Passion for the Arctic Cats that (ahem) never were.
By Adam Leubner
1982 Arctic Cat…Who would have thought that the temporary demise of a great company would provide so much drive for a handful of collectors!? When Arctic Enterprises ended operation, so did any real production of 1982 models.
But as we would later learn, there were some pre-production 1982 models that did make their way out of the factory before the doors shut on that company’s history.
Nobody seems to know for sure. But the more people dig, the more such machines turn up.
How many will eventually appear, we can only guess.
Just when you think all the rare sleds and the good finds are gone… one surfaces again. Through luck, hard work, dedication or whatever you call it, there is one thing for certain: those sought-after sleds truly are still out there.
My passion for the 1982 Arctic Cats began some time ago.
It was 2007 when it happened. I was asked to ride along with the infamous friend “John Deere Joe” Rainville to the Snowmobile Hall of Fame show in St. Germain, Wisconsin but on one condition: That I go with him to Thomas Sno Sports to look at this “prototype” IFS cat he just bought.
This was when my understanding of the classification of “rare” was clarified, before this trip I thought Arctic Cat Sno Pro’s and King Kats were rare. What I learned was that “rarity” is a matter of perception.
Tom’s incredible collection of Cat’s consists of many sleds that didn’t exist, at least according to the history books of that time. I learned that history books don’t always contain the complete history.
The conversations and experience of that day fueled a fire inside. And ever since that day, I have been obsessed with learning more about the preproduction and prototype cats.
As luck would have it, while at the Round Up show/swap in St Germain the next day, we parked next to a gentleman selling an all-aluminum, direct-drive Arctic Cat chassis. Not knowing exactly what it was (but knowing it was something special), I bought it.
It would take four years of searching before I found out exactly what that chassis meant in the history of Arctic Cat (there will be a story on this sled in the future).
During that time all I had found in my cross-country travels was a couple hoods that were built for the 1982 sleds. I wanted a complete sled so bad, but I knew I had to be patient and let the networking and continuous searching possibly pay off.
Fast forward to March 2014: What started as a quick text message from a friend soon snowballed into a 8-month adventure of tripping over 1982 Arctic Cat’s, with four sleds following me home while I stayed hot on the trail of more.
Let me make myself clear: I have made it my personal objective to uncover as many artifacts that represent what Cat had up their sleeves for the years they “went fishing”.
I am not alone as the recent success was a result of the input from a few friends, both old and new. Everything from, “Hey, there are two ’82s on VintageSleds.com,” to “Here’s the name of an old lead, why don’t you take a stab at bring the sled home,” and even, “I have this hood and dash here that doesn’t look familiar to me, if you haul something for me you can have them.”
I certainly love the hunt, and I won’t stop here. Stay tuned for more. In the meantime here are some pictures:
The two Pumas that I picked up off of the VS classifieds (March 2014):
A few notes about them:
– Direct Drive
– One has prototype rubber track, the other a production 2/3 cleated track
– Hoods similar to that of all the other Puma’s found at the time
– Sources say that the Puma was to come with a Free Air, but all have been located with fan-cooled engines.
– Prototype (hand cut) windshields
– Very few production parts are used on these sleds.
– Different decals between the sleds
Next, another 1982 Arctic Cat Puma.
As found in hiding:
After it’s bath:
This is a special one to say the least. Of the 4 1982 Puma’s recently accounted for, this one is different on many accounts.
A few Notes:
– Jackshaft (All of the other Puma’s recently accounted for are direct drive)
– Overall hood design/Offset headlight
– Seat design (less of a plateau in the back hump)
– Wrap around front bumper
I stole this picture from Arctic Insider years ago. Is it the same sled? If not, there are more still out there!
Next, a 1982 Arctic Cat Cougar.
It’s first daylight in a couple decades…
…and here after a bath.
This one found me, when a collector in Minnesota called me last June. It took three months to strike a deal. This sled has been speculated to have been the 1981 Engineering test sled in its original camouflage. The Cougar was intended to be a very bright and colorful sled, but they dressed them in traditional colors to avoid any unwanted attention during testing in West Yellowstone in November 1981.
I was excited enough to drag these home that I wanted to share them with a quick story. I kept waiting to find them all but after some time I have realized that this search is far from over, so below are my finds of the year for 2014:
A huge Thank You goes out to Tom Rowland, as well as the other passionate Arctic Cat collectors that I have met along the way. And an even larger thank you goes out to a friend at Arctic Cat who has helped with information and details about the 1982 models.
I’ll share more stories in the future.
Thanks for reading.
More reading here on ArcticInsider.com about the 1982 Arctic Cats: