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Photos by Judy Fedd

Big Daddy of Arctic Cats is Bad 2 Da’ Bone

Cat Daddy's creator, Steel Horses mechanic Darrell Dunn
Cat Daddy's creator, Steel Horses mechanic Darrell Dunn

Making its debut at the 2006 High Lifter ATV Mud Nationals, “Cat Daddy,” an Arctic Cat 500 on 44 inch tires, created a buzz in the ATV world. The lime green monster ATV won the “Bad 2 Da’Bone” championship and is now drawing interest from around the country.

Owner John Williams of Lufkin, Texas says the calls and emails have even included ones from Canada and Great Britain, various people who read about Cat Daddy online and are interested in it. And the momentum is building, says Williams. People from other states have heard about it and make the trip to see it, he says. Some are just passing by, on their way to the nearby Shiloh Ridge in Alto. When Cat Daddy is parked in front of Williams’ “Steel Horses” Arctic Cat ATV shop it creates a “traffic jam” and customers have a difficult time getting in the parking lot, he says.

“We’ve got almost too much publicity,” says Williams. “It kind of caught us off guard.”

But one cannot really have too much publicity, he says, and Cat Daddy seems to be a “blessing in disguise.” Business is increasing and offers to show the Arctic Cat, as well as to buy it, are pouring in, he says.

What is causing all of the excitement is not just the size of Cat Daddy, although size alone certainly makes it stand out, but also how it is constructed. Cat Daddy is the custom creation of Steel Horses mechanic Darrell Dunn, and it is not simply an ATV with a lift kit.

Dunn, who has a passion for building off-road vehicles, spent about a year trying to convince Williams to let him build a monster ATV.

“He kept saying ‘I want to put an Arctic Cat on 44s, I want to put an Arctic Cat on 44s’,” says William, “and I said “44s?! Good Lord!”

“I like to put big tires on everything,” says Dunn.

Williams’ sons, Jeffrey and Justin, also wanted a monster ATV and Dunn said he had figured out how to build it, so when a 2005 Arctic Cat arrived as a trade-in, Williams finally agreed to supply it for the project.

"Cat Daddy' next to a stock Arctic Cat 500
"Cat Daddy' next to a stock Arctic Cat 500

Being an Arctic Cat dealer, Williams wanted to keep as much of the ATV stock as possible. The top half of it is, stock body, frame and engine, although it seems difficult to believe when it is parked next to a stock Arctic Cat 500 -- they just look so different!

The difference comes from what is underneath that stock top half. The bottom is basically “old school four-wheel drive,” customized by Dunn. Enormous Super Swamper 44 TSL tires are mounted on Mickey Thompson chrome rims -- 15x12s in the front and 18.5x15s in the rear. Dunn used Suzuki Samurai front and rear axles and customized the rest of the suspension to make it work. It has a triangulated four link front and back suspension, ¾ heim joints and factory coil over shocks. Combinations of the custom gearing (5.12 axle ratio, locked rear end; 2.4 ratio transfer case; 1.6 chain drive, which is being changed to 1.1 gear drive; 2.4 ratio low range) makes Cat Daddy haul with the stock Arctic Cat 500, 32 horsepower engine. Dunn is still working on the gearing, making modifications, and has yet to determine all the possible gear ratios.

When sitting on the seat, your head is about eight feet off of the ground. The handlebar height is about six feet and the seat height is about five and a half feet. You get in the seat by climbing on the tires and lifting up, and once there you feel compelled to try it out, knowing it will be fun!

Williams says “it rides excellent.”

“A lot of people say ‘oh, that thing looks like it would be unstable,” says Williams, “but it does good.” Having most of the weight on the bottom end helps, he says.

Dunn says he had wanted to enter Cat Daddy in more of the competitions, but Williams prefers to keep it for show.

“The first time they took it out, Darrell and Jeffery played on it a little bit,” says Williams, “and it took six hours cleaning it back up. I had it all powder coated and everything was so pretty, and they wanted to get it dirty.”

The championship Cat Daddy won, the “High Lifter ATV Mud Nationals Dynojet Bad 2 Da’ Bone,” is the mud nationals’ show competition. In it, spectators vote on who has the most impressive ATV.

“Now it’s opened up a whole new ballgame,” says Dunn. “Everybody’s going to be trying to come out with something bigger and better.”

“Next year there’ll be 15-20 of them just like it,” says Williams.

Dunn says when he first put Cat Daddy together people told him he should patent it, but he says “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“It’s just old stuff put in a new configuration,” he says.

Dunn says he has built “monster crawlers” most of his life, but ATVs are much easier to work with because they are smaller and can be moved around by one person. He just bought a new Arctic Cat Prowler, a side by side, and plans to use it to make his own monster ATV, which he says will be even bigger than Cat Daddy. He hopes to have at least two monster ATVs in time for next year’s national event -- one for show and one to play with.

But for now, Cat Daddy, which Williams calls a “four-wheeler on steroids” is considered the biggest ATV around, and it is certainly a crowd-pleaser.

Williams showed Cat Daddy at a recent monster truck show with Big Foot and others, and has had offers to participate in more. They’ve also shown it at charitable events, and he says everyone loves it!

“Believe me it is the biggest crowd pleaser I have ever dealt with,” says Williams. “The crowds go crazy over it.”

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