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Tom Wantland is Tweaking a Thundercat to 147 mph

Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

How hard would you be willing to work to get your snowmobile to go 3 mph faster? How far are you willing to go in order to find that extra speed?

If you’re Tom Wantland of Cedar, Minn., the answers to those questions reveal the serious intention to set a world speed record aboard an Arctic Cat Thundercat in the NSSR Pro Stock 1000 Class.


Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

Wantland has the credentials to achieve his goals. He’s a longtime Arctic Cat speed runner who has been a winner on the NSSR circuit for nearly two decades (check out the above article on him from 1994).


Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

Wantland has been preparing his T-Cat for the past year, including a productive stint inside wind tunnel, all in an attempt to break the current record of 146.689 mph in 1000 feet, set by Todd Lewis on a Ski-Doo Mach Z.


Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

To beat that speed, Wantland’s T-Cat will have to go at least 3 mph faster than it did in the winter of 2010, when hired-gun John Smith would hit between 143-144 mph at every NSSR race.

Wantland took a two-year sabbatical from the race circuit, yet wanted to return with his Thundercat capable of going at least 147 mph.


Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

“The highly-modified T-Cat engine is naturally-aspirated, hitting about 250 hp,” says Wantland. “We made some changes to the engine in 2011 that will help [with gaining some speed], but not enough to gain 3 mph.”

While 3 mph might not sound like a significant increase, at this level of racing it’s actually a huge jump. To make that jump, Wantland needed the Thundercat to get “slipperier” in the air, which meant a trip to Mooresville, NC, for actual data acquisition (see the short video below).


Having spent the considerable time and money for the wind tunnel testing, Wantland is naturally guarded about what, exactly, he learned there, preferring instead to speak in general terms.


Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

Tom Wantland's Arctic Cat Thundercat project

“The wind tunnel testing was productive. I learned more there in three hours than in years of guessing on the ice. Any snowmobile going under 130 mph won’t benefit much from the tunnel, but once you’re going in excess of that, there are worthwhile gains.”

Whether each hour in the tunnel produced 1 mph of speed gain remains to be seen, but Wantland is optimistic.

“If everything goes right this season, we’ll have a world record.”

Good luck this season, Tom!

Thanks for reading.



  1. If anyone can make this happen Tom, I know you can. Good Luck this winter and thanks for sharing such an interesting story with us!

  2. The wind tunnel is a great diagnostic tool for anything that moves against an atmosphere of some type.

    We found that everything from long distance runners to aircraft benefit to some degree.

    For snowmobiles, it was obvious to me that other brands than ours take less HP to reach speeds above 140 mph. The wind tunnel proved this.

    The question is what can be done to reduce frontal area and still control lift at a given speed. This will be different for any two models, what we changed on the ZRT, didn’t have the same effect on a F7.

    The fact is that the Mach chassis is fast above 140 to start with, then add the knowledge of guys like Lewis, Cleary or Bray, it’s almost impossible to beat.

  3. Did you ever compare/test the older generation ZRT hoods for a reduced frontal area or were you attempting to make this last generation design as areodynamic as possible ?

  4. We didn’t try the older design, but they do look faster. It would be an interesting test. Because the sled is built with a 2001 chassis, testing was focused around that design.

  5. Tom….Would it be possibile to talk to you in more depth sometime ? A good friend of mine from Northern Ontario met & chatted with you last winter at one of the speed events …We are building a couple of Asphalt Hooper powered triples…..In the same boat as you somewhat…

  6. Get that CAT to move Big Daddy… Get the record, even if it’s 146.690 mph… Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls, Minnesota should be proud… Your the best… Good Luck my friend…

  7. Thanks for the comments. The Ski Doo teams just keep marching on… Record is now north of 147.4 mph. Because of the head on car crash last July, I wasn’t in much shape to prep the sled or attend the races last season. With the help of good friends, Todd, Josh, Jeremy, Ed, John and my wife Robin, we did attend the last NSSR event. The sled ran 145.699 the first run out of the trailer. Obviously, we have more work to do.
    Thanks again for all of your support/ comments.

  8. i just bought a 96 tcat 900 with 1300 miles! its all stock for now! just bought pipes and v force reeds ! i was wondering how fast that sled will go? obviously not has fast has any of thos sleds!

  9. It hit the 80s.I just had the fireplace guy in yadeersty to find out what’s wrong with mine.The annoying thing is, I’m probably going to have to buy new ceramic logs for it even though I won’t use them again until September, if then. Maybe not October.Oh, well. Life in Richmond.

  10. You spoke of this train once before I think. I LOVE to tvearl by train – and I wish it were more readily used in the U.S. … but this bit about going through a 20 minute tunnel DOES ME IN! I don’t think I could do it! I’m CERTAIN I couldn’t do it! I’ll take the one that goes OVER the sea please… [url=]rqpqqnhezn[/url] [link=]oonzambxh[/link]

  11. Hello Tom, long time no see. I wasn’t aware of all the testing you had been doing. COOL. Hope to see you out on the track next season. You still have the sharpest ProStock out there. And thanks for the offer to take the sled down the track at Forest Lake a few years back. Be nice to catch up with you. Send me an email, if not here, from the Nssr site.

  12. Tom please call at 920-428-3931 I run a 1000 open mod with a hooper 1018 motor 156.238 MPH on ice 1000 foot we have done some testing with air I think we can help each other redoing my mod this summer taking the motor to a 1097 and working on a new tail for it my hood was done by aero space class I have some other Ideas for you Thanks George

  13. Wow, glad that guy don’t think I’m a “cheating ass hole” from hill billy something!
    Hi Nate! Thanks for the kind comments! To win, or at least try, a team has to show up once and a while!
    Hats off to Mike and crew for his 151 + world record!


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