I’ll never forget that ad. First page, inside cover of the new Race & Rally. “What’s tomorrow’s Cat doing today? Winning Races.” It took me a long time to turn the page and look at the rest of the magazine. There were the 3 drivers in the ad: Larry Coltom, #33, Charlie Lofton #11 and Dave Thompson, #22. There was some copy about the new engine, chassis and some of the components. But most important, there was 3 sleds in the photo, a 340 and 2 440 machines – and that hood. Mostly black with green ‘flames” fading back into the black, They were low, wide and totally wicked looking.
I’m a Polaris guy. I make no bones about it. I bleed blue. But staring at that picture that day, I seriously wondered if the boys fro Roseau could pull it off – the early promo pictures of the Polaris SnoPro was not nearly as impressive. These sleds (and the new uniforms) looked amazing. As a consolation, I thought that if Polaris couldn’t win, then I was always hoping it was Cat. In particular, these Cats.
As it turned out, The Starfire Kids from Roseau did dominate the first ever year of professional snowmobile racing. Yamaha did very well in the 440 class, but Polaris locked up 340 and 650. Stan Hayes wound up #1 in points with his 340 & 650 Polaris sleds. Larry Rugland nearly knocked him off that perch, missing it by just a few points. In third was Arctic’s Larry Coltom. In fact, most of the year found Arctic and Polaris battling it out for the top spots.
What we have learned since is that the original Cat SnoPros turned out to be a good design – although a little too heavy when racing against the Polaris sleds (made almost entirely of lightweight magnesium) and the 3/4 scale Yamaha’s made up of magnesium and titanium. So very early in the year, the Cat SnoPros went on a diet – in one video, they claim as much as 50 pounds were cut off each sled. They did this by removing any pieces that were not absolutely critical to the structure. The suspension (which were absolutely unique to this sled) were cut, shortened and drilled. The chassis had a lot of new holes drilled in them.
The net effect was that by the last race of the year, Team Arctic got the sleds dialed in just right, and walked away with a ton of trophies at the years last race.
So where did the sleds go after 1974? Well, since there are a finite number of these machines, lets first figure out a little more on the history of them: How many were there, in what sizes, who drove them and can we piece together the story of where they went after 1974? How do you identify one of these? How do you verify what parts are correct?
We’ll tackle all these questions and many more when we reveal “Where are they now”. Stay tuned.