A rare, two-stroke minibike from the Arctic Cat!
In 1960, Minnesota’s Edgar Hetteen — today known as the “father of the snowmobile” — led a 1200-mile trek across the Alaskan wilderness to prove the ruggedness and utility of his new machine. While the three-week expedition made headlines for the snowmobile, it put Hetteen in hot water with his bank’s board of directors, and he soon left the company he’d started, Polaris, to found a rival powersports manufacturer, Arctic Cat.
From 1970-1972, Arctic Cat decided to tap into the booming minibike market, offered a lineup of models with such incredible names as the Whisker, Climber, Screamer, Scout, Ramrod, and the Prowler. Some were powered by Tecumseh or Kawasaki four-cycle engines, others by Sachs two-cycles. The Prowler was the highest-spec of the two-stroke models, featuring a 47cc Sachs 3-hp engine mated to a two-speed automatic transmission. The bike weighed 100 pounds, rolled on 10-inch chrome wheels, had a one-gallon navel orange tank, and the seat had leopard-print side panels — too cool! With only a two-year production run, however, these mini Cats are fairly rare these days, especially outside the Midwest.
Enter Emily Humphries-Baumker (@emilydonedrawed), who started building and riding mopeds back in college. Today, she and her husband share a garage, where they work on motorcycles in their spare time. She’d dreamed of owning an Arctic Cat, but never expected to find one in the Pacific Northwest…until she came across this 1972 Arctic Cat Prowler:
“It was kind of one of my “dream bikes” that I thought I’d never actually get to own, so when one appeared at a swap meet (albeit in lackluster condition) I couldn’t say no. They’re kind of impossible to find outside of the Midwest.”
Her goal was a mostly stock restoration to good working order. She did a slight bit of customizing: re-lettering the tank, painting leopard spots on the fenders, making a flag whip from an old CB antenna, and her friend Roxan from Range Needlework did an awesome reproduction of the stock leopard-print seat. Besides that, she kept the bike largely stock:
“The original Arctic Cat minis were already unique enough for me to fall in love with them so I didn’t want to mess with it too much.”
The most satisfying part? The “extreme scavenger hunt” to source parts for the little Cat, making calls and waiting to hear from people who might or might not have the parts she needed. In the end, this little Arctic Cat was one of our very favorite bikes at The One Moto 2020 — a mini that manages to embody the sheer delight of life on two wheels.
Below, we get more details on the build from Emily herself, as well as more photos from photos from the husband/wife duo of Alyssa Del Valle (@alykatshoots) and Eddie Del Valle (@bearded_r0b0t). Enjoy!
Arctic Cat Prowler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m by no means a professional builder; I started building/riding mopeds in college, and that evolved into motorcycles. Now I share a garage with my husband where we both work on bikes in our spare time.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
A 1972 Arctic Cat Prowler.
• Why was this bike built?
It was kind of one of my “dream bikes” that I thought I’d never actually get to own, so when one appeared at a swap meet (albeit in lackluster condition) I couldn’t say no. They’re kind of impossible to find outside of the Midwest.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Completely stock restoration, including the leopard print seat. The original Arctic Cat minis were already unique enough for me to fall in love with them so I didn’t want to mess with it too much. I couldn’t even bring myself to repaint anything because the patina was just too good.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Like I said, not much outside of the original design. Mostly I just added some detailing. I swapped out the headlight/tailight with other things I had found over the years. Touched up the “Arctic Cat” lettering on the tank with 1 Shot, as well as added the leopard spots from the seat pattern onto the fenders. The original Sachs recoil was missing so I added some snazz to the Honda recoil that’s on there. I wanted a telescopic flag whip so I pulled an old CB antenna off a Chevy van at Pick’n’Pull for that, as well as made the flag/painted the little Prowler logo on it. And of course the amazing reproduction stock seat was made by my good friend Roxan at Range Needlework which I painted the “Arctic Cat” lettering onto the back of.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I’ve thought of many feline-related puns, but really it’s just “The Cat” to me.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
Kind of ridiculous but immensely fun. It’s only a 49cc 2-stroke but it goes surprisingly quick, especially considering how small it is. You get going up towards 30mph and you’re kind of floating around the road since the suspension is pretty basic. It’s a 2-speed automatic so it’s satisfying feeling the transmission kick down when you think you’ve maxed out the RPMs. I really want to get it off-road as soon as summer hits.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Honestly the extreme scavenger hunt I had to go on to find parts for this thing was probably the most difficult but satisfying part. There were lots of leads that I had to follow, having to make actual phone calls, and lots of waiting to actually hear back from people. I probably spent under $400, the original bike included, to get everything together and running, which is great considering I don’t have a ton of extra cash lying around.
Follow the Builder
Personal Instagram (private): @emhumpker
Art Instagram: @emilydonedrawed
Range Needlework (seat upholsterer): @rangeneedlework
Follow the Photographers
- Alyssa Del Valle: @alykatshoots | www.alykatshoots.com
- Eddie Del Valle: @bearded_r0b0t
Very cool minibike! I admire Arctic Cat, but to call Edgar Hetteen “father of the snowmobile” – c’mon!! Armand Bombardier shall always bear that honour.
Hard to disagree with you there. But that quote comes from Loren Anderson, president of the Snowmobile Hall of Fame: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703312904576146643256497076.
i have some stuff you may be interested in.call 906 362 9960.
Are Sachs parts available anywhere? I own a Arctic Cat Prowler minibike
Try Hemming’s, if anybody it would be them as they deal with all antique & vintage autos, bikes, etc…
The fastest Cat mini bike was the 1971 Screamer. It came with an 8 hp two stroke built by Chrysler/West Bend. A one year only, extremely limited build model. This engine was popular in GoKarts in the 1960s and still has a following. So all those Kart hot Rod engine parts will work on the Screamer. I’ve had owners tell me the little massaged beast can top out at 60mph on pavement. They also say don’t try to top it out on dirt as the period suspension will dump you.
Allen I suggest you haunt the vintage snowmobile websites as Cat sled collectors often dabble in the bikes. Try Vintagesleds.com want adds. Once in a while NOS parts show up on there. But be careful as Cat also sold lawn mowers with a Sachs engine and people get confused as to what they have. Lawn mower engine is not the same model as that in the bikes.