I was saddened to see the news of Jon Carlson’s passing. Like many of you, I associated Jon’s name with John Deere snowmobile racing. So why focus on a “John Deere Guy”?
I had the pleasure of working with Jon for a short period of time at Arctic Cat in the Minneapolis office. We shared a love for snowmobiles and swapping the occasional story when our paths crossed. Jon’s larger than life personality was fun to be around, and his friendly smile and handshake was always welcoming.
Jon was a fan and loyal follower of ArcticInsider and Ill miss seeing his industry insights posted in the comments of these stories. Below is a piece written recently by the Snowmobile Hall of Fame. RIP Jon. -KALE
The Snowmobile Hall of Fame, the Board of Directors, and supporters everywhere were sad to learn that long time supporter of the Hall of Fame and former board member, Jon Carlson has passed away.
Jon was a founding member of the famous Enduro Team Deere from 76-77 after being a factory supported racer.
Career highlights include a 3rd in the Winnipeg to St. Paul I-500 in 1975, and a 4th in 1978.
Jon also pulled a 14th in 1977 on a stock 340 Liquifire against sleds with 50% more hp.
A decade back he served as Vice President for the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wisconsin and even raced in the first vintage I-500 class in 2011.
Jon had a very colorful professional career at Deere, Case-IH, Arctic Cat and others. His charisma and presence will be missed.
When I was young, I joined Tom Rowland at one of the early Vintage Challenge events at the Hall of Fame in St. Germain. I was super excited to go on a long, fast vintage ride with a bunch of guys I had grown up reading or hearing about, especially Jon. I grew up in a long line of Arctic Cat enthusiasts, but Jon had thrown down the gauntlet in many online forum posts leading up the event, and I knew that this was not destined to be a standard plug-fouling, parade-speed ride.
Anyway, the 79 El Tigre 5000 I was riding that day decided to have fuel pump problems at the first fuel stop. As it turns out Jon’s Liquidator also ran into some mechanical trouble at the same time. While the rest of the crew rode on to the lunch stop, Tom White generously gave me a lift to a local parts store where I very luckily found a fuel pump.
Upon our return, I flipped up the hood to replace the faulty part. I was just thinking about the combination of cold fingers and heavily falling lake-effect snow waiting to provide me with a challenge, when, before I could even grab a wrench, there was Jon, kneeling in the snow, holding hardware, handing me parts and tools as I needed them. We had everything done in a matter of minutes, and I was able to rejoin the group when they passed back through.
I remember being floored at the time. He was an old school, I-500, snowmobile racing legend, and I was just some kid in his 20’s that he’d never met… but he saw a need and filled it, and I had a fantastic day as a result. Of course, I also learned just how heavy a Liquidator really is, helping load it in the back of the sag-wagon… but who’s keeping track?
From then on, whenever we met, he’d come right over to say hi, shake my hand and slap me on the back. It was always a joy to run into Jon from that time on, and I’ll miss him very much!
That’s an awesome story Eric!! Thanks for sharing!
What a great person. I was not aware he worked at Arctic cat, do you know what role he played? Love his stories he shared on vintagesleds and jdsleds.
When I first heard Jon was coming to work for Arctic Cat I was very excited and figured for sure he was going to be our new president as we were having some serious leadership issues at the time. Jon was one of the smartest and classiest people in the industry. He worked on special projects along with joint ventures with other companies. I visited with him at the last SHOF Induction Ceremony as several of us past Arctic Cat employees were there to support PJ Wanderscheid’s induction. I sure enjoyed Eric’s story above and it defines what kind of person he was and how much he loved his fellow snowmobilers. He sure will be missed.
Another Pioneer gone on to the endless trail. Bless him. The one thing that I never fully realized is the amount of “Cross Pollination” racers and engineers who passed through Arctic in the glory days had with other companies. During the shakeout of 1973, a lot of guys who raced/worked at Cat wound up with JD. I just read where the man behind the Boss Cats wound up designing the Spitfire. Then they went on to use Kawasaki engines! JD had some very good 340cc class machines for both racing and trail. I drove a 440 Trail Fire once that was fully restored and left with a huge smile on my face. You could toss it sideways flat out and it just stuck in the corners like glue. All it needed was more power and it would have given the leafer 5000 FA El-Tigre a fit. So many “if only’s” with JD sleds but the second shake out of the early 1980’s just ended any interest JD had in the sled business. I always wondered if all these guys just moved on to making lawnmowers? Now we know they did not. Nice article.