The Thrill of the Chase...
Tuesday, 10 December 2013 10:16
I've been collecting old sleds since 1998. I have always loved to tinker with them and spent an enormous amount of time researching and rebuilding them.
I have developed a rather large number of friends who keep their eyes open for my next great treasure. Every salesman, every gas station attendant, every relative, and every person who I think would remotely find me another old sled stash has been recruited to help out.
Two weeks ago at work, a contractor who was to replace a tile floor stopped in to take some measurements for the upcoming job. After surveying the job, I had a chance to ask him. "You find any old sleds out there for me"?
He scratched his head for a bit, and said."No.nothing but a red and white Arctic Cat that was lying in the weeds behind an old barn"
My heart raced. I quickly inquired, "Where? When? WHAT??"
He replied," well it was earlier this spring, just north of Hecla on an old farmstead."
Not able to contain myself. I blurted "earlier this spring!" I thought, "when were you gonna tell me about the old sleds you found" to which he replied, "I'm been busy, and I forgot about it until you asked"
I calmed down and he proceeded to tell me all the details of the sled, location and owner (he thought) of the land it was sitting on. "I bought a 39 Chevy from the guy for 50 Bucks. He probably won't want much for that sled"
I thanked him for the tip and he left for the day. I followed up on the tip by first calling the owner who was not the owner of the land but gave me a few names to try. After about 10 phone calls I was finally on the phone with the owner of the farmstead.
I implied I would like to purchase an old sled, which was located out on this abandoned farm site.
He told me,"there isn't a snowmobile out there."
I described the farmstead and the remaining cars to him.
He replied,"well that's the place, maybe there is a sled out there."
I asked if I could look around and buy the sled.
He said, "Sure come look at it, I won't be around but you are welcome to look."
I told him I would be driving my pickup and his farmstead was about 90 miles from my house. I would really like to buy the sled and take it home with me.
He asked,"How much will you give me?"
I remembered that Chris had bought a 39 Chevy from him for $50 so I replied "fifty bucks."
He said,"Sure, that would be fine".
I hung up the phone and finished up work for the day. I called my wife to let her know I wouldn't be home after work. She seemed a bit apprehensive, "where are you going"? I told her, "old sled, real old one. RED and White cat!" She could tell by the tone of my voice I was on a mission, "See you when you get home" and she hung up the phone.
Hecla, South Dakota is about 60 miles from my work, so as the miles went by I passed the time thinking about the red cat. I knew just where to get parts, where to get the paint, and who was going to recover the seat for me. I knew that the cat would be heavy to load in the back of the pickup by myself so I placed another call on my phone to the owner of the local gas station in Hecla. He agreed to help me load the sled and would meet me there at 5:30pm
The clock said 5pm when I pulled the pickup onto the fenced off approach at the abandoned farmstead. The old buildings were just as Kris had described.
As I crawled through the barbed wire fence I snagged my pants and got a nasty little gash on my thigh. Determined, I trudged on through the tall weeds in search of the cat. I saw the 58 ford that Kris told me
about, next was the mid thirties truck on its side.
Behind the truck was an old scrap iron rack, as I passed by it my bootlace got tangled and down I went. As luck would have it a thistle bush cushioned my fall. I winced in pain and climbed off the ground. That cat was near, I could feel it.
I called Kris from the middle of the farmstead to ask in more detail where the sled was. The reception was horrible, he heard approximately every fourth word.
Something, something beside, something old something building, something, was all I heard, I love Verizon.
Ok. It was next to an old building. That narrowed the search as there were only 6 buildings on the lot.
I headed for the barn, must have been a dairy barn judging from the rocks piled around its perimeter. I put out my hand to balance myself as I walked. YEEOOW!!! I pulled my hand back to inspect the damage. My thumb had four large old barn wood splinters in it, and I was now leaving a nice blood trail for the rescuers to find me. I tried to pull out the slivers, each piece of the old wood broke off when I touched them.
Disgusted, bleeding and tired. I called Kris again, readjusting my head to find optimal phone signal between words. This time he described the iron rack. The sled was about 30 ft south east of it, lying next to a fallen down building and there wear two tires lying on top of it.
My heart was pounding, I ran, sort of, to the spot. I pushed back the 6ft tall weeds and found the remains of the building. I spied the iron rack and determined that the sled was just around the corner, I climbed over the empty barrels and pushed back yet more tall weeds as I rounded the corner.
THERE IT WAS!!! GONE!
Nothing, Nil, Nada, NO Taco!
You could clearly see where something the size of a sled had been, and the two tires where lying there.
I was defeated.
I walked back to the truck and climbed inside. I drove into the gas station and went inside. I put a coke on the counter and told the owner who I was and that I hadn't found the sled. He took my card and said he would let me know if he found any sleds or maybe where the old red one went. I thanked him and drove towards home.
As I drove home, I looked at the hole in my pants, and my thumb throbbing with the splinters firmly lodged inside. I was happy, not as happy as if I'd landed the cat in my truck, but I was happy. I guess sometimes the thrill of the chase is better than the actual catch.
As I sit here two weeks later writing about the events of that day, my thumb still has the swelling, I await my next chase.
Friday, 25 October 2013 10:02
Twin trackers gained popularity in the 1900’s
The first twin-tracked snow vehicles gained popularity in the early 1900s. Auto and tractor conversions were almost exclusive until the appearance of the single track vehicle pioneered by Eliason in the '920s.
Seeking to maximize floatation, some modern manufacturers returned to the twin track idea.
Hus Ski began production in 1962 in Pointe Claire, Quebec. A West Bend Power Bee engine powered a yellow tractor unit with no skis and two wooden cleated tracks, pulling the operator on a sled behind. Acquiring the company in 1965, Bolens produced the more refined Diablo Rouge, or Red Devil, from 1967-'69.
The single ski, rear engine Snow Bug was made by the Original Equipment Manufacturing Company of Sudbury, Ontario. A twin track prototype called the Snowpacker was developed in 1962, along with a five-foot-wide, triple-tracked version. In 1966, a dual 26-inch track model was introduced.
Bombardier's first dual track, single ski offering was the 1963 RD 8. R stood for Rotax, D signified dual, and 8 was the horsepower of the first year, 247 cc Rotax engine.
In 1965 came the famous Alpine label, which endured until 1995. The Alpine -ame was first issued in 1962 to a much _-,maller. single track model.
The Invader, Valmont, and Alpine II and IV were later versions of the classic namesake.
Based on a rear engine concept sled called the Mirage n, Ski-Doo's Elite, featuring side-by-side seating and two steering skis, was made from 1973-'75 and 1978-'82. It was re-released in 2004 with a closed cab, independent front suspension, and four stroke motor.
Chapparal in 1969 produced a work horse with two 18-inch tracks powered by a 618cc Kohler twin, the Snowgoer.
A host of companies manufactured twin trackers in the late 1960s and 1970s. No ski vehicles such as Ridge Runner, Caribou, Play Cat and Passe Par Tout were regarded more as ASVs than snowmobiles.
OMC's Cushman Trackster had a floating kit as an option. Argo and others provided track conversions for their wheeled vehicles.
Alsport in 1971-'72 made a "sit in" machine with dual tracks and front wheel or ski options.
Bob Bracey introduced the rear engine Raider in 1972, hoping to appeal to the recreational rider. A single seat cockpit, sporty styling and narrow eight-inch twin tracks were indicative of snowmobile trail system development.
In production until 1975, Bracey produced the Manta in 1986 and the Trail Roamer in 2000, a four stroke state-of-the-
art trail machine with independent front suspension and an $8,500 price tag.
Across the pond in Sweden, Scandinavians were building twin trackers since the 1950s. Aktiv of Ostersund offered several deep snow models with and without skis through the 1980s, the best known U.S. import being the single ski Grizzly, powered by 500cc Spirit engine.
Ockelbo Industri AB made the twin track Model 800.
Russia checked in with the Buran, a single ski machine powered by a 625cc Ribenski fan-cooled twin.
Alpina of Vicenza, Italy, currently imports utility sleds into the U.S.
Not all double trackers were intended for transport or cargo hauling.
Behind closed doors, most major manufacturers at one time or another were building and testing double track speed machines, concept sleds, and prototype racers.
Gilles Villenueve debuted the Alouette twin track racer at Ironwood, Michigan, in December of 1973.
Manta fielded an oval racer.
Ski-Doo dominated twin track racing through the 1980s and '90s.
Though never enjoying the recreational popularity of their single track cousins, the deep snow and freight hauling capabilities will keep twin trackers in service on ski slopes and in big snow country around the world.
Reprinted with permission.
Pete Wass 1st 10 year Arctic Cat dealer
Monday, 24 June 2013 12:55
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.
Thursday, 07 March 2013 16:37
Craig Crowl aka "addictedtooldsleds" has discovered and shared some amazing Suzuki Racing team photos and information.
Cool pictures and details about the team can be found on this link:
Thank you Craig for sending this in!