Anybody who’s ever ridden an Arctic Cat likely has a favorite – and the list to choose from is long and distinguished. Many will be on display at Cat’s upcoming 50th Anniversary blowout coming at the end of July.
My favorite from the modern era wasn’t a sled that will immediately come to mind for a lot of people, but it created its own fame, and a lot of good stories.
My first year with Snow Goer magazine was the winter of 1993-94. It was a grand time in the snowmobile industry – sales of new sleds were really starting to take off, modern long-travel suspension was making its first inroads and we had snow, snow and more snow!
Admittedly, I came to the job without much recent time on Arctic Cat snowmobiles – I had never ridden a Cat with an AWS-based front suspension before my first couple of rides that season. And, we were lucky enough to have a ZR 440 as a member of our fleet.
I immediately fell in love. It had the race graphics (yeah for checkered flags, at the time), the sporty AWS IV suspension with advanced (at that time) Fox internal floating piston gas shocks with remote reservoirs and a lightweight (at that time) chassis.
More importantly, the model we had featured a great big twist handle that was mounted directly in front of the driver. Anybody who was into racing knew of this new technology – the Easy Adjust Front Arm Control which allowed the driver to put more or less downforce on the front arm of the suspension while traveling down the trail.
The Front Arm Control didn’t have much shelf life for trail riders, who rarely need such immediate adjustments, but I remember watching Brian Sturgeon give the knob a half-twist here and a half-twist there as he was traveling around the Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby track that winter, gradually adding more front bite as his carbides dulled during a race. I also recall seeing Kirk Hibbert (yes, short timers, Tucker’s dad!) cranking on it during the ISOC cross-country race in Albertville, Minnesota, that year.
Most amusing, though, was the reaction we received from non race fans when they saw the big dial on our trail sled. I had people taking all sorts of odd guesses as to what the big handle controlled – one guy thought I was somehow adjusting my carb jetting with it; others predicted something as mundane as changing the headlight angle. I remember one person I met while riding in the Hayward area was completely convinced it was Cat’s answer to Ski-Doo’s RAVE valves variable exhaust system – why that would need a driver-adjustable handle, I have no idea. Most folks figured it was suspension related, but couldn’t quite get the concept.
Yes, the fabulous ZR 440, our 1994 Snowmobile Of The Year, a big time race winner across the snowbelt, was memorable for a lot of reasons, including the odd looks and strange guesses that it inspired!