1969 Arctic Cat
What championships are built on
OK, so this Arctic Cat minibike doesn’t exactly fit the “classic” label at the top of the page. But give humble, no-frills machines like these their due: They gave countless kids their first taste of motorcycling.
Including, in the early 1970s, a 4-year-old Michigan farm boy named Jeff Stanton.
“We beat that thing to a pulp chasing cattle through the field,” he says. “Growing up on a farm, that’s how I learned to ride.”
Stanton, of course, went on to win six AMA Motocross and Supercross championships, collecting both major championships in 1989, 1990 and 1992 and ultimately amassing 37 overall wins.
With its pull-start Tecumseh engine, crude suspension and minimal ground clearance, the bike wasn’t exactly a rocketship. But the Arctic Cat played a huge part in Stanton’s formative years before being forgotten as he moved up, turned pro, won AMA Rookie of the Year honors, snagged his six premier class titles and was part of three winning Motocross des Nations teams.
It was only after Stanton retired that the Arctic Cat caught his eye again.
“I looked at it and knew it was a piece of history to me, and I just had to restore it,” Stanton says.
That wasn’t easy. Refinishing the body and frame wasn’t difficult, and engine parts were still around. But replacing some parts—and especially finding the proper stickers—was tough. In fact, Stanton says it’s still missing the correct tank badges.
The end result, now on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, was worth it.
“It always takes something to start the ball rolling,” Stanton says. “And that minibike is what started it rolling for me.”