I've got junk in the trunk-as usual.
I have a great junkyard in my town-APS Recycling, off Route 80 in Stroudsburg, PA. Known for years as Katz's Scrap Yard, the latter is still the name most locals know it by. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Katz's, which is also located about two blocks from my late grandparents' former home. After Sunday dinners, it was always a treat to walk over to the junkyard and check out all the 'cool' junk, as I saw it. Of course my lifelong love of junk has been previously addressed (and, quite frankly is the reason for posting) in this blog, so this will come as no surprise to most regular readers (ARE there regular readers?)
In the past two years I've made a lot of new friends with my movie project. One of them is Jeff, my FX guy, a fellow traveler who likes junk and scrap as much as I do. It's always nice to find someone else like you, that everyone else would call 'crazy', if only to know that it's not just you. Jeff and I cash in some scrap now and then, and with scrap prices what they are right now, we have made a little walkin' around money in doing so, as well as found some pretty cool shit in the junkyard.
Last weekend, I was taking my usual walk around and I found the little gem in the above photo-motorcycles and power toys are kept in their own section, as they are available for re-sale. The toys are usually pretty picked over, however, and this little guy sat pretty much as it sits here in the bed of my truck-on its side-except in the dirt. At first I didn't pay it much mind, other than to make note of how sad it looked sitting there, and how it had, at one time, probably made some little guy or gal pretty freakin' happy.
What I also took a mental note of was that I had not remembered Arctic Cat making mini-bikes. Usually something like this is cause for me to yell internally "TO THE SMARTPHONE!!!" and to look up more info. But I was a bit off my game that day, and was honestly looking at some pallet racking for my basement, so I filed the little mini-bike idea away, and assumed quite fairly that someone else would snag it in no time.
Later that day, I sat down at the computer to do my usual Facebook check and the like, and entered 'Arctic Cat Mini-bike" in the search bar. About twenty minutes later I had found that Arctic Cat had not only made mini-bikes for a few years in the late 60s through the early 70s, but that the series this particular model (at this point, presumed to be a 1972 Prowler) came from was in relatively low numbers and sought after by collectors. A subsequent search of Ebay yielded examples in similar condition to my own, going for anywhere from $300 (in the condition the one above is currently) to $1500 or more restored. It didn't take a genius to figure out it was worth a trip back to the junkyard to see if the little Cat was still available. What it should look like-it doesn't-but in ways you aren't thinking of just yet. Note the infinitely awesome trademark Arctic Cat simulated leopard skin vinyl seat.
I headed back Monday after work nervous-I knew the bike was worth something-maybe someone else had known too, just hours after me, and had snagged it? My palms were sweating as I signed in at the office. I quickly (yet calmly, so as not to attract attention) walked over to the power equipment, to find, to my relief and delight, that the bike indeed still lay there in the dirt. Calmly I walked it over, on the back tire only, to the scales. An item like this at APS is re-sold for a markup over scrap weight-so I was only going to pay roughly double of what someone else was paid to drop it off-while dropping off scrap is profitable, buying it in forms such as this is not cost-prohibitive. At 95 pounds, I was going to be laying out $20.14 for the bike! I quickly paid and tossed the bike into the position in my truck you see in the photo. I took it home and promptly put it in my garage to get a better look under the lights.
The bike has a 47cc Sachs "Saxonette" two-stroke engine-not unlike a large chainsaw. This means several things-first, that the thing is probably loud as German Nazi buzzbombs, second, that it probably rips turf like it ain't no thang, and third, it's probably fun as Hell as a result of the first two things.
A few problems were obvious from the start-while the bike is largely complete, it is missing the pull-start mechanism, and the cylinder is frozen. I've had good luck in the past with freeing up cylinders, so I figured, at minimum, if I could free it up, it would be worth more when I sold the little rusted hulk. Ebay also seemed to have a fair amount of parts, despite the relative rarity of the bikes. Today this particular market is saturated with low-quality Chinese imported models. The Cat was, in its time, no doubt made in American of all-American components. The mini-bikes of today will not likely hold the value this bike does today, forty years from now. They will, no doubt, sadly been long since melted down into new crap we don't need sometime before that.
Here's where the problem started. I sat and stared at the little bike, thinking about all the good times someone had had on it, and the charm that it must surely still hold as a result-my father, a toy truck collector, will not buy any new-in-box toys for this reason-he believes that an item played with and enjoyed possesses a certain mojo nothing pristine could ever hope to hold. I thought of my girlfriend's son, Christopher, just 11 and reaching a point where something like this would surely capture his interest. I got looking around my shop at all the tools I rarely get to use-my sandblast cabinet, powdercoating setup, electrolytic rust remover,etc. I know how to anodize, re-line motorcycle gas tanks, and can loosen, disassemble, clean and reassemble just about anything. Against the urging of Jeff and others, I decided to try my hand at restoring the bike. At worst, I figured it would be in that much better shape to sell if I gave up halfway through and had to liquidate. But I don't want to think about that right now.