The World’s Most Complete Collection of Vintage Arctic Cat Racing Sleds (By Kent Gardner)
Published on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Vintage
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The World’s Most Complete Collection of Vintage Arctic Cat Racing Sleds

There are many ways for visitors to experience the collection of Andy Avelis, as a passionate snowmobiler, a designer, or as a financial consultant. For the snowmobiler there is a story in every square inch of the 28’ x 50’ room. For a person that appreciates design, the room and the pieces in it are so well displayed that it is a thing of beauty. To get the financial aspect covered for those wondering, the collection is well into the six figures but there is so much more about it than that amount could ever cover.

For die-hard Cat lovers this is the Shangri-La of the Cat kingdom, transporting hard-core fans back in time, where passionate Cat lovers can discuss the history encompassed in a room. Andy’s knowledge of all things Cat is equally impressive. As he described each of the machines, it was clear that he knew everything about them, not only mechanically, but historically also, even what drivers raced them, along with the vivid memories of how they were acquired.

His knowledge is often tapped by others in the vintage community, a typical inquiring telephone call goes like this: (At midnight from a friend on the West Coast that never remembers the time change) “What is the dimension between the clutch and the driven clutch on a 793 King Cat?” – “12.25 inches” – “thank you.” That was the complete conversation!

Arctic Cat Discovers Andy

It all started with a Christmas card featuring a group of King Cats in front of a corner of his playroom that looks like a dealer parts department. One of his friends shared the card with Arctic Cat and they decided that it would make a nice article in the company publication “Cat’s Pride” that is sent out to owners of their snowmobiles. So they wrote a story based on the picture and mailed it out to Andy for review. Upon receiving the letter Andy realized that they think the corner is the whole story – not understanding that it is only a portion of the room – they had no clue… So Andy corrects the story and sends it with pictures of the rest of the room and that’s how it all began.

Cat decided to travel to his house for a photo shoot for the corporate 2007-08 brochure. When the Christmas picture was taken the room was in its infancy with only about eight snowmobiles inside and it was extremely loud, with sound echoing off the wide-open space and hard surfaces. Andy realized he had to finish filling it with his collection quickly in order to have it set up in time for the photo shoot. In 2008 Arctic Cat crews flew in from MN and a local crew was hired for the filming. In all, about ten hours of grueling interviews and video work took place that day, the final cut was featured on the 2008 Arctic Cat DVD.

The Playroom

The room is 28 feet by 50 feet with the wall studs being put in at twelve-inch centers rather than the traditional sixteen-inch apart because he knew that he would be hanging a lot from the walls. He initially tried to go larger but this was as large as his boundaries would allow. Asked if those were land boundaries or from the boss (his wife Cindy), he answered “both.” There is not much room to add many more snowmobiles without starting to stack them. Because it is a difficult process to get the snowmobiles in and out he does not take them to shows much anymore.

A resident of Salisbury, MA, and the assistant police chief in Newbury, his camp is located in an undisclosed part of Northern New England, and has many security systems in place. His neighbor (a retired trooper) also keeps a sharp eye out for any intruders.

Andy Avelis, Vintage Arctic Cat Racing Sleds

Prior to the playroom the machines were in his main home stacked three up on racks like cordwood. As the collection grew it was hard to get around them. The upstairs fared no better. They did not purchase furniture to fill the extra bedrooms so these became storage spaces as well for his ever-growing collection of New Old Stock parts.

In the early days it was possible to walk in to the rooms and see the display cases. But as time went on the rooms became more full. People that knew of his collection would ask if he had a carburetor for such-and-such a machine and the answer would be “yes,” but I can’t get to it. It was fourteen feet behind a solid floor to ceiling collection of other parts. The need to create the playroom was clear.

A Sense of Humor

At one show he heard people commenting that his sleds were “trailer queens.” (They did not run and had wooden pistons.) So one day at a show he lined them up and started each one individually to warm them to idle. He switched each off and went to the next one and then started them all up at once, the noise was deafening. He had them all lined up tight against the trailer; the echo increased the effect. Little kids ran away hollering that they couldn’t take it…

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