1983-84 Flashbacks: Phazer Takeover, Cat Returns And More

In one sense, the 1983-84 snowmobile season seems like yesterday. In another, it seems like the stone age! Somehow 40 years has passed since the freshly launched Phazer took over the snowmobile world, Arctic Cat returned to the market, Polaris won the Shootout and Ski-Doo unveiled the SS25. Here’s a recap of the 1983-84 publishing season of Snow Goer magazine, as recapped in our 50th Anniversary issue that was printed and mailed in the fall of 2016.

1983-84 season of Snow Goer
The 1983-84 season of Snow Goer magazine from in time some of the sport’s innovative designs.

When George Orwell authored the dystopian book “1984” in 1949, he wrote about a strange, futuristic society with an invasive government and “Big Brother” watching your every move.

While that world didn’t exist until recently (relax, people – it’s a joke!), model year 1984 seemed like the space age when the Yamaha Phazer was unveiled early in 1983.

With its angular styling and square headlight that moved with the handlebar pod, the Phazer was eye-catching and immediately popular. The Phazer that adorned the September 1983 cover of Snow Goer featured a powerful new 485cc, fan-cooled twin and TSS front end with a stabilizer bar.

In a flash, it drove Yamaha to the No. 1 marketshare position.

“The Phazer has been ‘almost ready’ for production for more than a year,” the editors wrote. “Playing it safe, Yamaha released only a very limited number last season to make absolutely sure everything was up to snuff … After giving it a good Snow Goer going over, we can sum up our feeling with this: We’ve seen the future – and we like it.”

Also notable, Arctic Cat returned for the 1984 season with an El Tigré 6000 “with updated colors and graphics but otherwise the Tiger is much the same as the ’81 model year predecessor,” Snow Goer editors at the time wrote, plus a similarly warmed-over 1984 Panther.

However, Cat officials were promising future innovations.

Sled prices continued to creep up, as a Ski-Doo Blizzard 9700 listed at $4,999. The bullet-nosed Ski-Doo SS25 – which honored Ski-Doo’s 25th anniversary – turned heads with its new liquid-cooled 462.8cc twin, fresh look and TRS6 long-travel rear, yet it disappointed many with its leafspring front suspension.

The John Deere Sportfire, meanwhile, was referred to as being “8 horsepower from perfect.” Editors praised its low center of gravity, excellent handling and durability, but said it was underpowered.

“The compression ratio is a very minor 7.3-to-1 (you could probably burn kerosene in this engine with that ratio),” the editors said.

The December issue featured “spy photos” of 1985 Arctic Cat Jag and Panther models, although the Jag on the cover was shot by the same photographer in the same style as the other covers that year.

The Polaris Star won the season’s gas mileage test at 29.28 mpg, and in the Shoot-Out the Polaris Indy 600 was fastest across the lake while the John Deere Liquifire was the best handling sled.

The excitement over the Phazer and the return of Arctic Cat showed up in the year-end numbers, as sales closed the season at 100,000 units worldwide, up 14.9 percent.

Editor’s Note: Every Snow Goer issue includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more. Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive print and/or digital issues.

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