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HomeFeaturesOne More for the Derby: 1979 Arctic Cat Sno Pro Elsner Replica

One More for the Derby: 1979 Arctic Cat Sno Pro Elsner Replica

Tom Ische's replica build of Bob Elsner's Arctic Cat 1979 Sno Pro Derby Champ

In addition to the Roger Janssen ’69 Panther replica he built for this weekend’s Eagle River 50th Anniversary, Arctic Cat collector Tom Ische built and will display a replica of Team Arctic legend Bob Elsner’s 1979 Sno Pro World Championship sled.

Ische wrapped up the final details on this stunner yesterday, just in time for his daughter Brianna to snap some pix and send them to me (thanks!).


swiped photo of Bob Elsner winning the 1979 Eagle River World Championship

For the uninitiated, Team Arctic oval ace Bob Elsner captured the 1979 Eagle River World’s Championship in stunning fashion, notching the second win for the brand exactly 10 years after Janssen’s historic win.


On an entirely personal note, I just have to say that Elsner’s win (and the awesome movie that Arctic Cat produced about it, above) was one of my all-time favorite events in Team Arctic history. I still get goose bumps and a lump in my throat when I watch it (sorry, but the sound cuts out at the end of the above video… bummer).

Anyway, Ische had the same motivation for creating the Elsner replica as he did the Janssen replica: to honor the man and race program that delivered a monumental win.


Tom Ische's replica build of Bob Elsner's Arctic Cat 1979 Sno Pro Derby Champ

For the record, the Elsner replica includes an original Arctic Cat Sno Pro tunnel and NOS 440 race engine. Sweet!


Tom Ische's replica build of Bob Elsner's Arctic Cat 1979 Sno Pro Derby Champ

It has several reproduction parts such as the hood, bellypan, clutch guard, seat and such. And ever the sticker for details, Ische notes that the paint on the hood was done quickly in order to make it to the Derby, and does NOT include the pearl/metal flake. That will happen later, when it’s repainted.

Ische wanted to be very clear to me about this sled: It’s NOT Elsner’s race-winning sled, it’s a replica.

As for who originally raced/ran this 1979 Sno Pro tunnel… Ische wishes that he knew, but unfortunately doesn’t.

I can’t wait to see this sled, the Janssen-replica, Jim Dimmerman’s Phantom and all the other history-making sleds this weekend at Eagle River.

Look for a report next Monday.

And huge, HUGE thanks to the Ische family for the gargantuan effort to source, build and bring these snowmobiles to Eagle River this weekend!

Tom Ische's replica build of Bob Elsner's Arctic Cat 1979 Sno Pro Derby Champ



  1. This is just great. I remember this winner as it came during my senior year of High School and I took a lot of ribbing for wearing my Team Arctic hat every day to school. They all shut up after Elsners win. Great sled and congrats to Tom for building another jaw dropper.

  2. 1979… the first year that I went to the derby at Eagle River, it was cool. When you watch that film clip and see the people dragging a beer barrel on the end of a rope…… well, let’s just say that people were there having a good time and probably went home not knowing if Elsner, Dimmerman, Jocko, or Richard Petty won the World’s Championship.

  3. A little trivia for the 79 Sno Pro sled..Bobby and I each had 4 sleds ,250,340,440 & 440X.The X sleds were the WC sleds. In fact,no difference between the 440 &440X, just a 2nd sled just for that class.
    One week before the Derby,Roger Gage re-designed the geometry for the front suspension. he changed the ride height,shock travel, and made the radius rods parallel. We called it a “lowering kit” but it was much more technical than that. We also replaced ALL of our clutches with Polaris RXL Quick -Change drive and the Famed polaris driven…Exactly the same stuff(Scorpion) Steve Thorsen and Brad Hulings were using and had been using on their Factory Polaris’s. To give credit where it’s due, Larry Coltom had been working on this clutch setup on his test sled at home while we were out racing the week before.
    Larry called us over,Bobby,Durmont,Davey,Duane and myself, to his test sled for an explanation on how they worked. When the “Sarge” talks about clutching you better be listening..There is NO ONE better in the Industry than Larry Coltom…

  4. As you can see in the Video, I had the hole-shot down on all my sleds. I was so happy to finally give Brad & Steve a “Lickin” with their own clutch !!
    Roger’s new front-end had us handling like slot cars…We simply drove away from them all….just like Polaris had done to us during the “Midnight Blue Express”. Their Reign was OVER! We swept all 4 classes in front of thousands of people.. It was my biggest day at Eagle River even though I didn’t win the WC. I truly believe I would have won that race had the start been fair..But that wasn’t meant to be. The one thing I did learn was HOW to win at Eagle River.. Jim Dimmerman

  5. I have been watching this video for years and I use it to get excited for ER every year. Was even told they were going to remove it off YouTube due to copyright issues. Thank god it wasn’t.

    Jim just wanted to tell you thanks for cranking the Phantom up around the track. Was awesome to see! Also, you were one heck of a nice guy to meet in person! The Phantom was awesome and thanks for the autograph and all your trivia on here.

  6. One other note to add here, not only is that one of the coolest race sleds ever made, those Arctic Cat racing leathers were the best I have ever seen. Personally, I would wear that suit to church.

  7. That 79 video gets me all riled up and choked up every time I watch it – it’s awesome!

    I have a very rare version of it on the original film that I got from Sweden when I visited in 2000. In my version there is a long list of people that were thanked as part of the race effort at Arctic. Pretty much everyone who was involved at the race team at that time is listed. I showed to to Armand Westlund one time and when he saw his name, he surely teared up. Don’t blame him!

    That’s a very inspiring video. Love how Bobby responds to almost every questions with “Well, I don’t know…” Dimmer was sure a good on-air spokesperson for Cat! And Dimmerman and Elsner kicked butt in 79, reminds me of 75 when Larry won darn near every class, and lead the WC for a bit.

    I also talked to the guy who was filming that. He said the shots of Elsner and Thompson walking the track were shot the day after, and all of them had such a hangover from the party the night before that they almost couldn’t walk around the track.. perhaps Dimmerman can fill us in on the festivities after the race… must have been an epic party.

    The film itself is on two reels, one for video and one for audio. I had to hunt down the one machine in the Twin Cities capable of marrying the two together. I then had the film cleaned up a bit so I have a really stellar copy of it here. I need to get that on YouTube!

  8. Tom Ische never ceases to amaze me with his collection of sleds! Any updates on the Arctic Enterprises glass sided Bosscat Truck that he has now?

  9. Larry,
    that would be awesome to see/hear a clean copy of that great video. If I recall, the version on YouTube is pretty garbled at times?

  10. As a long time cat fan………..those early years were disappointing when it came to Eagle River and many of the other oval races for Cat. 1979 at ER was my greatest memory along with winning the Soo I-500(Michigan) when Cat got it’s first win in 2010.

    I would love to have seen Dimmerman, Coltom, Elsner and other Arctic greats race at the Soo too.
    Go CAT!

  11. Tom, As usual this thing is beautiful!! Wish I could have been there. I don’t know where you get the time to do this but keep up the good work. You are truly a craftsman! Thanks, Scott.

  12. Tom, Once again beautiful job on this Sno Pro. We should get Bobby Elsner to sign the hood for you. I think we could probably make that happen. Your friend, Scott.

  13. Really Nice Sled pics and all these stories and info are a joy to read and this is coming from a “ski-doo” kid of the 60’s ! I remember when I first seen pictures of this sled in Race n Rally and other mags ! So Cool !

    Not sure if the Great Jim Dimmerman has spoken anywhere about that wicked looking twin tracker Cat built that he is pictured sitting in ! Love to here his words on that nasty looking sled !

    Thanks !


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