Eric’s Arctic Restoration

I find that a true surprise is rare in my life; perhaps that’s how it is for everyone. A few weeks ago, I got a surprise.

I have recently read the book, “Breaking Trail,” which is an autobiography of Edgar Hetten-founder of both Polaris and Arctic Cat snowmobiles. The stories in the book have played through my mind ever since I finished it. With this as a background, I want to tell you what happened on my way to town one morning.

It was cold and winter and I was driving to get a cup of coffee. In the distance, I saw what I thought was an ATV on tracks. As the machine got closer, my driving became poorer as I became focused on the snow machine coming my way.

I wanted a picture so I pulled over to the side of the road-luckily the driver on the big, red snowmobile did the same. It felt the same as meeting a Minnesota Viking player at an airport and maybe getting to shake their hand. I couldn’t tell if it was a Polaris Sno Traveler or if it was an Arctic Cat but I knew I was seeing a pretty rare snow machine.

The snow machine was from the past but the driver was very much of the present, he was Eric Molskness-a neighbor. I could tell Eric was used to getting stopped along the road and we talked for a bit and I made plans to follow-up on this chance meeting with what you are reading right now.

this is how Eric found his 450 Arctic Cat.

Eric later told me this was a 1964 Arctic Cat 450. It was powered by a Kohler 12.5 horsepower engine although the factory engine was eight horsepower. It has a simple gearbox that provides one forward gear and one reverse.

Eric had purchased the sled in 2016 from a friend’s Grandpa who had used it on a dairy farm. Grandpa had used the 450 to pull a feed tub and for hunting fox. Eric remembered the 450 from when he was young and it could be described with the three words that send chills down the spine of those who purchase old snowmobiles, “one owner machine.”

There was some “aftermarket” bracing engineered by Grandpa in his shop, otherwise the machine was original and in decent shape. Molskness repainted everything, added hyfax under the tracks and plastic on the skies to decrease overall friction. The Arctic Cat 450 also came with canvas on the inside circumference of the tracks to help it stay on top of the snow-Eric also replaced the canvas with something new. The windshield was pretty cloudy too so that was replaced with plexiglass.

Arctic Cat 450 before
Arctic Cat 450-AFTER

If you were driving along Highway 32 a few weeks back, you might have seen Eric and his 450 showing the world how it used to to be done. Each winter sees the St Hilaire Vintage Snowmobile Show which includes a road trip from St Hilaire to Red Lake Falls and back. Many classic sleds made this trip and Grandpa’s old Arctic Cat 450 was included in that group. Eric told me that he stopped along the way as others pulled their vehicles to the side of the road like me. I asked him how the ride was and he said it was pretty smooth as the seat was nicely padded and the driver’s position is isolated from the front steering portion by a pivot.

The chance meeting with Eric and his Arctic Cat 450 was such a nice surprise. That experience coupled with sharing the appreciation of machines made in the area that fanned out to change the world made for a great memory. Good job on the restoration, Eric.

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2 Responses

  1. Becky & Smitty Danielson

    I enjoyed your article and the pictures. I, too, just finished reading Breaking Trail on your recommendation! It was great and my Hubby grabbed it before me, so I had to wait for it! He finished it in a couple of quick, short sessions in a day and a half! I grabbed it up as soon as he put it down and finished it in one quick day, too! It’s one of those well written, very interesting books with chuckles and suspenseful adventures! Plus, it’s about our parents first cousin; “Uncle Edgar”. What an interesting read; both the book and your article! Thanks Cousin Grant!

    1. Thanks, Becky! I am re-reading “Breaking Trail” right now. I find it interesting how Edgar talks about how nervous he is when he goes into see the banker. I think those folks came from such hard times and from so little money that they didn’t think they deserved a banker’s consideration. I also remember Dad saying that Edgar and Allan Hetteen could build their own toys when they were kids. Glad you liked my column, it was fun to write about Eric as I know his mother through the Soil and Water Conservation District.

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