AmSnow.com is now SnoWest.com
Snowmobile icon Edgar Hetteen resigned his presidency from Polaris Industries on June 2, 1960. He then traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska to start over and build another business.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned for Edgar and he found no work or profitable business opportunities up in the cold north country of Alaska. He soon returned to Minnesota and in December 1960 Edgar wound up 65 miles south west of Polaris Industries in Thief River Falls, Minn. trying to start a business once again.
Vacuum machines to snowmobiles
Out of an old food warehouse Edgar started Polar Manufacturing Company which made Bug-O-Vac vacuum mosquito-killing machines and Polar steam cleaners. He also started making snowmobiles for the 1962 season. These new sleds were called “Polar” sleds and used a polar bear as its symbol, which looked appropriate for the sled.
This summer I met up with Pete Hydukovich from Hibbing, Minn. who has a beautiful Polar model 450 with a serial number of 345-2 with a manufacturing plate under the steering of a model number XX on it. The serial number and plate indicate this machine was an early1962 and was second off the line of that year’s production.
Specifications for this 450 include a width of 39 inches and a length of 8 feet, less the skis. The steering was run through a chain and two drive sprockets for proper ratio; also a unique steering wheel was used for ease of turning. The Polar weighed in around 710 lbs. with a seating capacity of 2 or 3 on a bench seat. Polar advertised the 450 as “A real work horse!” It had a rear mounted 10 hp Kohler 4-cycle single-cylinder engine for smooth performance. This was run through a Salsbury 600 series drive and driven torque convertor system with an Apex forward and reverse transmission. This Polar sled had a shifting handle for the transmission on the rear / left side.
You had to come to a stop first, and then shift. Throttle and brake control levers were mounted in the center about half way down the base of the seat. The levers were not spring loaded and you had to manually return them to their original position.
The 450 utilized a nice drum brake for ease in stopping. Polar used heat-treated steel sprockets and heat-treated steel cleats using wood slide rails with snow lubricating the rails for longer lasting life. A track width of 22 inches gave good flotation over swamps and snow. The Polar could reach speeds of 22 mph and had a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs.
A lot of the snowmobiles built back then were unique, but even the same model sleds could be slightly different from one another depending on nuances that would pop up as they were being built. The 450 was no different with a tube frame with a special windshield and windshield mounting, with a lot of stitch welding on frame and body. It has nice wide skis with coil springs on spindles which meant the rider felt fewer bumps through the steering. Finally, the Polar skis have a special activated wear rudder. When the ski is tilted up it is extruded through the ski for better steering control. It has no wear rods for turning.
In the spring of 1962 the Polar name was changed to Arctic Enterprises Inc. to denote the company’s cold weather products. Thus began the roots of a long historic snowmobile company that would eventually become Arctic Cat. If you ever see one at a show or a vintage ride, ask to have a demo ride. It’s quite different than almost any snowmobile you have ever ridden, and plenty of fun!