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The known Pumas, however, all seem to be unique. Most are direct drive, but some have rubber tracks with a 2.52-inch drive lug pitch, driven by two rows of drive lugs on the center belt, while Leubner’s Puma has a 2/3-cleated track with triple billet aluminum drive sprockets engaging a row of drive lugs on each of the three track belts. Cleated tracks are generally thinner and require less power to turn, but sacrifice traction compared to rubber tracks. Adam’s Puma also lacks a suspension wheel kit, possibly because the side rails are closer to the snow than rubber track sleds, which have complete wheel kits installed.
There is also another very unique Puma prototype that is nothing like the direct-drive sleds. It has a very conventional chaincase setup, and sports unique bodywork and a slightly different seat variation. Unlike the king/queen setup of the direct-drive models, it has a flat seating area for both driver and passenger.
So far, only one of these prototype Pumas have come to light, and its presence begs more questions than it answers. This Puma was slated to be powered by a 275cc oil-injected, free-air motor, or a 300cc fan-cooled, oil-injected single as an option. According to retired Cat engineer Brian Espeseth, all the direct-drive sleds should have been 440 Jags for 1982. Brian tells us he purchased about two dozen 1982 models from Arctic Salvage, and he has no recollection of direct-drive Pumas. So this leaves a bit of a mystery as to the origin of the three Pumas with direct drive.
Arctic was also working on more advanced concepts. John Sandburg’s “50 Years of the Cat” book shows the first public picture of a concept “El Tigre Sport” that was a more finished version of the author’s “#28 Doug Oster Cross Country Racer,” circa 1980. The Sport has a trailing arm IFS front suspension with a dual internal shock long-travel rear skid. It also featured Cat’s direct-drive setup. At least one or two of these are known to be in collectors’ hands, and by the finished condition of the machine, it could have been ready for production by 1983 or so.
Tom Rowland again is the fortunate owner of what is thought to be a concept 1983 El Tigre 6000. This sled has a very unique IFS suspension system. Upon inspection, you’ll see details of designs that were not fully perfected until the 1985 AFS machines. This sled features outboard rear shocks, lowered footrests for better ergonomics, and swoopy rear bodywork.
It’s bittersweet to talk about what Cat had in the pipeline for 1982 and later, but their comeback in 1984 was extraordinary. The follow-up act of releasing the all-new 1985 AFS El Tigre and Cougar was no less impressive. Well played, guys. Well played.