If you’re a Arctic Cat fan, chances are you’ve lost yourself for hours pouring over mind-boggling number of images and artifacts HERE at BossCatLegacy.com. If you haven’t yet seen this amazing site dedicated to all things Arctic Cat, then I suggest you set aside 8-10 uninterrupted hours to get a taste of all that’s contained in the cyber museum.
Stephen Knox is the guy we can thank for BCL. A 43-year-old who originally hailed from Fisher, Minn., but now lives in Norway with his wife and two children, Knox combined passion, knowledge and dedication to create (and continually update) his outstanding site.
AI: Stephen, I think that bosscatlegacy.com is the single largest resource for Arctic Cat information in the world. The amount of info and images that you’ve compiled is simply staggering, and I appreciate it immensely. What’s been your motivation to do this project?
Knox: Thank you! In the spring of 2005 I had the initial idea to build a website documenting the history of the Boss Cat speed run sleds. I launched the site on August 1st that same year. Since then it has evolved into a more complete representation of the Arctic Cat brand. I guess the reason behind it is my love for the Cat. Also I wanted to create a place where anyone could find the Arctic Cat information that they were looking for, be them a snowmobile expert or a novice.
AI: You have a full-time job and family… when do you find the time to put into the site?
Knox: I work as a purchaser in the wholesale organic produce industry, which keeps me busy for most of the day, with a wife (Jacqueline) and two kids (Emma Grace and Phillip) to keep me busy the rest of the time. I have stolen the most time for the site from my family, which I hope they can forgive me for. I tend to work on the site in spurts. I might go for a month without lifting a finger on the site and then I might spend a week using every available minute to push out an idea or update. My wife can attest to that I can get a little “Rain Man” sometimes when it comes to BCL.
AI: When and how did your love of Arctic Cat begin?
Knox: It began with a Kitty Cat. It wasn’t ours though, it was our neighbors. Man how I dreamed of having one! We had a Botel, then upgraded to a Ski-Doo. Also a big part of my appreciation for the Cat was where I grew up. At that time the Crookston area had a lot of Arctic greats… Vern Ricard, Dale Cormican, Roger Janssen, Paul Eggebraaten, Marv and John Cymbaluk and of course Arctic’s mechanical genius of the time, Denny Ray. It was basically the town of legends!
AI: Did your passion for Arctic Cat, as well as launching bosscatlegacy.com, spring from the Boss Cat speed machines? What was it about those machines that captivated you?
Knox: The Boss Cat sleds for me were the only place this story could begin. I think back to when I was a kid in Paul and Diane Eggebraaten’s basement. Paul had a room with all of his trophies and pictures up. The oval and cross country memorabilia was neat but there was something amazing about Boss Cats!
As a kid it was like hanging out at Evel Knievel’s house. That along with the old stories, it created a mystic that I always wanted to have a better grasp of. One off sleds like the Boss Cats are so special it’s hard to explain the feeling they give off. During this time the speed run programs by the factories were a distant memory, even though it had only been a few short years since they ended. Still with snowmobile racing in general, I felt connected to the sport as a fan. This was OUR sport. The snow belt’s sport! As I said before we had a Ski-Doo, but Paul had Cats! It was always a treat to ride his sleds. They were black, beautiful and fast. Another inspiration for the site was “Legend” by CJ Ramstad. I felt he had created a great historical book on the company. I wanted to expand on that in other directions that a book format would not permit.
AI: What brought you from Minnesota to Norway, and how has that affected your connection to Arctic Cat and the people associated with Cat?
Knox: Love was the name of the ship I sailed from the new world to the old. My wife Jacqueline is half Norwegian and half American. She grew up in Norway but in the mid 1990’s she was living in East Grand Forks, Minn., where her father is from. I met her three days before she was moving back to Norway and fell in love. Long story short: she came back to me and we ended up moving to Norway the following year. Norway is a beautiful country and a great place to raise our kids.
Living in Norway really hasn’t affected my connection to people, in part because so much has changed with how we communicate since coming here. I experienced the birth and growth of the internet while living in Norway and have always used it to my advantage to connect with friends and enthusiasts. I guess I don’t get to too many shows anymore but I try to compensate with my website.
AI: Describe what your snowmobiling experiences are like in Norway, and how the sport there is similar or different than in North America?
Knox: Snowmobiling in the North is very restrictive and in the south where I live it is almost non-existent now. Sweden is a lot more open to snowmobiling. Most from around here load up the trailer and cross over the border to enjoy the sport. Snowmobiles are also very expensive here in Norway, a 2014 Arctic Cat ZR800 RR costs over $25,000.00. It is the same with cars, motorcycles or any other type of vehicle. I tend to do most of my snowmobiling when I am back in the states.
AI: What are some of the surprises you’ve experienced in the process of building the site, be it about the site and/or about Arctic Cat’s history?
Knox: I have learned a lot from building the site. I have done my best to try and make it as easy as possible to navigate. It is not the most modern looking website but that is some of its charm. As I said it has evolved, some ideas I borrowed from others and some just came to me. Most of the changes to the format that I do are all about making it as easy as possible for the user to enter and get what he needs so he can get back to what he needs it for. Although it always makes me smile when I get an email from someone that just spent two hour traveling down memory lane and I can feel the happiness in their words. I have even started THIS Facebook page for BCL. I guess I am always looking for new ways to share information and spread the legacy of the Cat. So connect with the page and you can see the our daily Cat Snaps.
By undertaking this project I have learned so much more than I used to know. Every time I find out some new information that I have never heard before it keeps me grounded to the fact that I don’t know it all. That is what makes learning fun, especially about a subject that you can’t get enough of. I only hope there always remain a few secrets for me to discover.
AI: If we did a flashcard-style test of 100 different Arctic Cat from the past 50 years, where we just showed you a picture, how many would you correctly know the model name and year? (Stephen, the real question here is how much of the knowledge you’ve committed to memory… so maybe use your answer as a launch into that question)
Knox: If you gave me that test 10 years ago I think I would have done average. Today I could do pretty well. It’s surprising how much you can commit to memory when you are interested. Some I would draw a blank on as to the year, not the model. Sleds that had small décor changes with no chassis style changes over a few years period are tough to remember but hey, that’s what BossCatLegacy is for!
AI: Tell us about the Arctic Cat products you own. Do you have an interest in owning more vintage machines?
Knox: I have never been a collector. I have ridden a lot of Cats and owned a few, but collecting was never a driving force for me. Although I would like to restore the 1969 Arctic Cat dune buggy prototype (above) someday when I obtain more info on it.
AI: Are there particular machines or pieces of Arctic Cat history that you’ve found particularly challenging to obtain info and/or images?
Knox: Products that Arctic produced for other companies are often elusive but there are a few things that I have found difficult to find info or images on.
One: The 1969 Arctic Cat Puma prototypes. I know where one is but there is not a lot of info other than I have heard that they built a few shortened Panthers for racing and the next year the Puma was born. Roger Hibble was supposed to have raced one.
Two: The pre-1970 Arctic Cat mini bikes. Arctic build some in small numbers before the production 1970 SSSCat. I would assume that there is at least one in some ones garage in TRF.
Three: The 1972 Arctic Cat Scout mini bike. It would be interesting to find out if they ever produced any.
Four: The 1973 EXT with 4 skis and a unique front suspension. Dennis Wahl got it out of salvage and Dave raced it. They had to return it to Arctic. I know where it is now and where it’s been but some people are very private about their collections and not willing to share pictures. What I would like to find is pictures of it racing in the day!
Five: The 1971 King Kat 800 prototype. It has changed hands a few times over the years but always out of the spotlight.
AI: Where have you obtained most of the 25,000 images (as well as the information) on bosscatlegacy.com?
Knox: There are so many sources. I have sifted through every available information source that I have had access to. The goal has always been to get as close to a complete representation of Arctic Cat as possible. I have never looked at the information in the site as mine, I just put it in a form that makes it available for everyone to use.
AI: Please tell me you have a back-up of all the info and images, so that if your server crashes that all is not lost.
Knox: Back-up? What’s that? Just kidding, yes I have a safe system with back-ups on four different locations. I have had many fearful visitors ask if they could buy a DVD of the site just in case something happens. I do not see that happening in the near future. I have never made any of this about money changing and I do not wish to begin with that. I do this for me and for all of you, free of charge, because I enjoy it. I would hope that years from now I find a like-minded person to carry on after me.
AI: Which Team Arctic racers do you hold in the highest regard… or whom you might call your heroes?
Knox: There are a few who are extra-special for me.
Paul Eggebraaten: He and my Father were best friends for close to 60 years. He is like an Uncle to me and I have always looked up to him, not only as a race driver but more importantly as a man. So I hold him in the highest regard due to my deep personal connection with him. After my father I would consider him the man I respect most. He has had a hard road with many surgeries these last years due to injuries he sustained during his race years. Thanks for everything Paul!
Dale Cormican: Dale is another local hero, He has done so much for the sport during his racing days and after with his ski innovations. I would also like to wish the best for him after his latest surgery.
Roger Janssen: What else is there to say? Roger’s the Bullet. That guy’s indestructible.
Larry Coltom and Dave Thompson: I remember the first time I walked past each of them when I worked at Arctco, I was giddy as a school girl!
Jim Dimmerman: I always idolized Jim, I always thought he was so cool! So stay cool Jim and quit sneaking all the old Sno Pros out of Scandinavia! JK
Guy Useldinger: I know Guy from East Grand Forks. He has always been a local hero. I would also add Archie Simonson from Grand Forks… even though he rode Polaris, he is a great guy too!
AI: What’s your personal interest in the decades of the 1980s, ‘90s, ‘00s and ‘10s for Arctic Cat history? Does it wane the “newer” it becomes, or is it similar throughout the years?
Knox: History is funny that way, the history that happened before our time always has a little more pull on the imagination than the history we lived through. It is only natural that I feel more nostalgic about the 1960’s through the ‘70’s. In the 1980’s and ‘90’s I got to see behind the curtain when I worked at Cat. Not that that is a bad thing, it just changes and matures your perception.
I remember the fire sale and how that made me feel, it was my first experience with collapse. Before that I saw Arctic Enterprises as static force that was unbreakable. I had to re-think what Arctic Cat was that day. I did know that there was a movement to rebuild because my dad was friends with Bill Ness, but it felt like it wouldn’t be the same.
As it happened Arctco became a better company than Arctic Enterprises ever was. The mistakes made in the first 20 years were not repeated but it was deemed necessary to distance Arctco from Arctic Enterprises as much as possible. I always struggled with that approach. I understood why this needed to be done but couldn’t accept it on an emotional level. Like finding pictures and papers out in the dumpster after someone did a house cleaning of some old file cabinet from the days of Arctic Enterprises. Or while on break, walking through the relics along the fence out behind engineering.
As time went on it changed and soon there wasn’t an Arctic Enterprises or an Arctco anymore, there was only Arctic Cat. They also publicly began to embrace their past. The brand became the company and there was no more separation of the two. I will always try to cover all the periods equally. This is a work in progress and hopefully it will never be finished.
AI: What is your all-time favorite sled, and why?
Knox: Hmm, journalist Hal Armstrong recently asked me that same question and I told him that it would be like a father picking out a favorite child. Well, he was not satisfied with that and pressed a little more until he got his answer.
My all-time favorite is the 1976 Pantera 5000. Ever since the first time I saw Charlie Lofton riding that beautiful machine up that mountain on the promo film at the dealer, that sled was the one. It had it all; speed, beauty, comfort and handling. I remember my first ride, it reinvented snowmobiling for me at the time. Also like El Tigre it had a macho name that was all Cat.
AI: Tell me a Roger Skime story.
Knox: I have a good memory about when I was working there in 1992-93, which was an exciting time at Arctco. We had three new models: the Thundercat, ZR and the Tigershark watercraft. I would see Roger around the floor sometimes and it always reminded me of Edgar’s story of when he hired him… like when Edgar came back from a phone call to see that Roger had already started working, even before he’d been hired.
It’s called the three D’s: Desire, Dedication and Determination. Roger is a worker, a racer, an innovator and a leader. He strives to make a better product and that kind of leadership is what made us on the floor work harder and smarter. There were plenty of bosses at Arctco but Roger wasn’t one of them. He led by example, which I’m quite sure he still does today. I am glad I got to be a part of the Arctco team with him!