreds of concepts over the years and it’s easy to understand that some have faded from memory.
One of the last snowmobile projects that Leon worked on was the hoods for the original 1985 AFS Arctic Cats. It was essentially a freelance project for Leon, who did most of the work in his garage.
After Arctic Enterprises ended, Leon continued designing with the same greatness that he brought to Arctic Cat, mostly in the marine industry for companies like Larson, Genmar and Crestliner. He is currently working on another soon-to-be project in the marine industry. He lives in Sartell, Minn.
Leroy has since retired and is enjoying the good life in Princeton, Minn.
Once again, I want to thank Leroy and Leon for giving us a day of their lives, and for their complete openness about allowing me to share some of the highlights here on this site.
I also want to thank Tom Rowland for his continuous pursuit of recovering Arctic Cat history, for his desire to share it with the world, and for his providing for us the bag of delicious Oreo cookies.
Thanks for reading.