Brian Espeseth retired earlier this year from a long, illustrious career at Arctic Cat dating back to 1975. Espo is truly one of the all-time greats, a real legend.
Awhile back I interviewed him. And like typical conversations with Espo, he started talking and telling stories while completely ignoring what had been my general outline.
So instead of running a typical interview, I’ll post a few of his stories, including this one about how he sold 13 of the prototype 1982 Arctic Cats.
When Arctic Enterprises was in the midst of shutting its doors in 1981, life here in TRF was pretty doom-and-gloom for a lot of people, myself included. It was so tough that people were walking away from their homes and moving away. Those of us who stayed had to rethink what our lives were going to be like.
I was living in a trailer house at the time. And when Certified Parts Corp. bought the inventory of Arctic Cat parts, it was my job to help pack and ship the stuff from Arctic to CPC.
While this was going on I was pretty intrigued with some of the stuff I saw coming into the Arctic Salvage department. All kinds of Arctic Cat demo machines were being returned, many of them were perfectly good. The Salvage department was turning around and reselling them at pretty decent prices.
That’s when the light bulb went on in my head: I could buy and resell these machines myself, and hopefully make a little money.
With no money of my own at the time, I arranged with a local bank for financing and then purchased my first batch of machines. Then I prettied the sleds up and began to hustle sales, hauling them around northwest Minnesota with my pitch. And it worked!
For the next handful of months, in the summer and fall of 1981, I ended up buying and selling about 80 Arctic Cat snowmobiles, 15 Wet Bikes and seven boats/trailers.
Wayne Konickson, my friend and longtime Arctic Cat employee, helped me with the project.
What makes this story most interesting though was the last batch of 21 sleds that I bought. Of those 21, 13 were prototype 1982 model Arctic Cats… the Cats “that never were” because of the bankruptcy.
Those 13 models represented half of all the 1982 prototypes that had been built! There were El Tigres, Cougars and Pumas. Two of the machines were the Sand Cats built for desert use. One machine was 4-stroke powered.
Obviously these sleds were pretty special, so I wanted to find a larger audience to promote their sale. I placed a classified ad in the back of Snow Week magazine: “The Last of the Arctic Cats,” along with my phone number.
We made decals for the machines, cleaned them up nicely and priced them at $3,500 each. That seemed like a really high price at the time, especially since I’d paid something like $1,000 for each of them.
The ad worked wonders, not just for the ’82 prototypes but also for the regular production sleds I was selling.
Five of the ’82 protos went to a guy in New York, which I later learned was a broker who actually bought them on behalf of Ski-Doo. Apparently Ski-Doo was pretty interested to see what Arctic Cat was working on for 1982.
I wonder what ever happened to those sleds?
In the years that followed, I’ve occasionally wished I’d saved those 1982s, because of their historical importance. But I dismiss those thoughts pretty quickly, because the money I made doing it was used to invest in starting Arctco. As part of the original group of investors, I can tell you that every investment dollar was needed for the successful relaunch of Arctic Cat.
Helping to be part of THAT gives me far greater satisfaction than having a barn packed with prototype sleds.
Here’s the actual ad that Brian Espeseth placed in Snow Week for the 1982 Arctic Cat prototypes he was selling.
This was the sales sheet that Brian Espeseth created to help sell the 1982 Arctic Cat prototypes that he was selling in late 1981.
Another sales sheet for the ’82 prototype Arctic Cats.