BackTracks: 1972 Arctic Cat Kitty Cat

It's never too early for a Cat!
1972 Arctic Cat Kitty Cat youth snowmobile
This gorgeous 1972 Arctic Cat Kitty Cat was made to look like Cat’s 1977 Sno Pro racer.
I met a father and son at a show where they were showing off their Kitty Cats. Doug Monson and his son Jacob had a great story to tell about the life of Jacob’s vintage Cat.

Doug bought a 1972 Kitty Cat modified to look like Arctic Cat’s 1977 Sno Pro racer. Steve “Buck” Olson from Forest Lake, Minn., was the guy who built the sled. Modifications included a new belly pan and hood along with a custom seat, and nice hook handlebars just like on the Sno Pro race sleds.

Jacob, now 32, said this was the third Kitty Cat he had ridden by age 4, so he was becoming experienced and his dad decided to turn up the wick with this Cat.

He started by shaving the head to add compression, then widened the exhaust port and raised it. Doug also cleaned up the casting in the transfer passages and the exhaust and removed a little of the piston’s intake skirt.
1972 Arctic Cat Kitty Cat youth snowmobile Steve "Buck" Olson
This fancy Kitty was built by Steve “Buck” Olson from Forest Lake, Minn.
After working on a few of his friends’ Kitty Cats and bypassing their governors, Doug was still not a fan of how they accelerated. So he clipped a few coils off the governor spring, allowing for cleaner acceleration. He also increased the size of the main jet.

Then for better steering on ice he fashioned a quarter-inch key stock on the edge to mimic carbide ski runners.

Jacob recalls a tale from when he was 4, Doug would take him to a local high school to practice. The way it was plowed the parking lot made for a great oval track with high berms. One day Jacob had enough of the oval and headed up over the berm and down the front of the schoolyard toward the road with Doug in hot pursuit on foot!

Just before Jacob made it to the road and Doug failed at his second attempt to leap out and stop him, Jacob made a 180 back toward the parking lot, making it back up the hill and over the berm. Doug was still in pursuit, he says, “I was out of wind with my tongue hanging out.” But he made it back to the parking lot to find the sled parked next to their truck with Jacob inside warming up!

After a few years, getting older and upgrading to a larger sled, Jacob still has that Kitty Cat, but now it’s tucked next to the end table in his living room.

Minnesotan Les Pinz is a vintage sled expert with an extensive collection of historic and other antique sleds, and is a former snowmobile racer. He is a member of the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame and one of AmSnow’s regular test riders.
Arctic Cat’s Kitty Cat was the sport’s only snowmobile for kids. Starting in 1971 Cat made prototypes, testing different engines, even making yellow and red hoods for about 50 sleds each in 1972.

Those first-season Kitty Cats were available at dealers, the starting price being about $295. Kitty Cats were made from 1972 through 1999 – minus 1982-’84 while Arctic Cat was in bankruptcy. Over those years Kitty Cats made a lot of kids happy and they’re still very much in demand.

The Kitty Cats originally came with 2.8-horsepower 60cc Kawasaki single-cylinder engines, which continued even through 1976 when Cat changed to Suzuki Spirit engines for the rest of their lineup. By 1977 though the Spirit engines, again 60cc with 2.8 hp were standard in Kitty Cats. Fuel tank capacity was ½ gallon and the top speed was roughly 8 mph.

The tiny Cats started out at about 95 lbs., were 56 inches long and 23.5 inches wide, with a seat only 13 inches high so little riders could easily hop aboard. The sled’s rubber track was 10x54 inches long using two shafts with bogey wheels for track suspension that had no movement. Front skis and leaf springs had about two inches of movement and the skis were 22 inches long and 4.5 inches wide.

Cat created a very easy pulling throttle lever with a kill switch right next to it for safety. The drive clutch was centrifugal so all you had to do was give it gas to increase the speed. The Kitty Cat’s brake was an outside band on the drive clutch, which was like a chainsaw clutch driving a chain to the main drive shaft through drive sprockets.

Heck, for summer use Cat even offered a wheel kit on the skis as an option. Great memories!
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