Pete Wass 1st 10 year Arctic Cat dealer
Monday, 24 June 2013 12:55

arctic cat

Pete Wass moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1926. He was employed by the Blandin Paper Mill until 1938 when he as denied a leave of absence to trap out west. Upon his return, he was courted and hired as a truck mechanic for the Danube Iron Ore Mine.

A skilled and knowledgeable techni­cian, he was an expert in his field, con­tributing ideas and improvements to the work place.

Pete enjoyed the changing seasons and the diverse outdoor life the Minnesota northwoods had to offer: Hunting, fishing and trapping. Heavy snow made winter travel a problem.

In the pioneering spirit of the early 1950s, Pete and friend Howard Carlson engineered an air sled to carry them over the snow.

Constructed of pipe and skinned with aluminum, a Ford flathead V8 engine pro­pelled the sled. The ingenious design fea­tured a sliding cockpit canopy and retractable rear wheels for transport.

Racing across frozen lakes was one thing, traversing swamp and woodland quite another.

The Eliason Motor Toboggan pre­sented an alternative to long hours of snowshoeing on the trap line, but the wooden toboggan design was not favored Pete.

Through Sid Ketcham, a truck parts distributor from Eveleth, Minnesota, Pete learned of Edgar Hetteen and the new Polaris snow tractors being built in Roseau. He contacted Edgar directly, and when the early Snow Travelers rolled off the assem­bly line, Pete was among the first Polaris dealers to receive them.

Pete and son Jim assembled Sno Travelers and distributed parts from a rent­ed basement warehouse in Grand Rapids until 1959. Still working full time at the Danube mine, he then set up shop in a two stall garage at his home. His son, Jim, enlisted in the Navy and left the business, returning after his tour of duty.

When Edgar Hetteen left Polaris and founded Polar Manufacturing in 1961, soon to be renamed Arctic Enterprises, he was quick to call and persuade Pete to change brand loyalty. Pete obliged.

Pete would phone ahead for needed parts and machines, making the long drive to Thief River Falls and back on Saturday nights because of his work schedule. He always paid in cash.

More than mere business acquain­tances, Pete and Edgar had become fast friends.

With the snowmobile industry still in its infancy, dealers and their customers essentially were test drivers for a product still in the works.

Pete accompanied Edgar on many excursions, both in Minnesota and the deep snow country on Michigan's upper peninsula, trying new ideas.

Pete's input contributed to design changes on both Polaris and Arctic Cat snowmobiles. Track configuration, throttle placement, rear wheel lift, solid drive sprockets and less restrictive tunnels to alleviate grass wadding, all wore Pete's fin­gerprints.

In his autobiography, Breaking Trail, Edgar fondly recalls late nights spent at the Wass kitchen table, eating fresh biscuits and drinking coffee, discussing life and snowmobiles, what worked and what did­n't.

He refers to Pete as gutsy and gritty, with an obvious sense of humor as he informed Edgar, who was working on the first front-engined Cat, the Model 100, that the hitch should be positioned on the front of the machine instead of the back!

The transition of the snowmobile from the workhorse to recreational vehicle came about in the mid-1960s as sporty models were introduced.

An early snowmobile congress was held at Sugar Lake Lodge near Grand Rapids, and Pete partnered with a local snowmobile club to address the inevitable problems facing a growing sport. Discussed were manufacturing and safety

issues, trail development, easements and license fees. All attending sensed regulation looming.

From his two stall garage, Pete's deal­ership boomed. Still employed by the mine, he was second in Arctic Cat sales in Minnesota from 1965 to 1967.

By the end of the 1960s, Pete had three-quarters of a million dollars in inventory crammed into the basement, hired three full time employees and was displaying machines downtown in the storefront window of Indian Joe's Trading Post.

In 1970, Pete retired from the Danube mine. The days of the old school, hand shake dealer were coming to an end. Cat and other manufacturers began imposing new inventory, showroom and accessory requirements on their dealers.

After the passing of his beloved wife, Carrie, and in failing health, Pete sold his Arctic Cat dealership on a contract for deed in 1972.

Shortly before his death in 1973, Pete was presented, by ceremony, a commemo­rative plaque from Arctic Enterprises proudly proclaiming: "In recognition to Pete Wass, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The first dealer for Arctic Enterprises who has given ten years of faithful service."

History books will list Sparky Meyer from Neenah, Wisconsin as the first dealer for Arctic Cat. Sparky, however, soon became an Arctic Cat distributor.

Few outside the factories had the influence of Pete Wass on refinements to early Polaris and Arctic Cat snowmobiles.

Much was accomplished in the two stall garage, more impressive still consider­ing Pete also worked full time and pursued outdoor interests during his tenure, serving the sport as Arctic's first ten-year dealer.

Reprinted with permission from the Antique Snowmobile Club Of America.

Suzuki Race Team
Thursday, 07 March 2013 16:37

Craig Crowl aka "addictedtooldsleds" has discovered and shared some amazing Suzuki Racing team photos and information.

suzukioldsledpics004 zpsf45994c6

suzukioldsledpics019 zps8d3231c8

Cool pictures and details about the team can be found on this link:

Team Suzuki


Thank you Craig for sending this in!

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 05:07

February 21-24th  2013    Springstead,  WI


What started 5 years ago as a day of fun on vintage sleds has grown to nearly a week long event. The concept is simple. No fees, no trophies, few rules, just have fun with a bunch of vintage sled owners. The host resort is transformed back to the 70’s. Lots of room is provided for sleds and trailers on the lake along with a 1000’ drag strip & a lemans style oval track. Food & beer ( Blatz, Schlitz, and Pabst) are served on the lake next to a huge bon fire. The Lodge (bar) is just feet away serving great food and drinks.  Braapfest has more than earned its reputation as being the “most fun you can have on snow”.
This year is expected to be the biggest year ever. The snow has been coming down and ice conditions are great. Lots of activities have been added to keep your attention. Of course, you can just ride sleds at any time because the trails go through the parking lot & across the lake. If you are looking for more information or need help with lodging check out the Braapfest thread by clicking on this link.


See you there!!!!!!!





The yellow and the black
Friday, 21 December 2012 13:14

Remember those old yellow Ski-Doo snowmobiles from the 1960s with the black stripe around the hood? You know -like the one Ralph Plaisted rode to the North Pole and Steve Ave won the Eagle River World Championships with? The kind that Grandpa had, or the one you took your very first ride on?

In 2009, the little yellow machine that made winter fun will celebrate an historic milestone. The light and maneuverable snowmobile invented by Joseph Armand Bombardier turns 50 years old.josephbombardier_snowmobile

His patented rubber sprocket, coupled with an endless rubber belt, provided the essential components in an amazing story of success, and became the enduring logo of L'Auto-Neige Bombardier, maker of tracked transport vehicles.

Bombardier's dream of producing a sin­gle person vehicle was held in check by motor size. He built a prototype in 1949. utilizing his own engine design. It was too expensive to produce.

The power problem was solved in the late 1950s with the availability of the Kohler four-stroke single-cylinder engine. More prototypes were constructed, and in 1959 the yellow, tin cab Ski Dog was intro­duced to the world.


The little machines became immensely popular, and production numbers soared to 5,000-plus by 1963, a year of transition.

Tin cabs were replaced by Fiberglass. The twin track, single Ski RD8, forerunner to the Alpine, was introduced. Rotax two-cycle engines became exclusive, and the tiny, 148cc lost Rotax appeared and disap­peared. Kohler engine options remained available by dealer or distributor.

Model names were first used in 1965.


The 165cc chalet had a short run, but the Alpine and Olympic would become stan­dards for years. The Canadian Postal Service even issued a commemorative stamp when the Olympic name was retired in 1979!

The largest selling brand in North America, Ski-Doo became synonymous with snowmobile. Whatever brand you rode, you were "Ski Dooing."

This popularity did not occur by acci­dent. It was the result of an excellent mar­keting scheme. An advertising budget of $32.000 in 1964 expanded to $5 million by 1970. Eighteen North American distribu­tors and 2,000 dealers provided sales and service.

Yellow was the trademark color. The first departure was the Nordic in 1972, with a black hood and yellow side panels. Imagine the chagrin of purists as the 1973 TNT Silver Bullet was introduced, having only a tiny strip of yellow on the side of the hood!

Much was done to keep Bombardier in the public eye. Plaisted's North Pole expe­ditions were sponsored by Ski-Doo. Dollars were pumped into a highly suc­cessful racing campaign, developing TNT, Blizzard, and other performance machines. Ave, Ferland, Duhamel and Karpik were winners on the race track as well as in advertising.

Joseph Armand Bombardier died in 1964, leaving the company to son Germain. While reluctant to remove funds from the industrial side of the corporation to finance the recreational side, his 1966 successor and brother-in-law, Laurent Beaudoin, was not.

1969_ski_doo_olympique_12_3_77_6aIn 1969, Bombardier purchased plastic parts manufacturer Les Plastiques La Salle, and Roski Ltee., a fiberglass compa­ny. Soon was added a foam seat facility, a chrome plating enterprise, and even a tex­tile manufacturer to produce their own clothing!

In 1970, they purchased Lohnerwerke Gmb H of Vienna, Austria, to obtain their subsidiary, Rotax. Another plant was secured by buying Moto Ski in 1971.

Producing 210,000 units and owning nearly 40 percent of the market, 90 percent of the corporation's profits came from Ski-Doo snowmobiles by the early 1970s.

Low snow winters and the 1973 OPEC oil embargo put a death grip on the indus­try. Bombardier, also in financial straits, survived by entering other markets. Diversifying enabled the struggling com­pany to become a global giant in aerospace and rail manufacture.

Bombardier produced their one mil­lionth snowmobile in 1974, a TNT Everest.

They very nearly acquired Polaris Industries in 1980, the sale blocked by U.S. Anti-trust authorities.

A 1994 Summit was then" two millionth snowmobile.

Many years after Outboard Marine Corporation attempted to buy out Bombardier in the 1960s, their Johnson and Evinrude engine division was obtained in 2001.

Elan, 12/3, Alpine, Olympic, TNT and Blizzard are names belonging to a glorious past, and will long be remembered and revered by the Ski-Doo faithful.

The little yellow machine that could become the little yellow machine that did, and in a resounding manner.

Annual N.E.W. Low Buck Vintage Riders Snowmobile Show
Sunday, 07 October 2012 09:49


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