For this week’s Friday Fast Five, I’m looking back many years and picking the five 1998 snowmobiles I’d like to own.
That was an especially great time to be in the snowmobile business because sleds were selling like mad and winters were cold and snowy. Racing had a major influence on sled design in those days when Arctic Cat ZRs, Polaris XCs and XCRs, Ski-Doo MX Zs and Yamaha SXs were flying off showrooms.
I was 21 years old in the fall of 1997, and hopped up on testosterone and Red Bull, even though energy drinks hadn’t been invented yet. So like most other male Gen X snowmobilers of the day, I wanted to ride aggressively to try and prove to my buddies that I should be out racing against pros like Jack Struthers, Kirk Hibbert and Todd Wolff. I wanted the hot-shot sleds then, and even though I’m a lot older now, I still want those same cool snowmobiles today.
Here is my list of 1998 snowmobiles that I want to own, and in one case, own again.
Polaris XC 700 — I worked at a big Polaris dealership when the XC 700 came out, and for how fast they sold in the fall of 1997, we couldn’t uncrate and set them up fast enough. These were fast sleds, and the power delivery and throttle response was a major departure from the smooth-but-heavy triples that had been so popular since the early 1990s. The 1998 XC 700 also had the new XC-10 front suspension with tucked-in trailing arms for better performance in the bumps.
Arctic Cat ZR 440 — Kirk Hibbert and Brad Pake were kings of cross-country snowmobile racing in this era, and it seemed that every issue of Snow Week magazine that was set in my mailbox had a story about a green sled winning yet another race. I wanted a ZR 440 then, and I want one now because it would be a cool project to restore it, and I would have fun riding it on the trails, rivers and ditches in Minnesota at half the speed — if I’m lucky — of Kirk and Brad.
Yamaha SRX 700 — Ahh, the sweet sound of a Yamaha triple-triple. Its exhaust note was so crisp and precise that it was — and still is — easily distinguished from all of the other triple-piped three-cylinder snowmobiles of the era. Unfortunately for me, I’ve never ridden an SRX, but from what I’ve heard from long-time Snow Goer editor John Prusak, they handle incredibly well. And that blue color scheme is cooler than the other side of the pillow. Sure, Yamaha has built a lot of blue sleds since then, but none of them look as awesome as the 1998 SRX.
Ski-Doo MX Z 670 — Starting in 1993 with the MX Z, Ski-Doo sleds were dropping weight, getting sleeker styling and generally performing better. By 1998, the MX Z 670 had been updated with a revised front suspension and steering system, better shocks and new skis. The mega-torquey 670 rotary Rotax twin had a solid low- and mid-range punch that challenged Polaris XC 700 riders, with 30cc less displacement!
Polaris 440 XCR — I used to have a 1998 440 XCR, but I sold it to help make a down payment on my house. Sure, that cross-country racer was temperamental, but with help from the mechanics at the shop, we were usually able to make it run right. I loved my 440 XCR’s sharp handling, sticky brake, great suspension and orangeish-red hood. It was a head turner. And the exhaust had a unique, full sound for such a small displacement. Some day, I’ll have another 1998 440 XCR to run against my ZR 440.
— Andy Swanson, Snow Goer magazine Managing Editor
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