When some folks are looking for a good, affordable and relatively low-power second snowmobile to buy to teach newcomers, transition young riders or just have around as an easy-going trail sled, they are often drawn to fan-cooled machines, reasoning that those sleds are simple, inexpensive, light and carefree. And generally, they are.
However, there’s a solid argument to be made for instead buying a low-displacement, liquid-cooled snowmobile – like the sporty Arctic Cat Sabercat 500 EFI. These liquids are generally quieter, quicker, run cleaner and have longer lives than fanners.
Built from 2004 to 2006, the Sabercats were the friendly solo-touring cousin to the more edgy Firecats, with softer suspension setting and more base-line shocks. Sabercats could be purchased with powerful engines and full features in the 700 and 600 class, including remote electric start on LX models, or even a longer track on EXT versions. The friendly 500 Sabercat, though, was generally kept simple.
The Sabercat 500’s little 80 horsepower engine didn’t have variable exhaust valves, and it never made the switch to Cat’s ACT Diamond Drive system like some of its siblings. That kept initial costs down, yet advantages now when shopping for a used model include the fact that the little 500 can burn cheaper oil since there are no exhaust valves to stick, and generally the sled needs less (and less expensive) maintenance, according to Rich Rothmund of TA Motorsports in Francis Creek, Wisconsin.
“The Diamond Drive system was nice, but it could get expensive to fix,” Rothmund said. Plus the 500 runs great on 87 octane fuel.
For 2006, the surprisingly spry 500 also received Cat’s batteryless fuel injection system – giving it easier starts and consistent run quality, plus there were no carburetors to mess with.
In its first iteration the Sabercat had Ryde FX shocks but for 2005 and ’06 Cat’s own ACT rebuildable, internal floating piston gas shocks were found on all four corners, with a position sensitive shock on the rear arm.
Being in the F chassis the machines shared with Firecats, the base Sabercats had the 13.5-inch wide track that was 128 inches long. The length was ahead of its time, though nobody ever chased Cat’s narrow-track lead. When shopping for one on the used market, there was no particular weak point to watch out for on a Sabercat, Rothmund said – just check the usual places for excess wear and tear, including the track, suspension bearings, clutches and shocks.
“Arctic Cat made a ton of the 500s, so there are a lot of them around – making them cheaper on the used market” than 600 and 700 Sabercats, Rothmund said. “Riding them was simple. They had a little bit of an old-school, not-so-rider-forward position, they were light and nimble, and they were pretty quick for what they were. But the main thing is they were very, very reliable.”
The Sabercats slipped into history once Cat dumped the F Chassis in favor of the Twin Spar for 2007, but they still bring smiles to the faces of riders across the country.
Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine 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 issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.