I recently received my November 2021 issue of Snow Tech magazine and found this story of the very first Boss Cat interesting. Thought I’d share it with you. If you don’t already, subscribe to Snow Tech, Kevin Beilke has some great reads – KALE
Photos from the Jim Beilke Photo Archive at Race & Rally/Snow Tech Magazine
This is the very first Boss Cat speed run sled built by Arctic Cat, or Arctic Enterprises, as it was called at the time. Strangely, it is not known as “Boss Cat I”, rather, since it was built before the “Official” Boss Cat I (larger rocket-powered dragster) this sled is instead referred to as the “Original” Boss Cat.
This six-cylinder beast was built as a speed run sled by Arctic Enterprises for the 1969-70 winter season and was raced by both Marvin Ode and Roger Janssen.
Marv Ode ran the machine at West Yellowstone in 1970. The six-cylinder dual-bank engine was built by Dick Schellbach, who built many custom mod engines for Arctic Cat’s speed sleds based on JLO engines in the late 60s and early 70s. This one was made from the components of six different 372 JLO singles and three 744 JLO Mod twins with custom-made crankcases and crankshafts.
The motors were tied together with a chain then onto the track with a chain for a direct drive system – when the motor turned over, so did the track.
There were two big Hirth rewinds, one on each side. It took five or six guys to start it. Two would lift the rear end up, and two would pull the twin recoils trying to start the motors at the same time while one or two more would work the two throttles – one on each side of the bars.
It usually took six to ten tries to get it going. They would let it warm up then drop the rear end and the sled would slowly gain speed. In some of the photos we see a push sled used to get the sled up to speed so it wouldn’t stall.
The very first Boss Cat was only used for five or six speed runs. One time a burned out switch and a lot of smoking wire cut the run far short of the timer. The sled had a best run of 102.5mph.
Last we heard, the current owner has it in un-restored condition but plans to restore it. The missing part of the sled had been the one-of-a-kind seat built specifically for this machine. It turned up a few years ago and now has made its way back to the current owner.
One of the very best articles I ever read on snowmobile racing came from the Fall, 1970 Race and Rally, entitled ‘Speed Run 1970’. The excerpt on the Boss Cat 0 sled came out of this article. Very very good read and a must read. Had a chance to stay in West Yellowstone this summer and went over to the old airport to see the hallowed ground where sleds like the Boss Cats and their drivers became legendary.
Back when Cat used to be self owned, and could make cool things.
Ive been thinking about sleds/dragsters, creations/concepts like this from the 60s/70s. And when I see comments like yours Dave, I wonder, “What “thing” could be built now that consumers would think is cool?” Were these creations of the 60s/70s cool then, or do we look back at them now with fondness of days gone by? I dunno? I look at sleds like Glenn Hall is building at Hypersports with insanely fast ET times and record setting mph in short drag racing distances, and I also think of dragsters like the Arctic Arrow trying to attempt 250mph speed runs…Both have attracted attention in the circles following them, but that’s a small percentage of snowmobilers. Maybe it was the same scenario in the 60s/70s? And maybe 50s years from now we’ll look back at todays snowmobiles projects/concepts and think “thats when they made cool things”.
What thing could be built now that is cool? Simple. What the ENGINEERS, the DESIGNERS, the CUSTOMERS want, not something textron tells them to make. Not something the bean counters say would “cost too much” (more like “cost THEM too much” to make). NOT something GOD-AWFUL-GRAY!
Also, the legendary Glenn Hall, and others like him, are not chained down by textron or bean counters, so they CAN make COOL THINGS.
I’m sorry I AM so negative, it’s not towards you Kale, it’s just when I see what textron is doing to the company I would have gladly BLED for, I tend to get UPSET. Please understand my, and others’, pain?
My buddy had a Firecat that would do 120.
I’m sorry you missed this era Kale. As the son of a former Cat dealer. Yes, these things were very cool back then. Far more people were riding, and everyone wanted to own a snowmobile north of the Mason Dixon line. We were selling 75 Cat sleds a year without really trying. Us, a little no name PA tractor dealership. Hundreds of people went to local races. You’d have to park a 1/4 mile away and walk to the tracks for a good seat, Kale. Tracks in the north east that now are hay fields and forgotten. It was marvelous. Every kid in school would debate which sled they rode last weekend. There was a dealer in almost every town north of Interstate 80 in PA. Those same kids had posters of these speed run sleds in their rooms and their lockers at school. These same kids were wrenching anything and everything to make it faster, and be more like Larry Coltom or Dave Thompson or Yvonne Duhamel or the Trapp brothers. Then along came the big shakeout of 1973, and another shakeout of 1980-81 etc. With each shakeout, hundreds of dealers dropped out, doors closed. The next generation of kids around here moved on to ATV’s. Now sure, there are hero’s racing and great sleds made today, but they aren’t selling those boom year volumes. That great history is what vintage enthusiasts like me celebrate.
Well said Glen. I just barely caught a glimpse of it in the late 80’s 🙂
Very true words Glenn. I raced here in Pa. and had much of what you stated. Loved racing and won a few too. Sad state today watching the sport simply quietly slipping away into the past. But during the 70’s….boy it was fun!
needs more bar riser