Wet and Wild: 1980 Arctic Cat Wetbike

053116 Barn Finds - 1980 Arctic Cat Wetbike - 1

This 1980 Arctic Cat Wetbike is all original and is listed on eBay with an opening bid of $800 and there is no reserve. It’s located in Homestead, Pennsylvania, just 8 short miles from bustling downtown Pittsburgh. The Wetbike was invented by an Academy Award-winning cameraman, Nelson Tyler, who invented the Tyler Camera Mount, an image-stabilization device which has revolutionized the way action movies are filmed. That just makes this thing even cooler!

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The Arctic Cat Wetbike is a “planing” watercraft that’s sort of a cross between a motorcycle and a “jet ski”. Wetbikes were made between 1978 and 1992 by various manufactures and owners and were originally introduced by Spirit Marine, a division of Arctic Enterprises, which is now Arctic Cat. They’re pretty challenging to ride, more so than a Jet Ski or most other personal watercraft. They start out partially-submerged and at around 12 mph they start to rise out of the water. Here’s a nice pair. Hey, a nice pair of Wetbikes, this is a family show!..

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It seems like it would be quite an ordeal to take the cover off and somehow unfasten the fire extinguisher and put out any potential fires while you’re floating a half-mile from shore, bobbing in the waves, with sharks circling.. Roger Moore rode one in the James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me, and he mentions that it “was great fun” here in this YouTube clip. And, this guy is either having a great time or he’s terrified! It’s hard to believe that 1980 is already 36 years ago and that vehicles from 1980 are seen as being vintage, and even ancient by some folks who were born in the last couple of decades. 1980 is when I graduated from high school so I’m also ancient to those same people.

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These early models had a 723cc Suzuki 50 hp two-cylinder, two-cycle engine. Later models had a 798cc 60hp engine and a lighter hull which were pretty sizable advances in design, power, and rideability. These creations eventually gave way to the sit-down hull-based personal watercraft that we see today. I for one am glad that these early, wacky designs were made. Any time that folks think outside the box and try something different is a good thing in my world. Are any of you fans of these types of personal watercraft?

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Comments

  1. Van

    Just try to stay shaken not stirred.
    Didn’t Bond keep his tux dry?

    • james Kalemba

      do you have parts for a 1980 wetbike? jim

  2. Howard A Member

    I’m a “Buy American” kind of guy. Whenever I can, I try to buy American. While this does use a Suzuki motor, it shows, there’s no reason to buy a ferrin’ machine. Buying this stuff keeps the good folks in Thief River Falls, Minn. working. ( Northern US has taken a huge hit with manufacturing moving overseas or down south) I just cringe when someone is proud of their new “Yamaha” ( or whatever) when machines like this are just as good. ( or better) While I’ve only been on a PWC a few times, they are a blast and so much better than a big boat. I’d think there’s plenty of fun left in this,( at least until the lakes freeze, then get out the Arctic Cat ( or Polaris) snowmobile, which probably still uses a ferrin’ motor) for a low investment. Some of these can be had cheap, as many find out, it’s not for them. Nice find.

    • Cody

      Just because a company started in Japan does not mean that the manufacturing of any particular product is done in Japan. In my home town we have a Kawasaki factory. It’s one of the largest employers in the city and possibly the state. I worked there when I was young and fresh out of high school. They make ATVs, personal water craft, motorcycles(cruisers), and rail cars. Mainly products that sell exclusively to Americans. All of these products are made by Americans in the center of the country. When I see a Kawasaki product I know was made here, I get a sense of pride knowing that people in my community made that product, and they will continue to be employed because consumers are purchasing that product.

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Cody, that’s true. I apologize ( my 1st thumbs down comment) Truth be known, it’s a global economy now and foreign companies employ just as many Americans as US companies. Ever look at a price sticker of a new car that shows where it’s parts are made? I guess that comment is a carry-over from my old man, who wouldn’t let an Asian car in his driveway, much less own one. ( French and British were ok, though, WW2, you know) Matter of fact, if one wants to enjoy these types of things, it’s impossible to find just American products. Take bikes, for example. While I owned a Harley, I’ve had many Asian bikes, and were far superior to the Harley ( calm down Harley folks, I’m from Milwaukee and loved my Harley) but would never buy one again, ( but would sure buy a Kaw 900) which blows my theory out of the water. Thanks for setting me straight on this.

  3. Dan h

    I remember those! Looks like a space ship from Batlestar Galactica!

  4. AMCSTEVE

    My buddies dad had two of these we used to ride in Wisconson at his cottage in Black River Falls. They were a blast and very fast and dependable. Precursor to jet skis. They were easy to ride and very unique.
    These are in very good shape.

  5. Rufus

    Back in the early 80’s I worked at a local Kawasaki dealer, and we were one of the leading JetSki dealers. I took a couple of these in on a trade for some Ski’s and was selling them used. I’m a big guy, at the time 6’2″ and 230, and a really big guy, 6’4″maybe 280 – 300 comes in and likes them, and more importantly had a Kawasaki motorcycle to trade. His big concern was if he could ride them or not, being so big. Well, if I can ride it you sure can, I tell the guy, failing to mention I’d never tried one.
    So off we go to the lake to test ride. I back the trailer down to the water, pull off my shoes, start the bike, hop on and blast off flat out across the lake. I was afraid to slow down, afraid I’d fall off and not be able to get back. About 3 minutes of circles and figure 8’s and I blast back to the boat ramp where my customer was watching. I says to him, see,,, its easy. So off he goes flat out, scared sh**less, but loving it.
    These things are fun, although different from todays style of personal watercraft. Neat to see here, and remember my one time ride.
    Have fun

  6. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty G Staff

    Sold at $1,120! A heck of a buy. Why didn’t I get this one, dang it.

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