Kitty Cat

Vintage Sled of the Month: Kitty Cat

By Stephen King

Ho, ho, ho, all of you happy snowmobilers. It is just about Christmas time. But, even more important than that, it is snowmobile season! Dec. 1 is the official start of the season in Michigan.

However, there is also that whole Christmas thing coming up. And, with that, there is that whole buying gifts thing. Now, when it comes to youngsters, there is no time like Christmas to get them into snowmobiling. One of the best ways is to buy them their own mini-sled. So, with that idea, my Vintage Sled of the Month is the Kitty Cat.

Right away, I want to point out that Arctic Cat was not the first to come out with this idea. There were quite a few others. However, at that time (and to this day), Arctic Cat was one of the industry leaders. When they made the move to get into the children’s sled market, they did it in a big way because they already had an established network of dealers all over the Snow Belt states. This gave them a huge advantage. 

Let’s say we have this great idea for a sled. We build the thing, and it looks pretty good. Then what? We have to figure out how to sell it. Also, we have to figure out what to do if it breaks or a kid breaks one. We need somebody to fix it. Arctic Cat, with its network of dealers, had all of that, which is why their Kitty Cat took off like a January blizzard.

Kitty Cat

That Kitty Cat blizzard began back in 1972. That year, Arctic Cat let that new little kitty out of the bag. It was designed for kids in the 5- to 10-year-old age group. So, it did not hit 100 mph, have carbide studs or ice picks on the track.

Nope, it was totally designed with the safety of the little drivers in mind. First, it only had a 60cc engine. So, not a lot of big air jumps for this cat. And, just to make sure the little kitty kiddies did not try for any hot laps, the machine had a governor on it. This allowed a top speed of about 8 mph.

Next, the track was totally rubber and totally enclosed under the sled so, little hands and feet would not get caught in it. Also, there was nothing sharp to nick up the kids. Same with the skis. They were also made of rubber with blunted front ends. So, no pointy bits. So, running over your brother or sister did not leave huge ruts in them.

As noted, with the company behind them, the Kitty Cat took off like a scared kitten. They just went gangbusters. Saw them everywhere. Any kid that was any kid had one.

However, to make sure those little riders could get the feel of a real sled, they were designed like Arctic Cat’s 1970 EXT race sleds. So, those little drivers could ride a sled that looked a lot like the ones that their heroes rode on the ice ovals.

The Kitty Cats were produced from 1972 until Arctic Cat had that whole financial crisis thing back in the early 1980s. So, 1981 was the last year for the original design. But, a few years later, Arctic Cat put them back into production. Then, years later, they evolved into the Min-Zs.

Arctic Cat

But, for collectors, those first years were the ones they want. Personally, with all the snowmobile shows I attend, I see little Kitty Cats.
Also, while at the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway, Charlie Vallier, a curator, noted that while most people know of the standard black design, when they first came out, they produced 50 red ones and 50 yellow ones. But, as I kind of hinted at, those you very rarely see.

Now, story time: Way back when, when I was about 9, Mom and Dad made that year’s Christmas totally special for me. In my Christmas stocking was this little package. I didn’t think nothing too much about it.

Then, I unwrapped it. Found a key to a snowmobile! I think I lit up brighter than our Christmas tree. A snowmobile! My own sled! Could not have gotten any better. Still one of my favorite memories of my long-gone mom and dad.

Now, this year, if you are a mom or a dad, or a grandfather or grandmother, this may be the year to make that child’s memory of a lifetime. It will give them a good excuse to get off that couch, stop that video game, and get outside and have some real experiences. This is what most of us sledders want for our kids — to have the same fun we have had for so many years.

Merry Christmas to all.

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