"Where the history of snowmobiling comes to life"
1962 Bear Cat

1962 Bear Cat

Merit Gear in Antigo, WI, started manufacturing snowmobiles in 1960. Only about 15 were made over five years of production. Merit Gear focused on manufacturing gears, sprockets and spline shafts. The snowmobile project was little more than a fling, which turned out to be a great project.
The Bear Cat was intended as a workhorse, with two speeds forward and one reverse, a light switch, ignition switch, shifting handle and a foot operated gas pedal. The gear box was state of the art when considering transmission engineering of this time period. Operation of this machine was much like a small tractor. It has a top speed of 20 mph.
The 23 inch track was made from a heavy roller chain and sections of snow fence posts. The post sections were then welded to the drive chain as cleats. In 1965 a company from Chetek purchased the design for building the Bear Cat and it faded away after that.
Donated by the Karl Thorsen kids; Dan, Kris, Matt, Mitch & Tim
Rhinelander, WI
Restoration done by Randy Walters, Twin Lakes, WI

On Sept 20, 2019, The Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum was awarded a grant of $12,500 for Operational Support from the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA – ART WORKS). The grant was awarded through the MCACA peer review process and was one of 561 applications to compete for MCACA fiscal year 2019 funding. The grant requires a 1:1 match and helped the museum leverage the $12,500 of support from its annual income and the many donations from supporters. In particular the museum has received grants from the Graymont Community Economic Development Fund and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. It has also received significant donations from the Antique Snowmobile Club of America, The Midwest Vintage Snowmobile Shows, Inc., many snowmobile clubs, several recreational and snowmobile shows, the museum’s internal $1,000.00 Challenge, and many museum members. The grant funds will be applied to museum operating costs. Applicable costs include internal operations, marketing, travel to shows within the State of Michigan and cost of employees. The MCACA peer review process allows for each grant applicant to be competitively considered by a panel of in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals. This ensures the taxpayers, who support this project through legislative appropriations, and all other visitors or residents in Michigan will have access to the highest quality arts and cultural experiences. A complete list of grant awards around the state is available by contacting MCACA at (517) 241-4011, or by visiting the MCACA website at
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Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum
P.O. Box 2
W11660 US-2
Naubinway, MI 49762
Hours: 906 477-6298
Appointment: 906 477 6192

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