We Ride (and Survive) Death Trap, a Snowmobile Built for Florida

Steven Cole
By Steven Cole Smith
Apr 5, 2021 | Florida, Death Trap | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

It was advertised in the headline on Facebook Marketplace as an “All-Terrain Death Trap” by its owner, 39-year-old Matthew Daniel Malott, who possibly needs to read, say, “Sell Online Like a Creative Genius” by Brainard Carey ($8.99, Amazon), because while Malott seems to have the “Creative” part down, “Genius” may need work.

It’s the only thing that could explain why it required six weeks to sell Death Trap. It finally took an ad with a patriotic twist, targeted at a Memorial Day-loving buyer interested in this 1998 Arctic Cat snowmobile, located in Webster. 

Which is unfortunately not Webster, Minnesota, which is located in Rice County, where the average snowfall is 44 inches.

Malott and his Arctic Cat are in Webster, Florida. Which is in Sumter County, where the average snowfall is—zero inches. Perhaps he’d have better luck if he and the Arctic Cat were located in the northernmost county in Florida, which would be Jackson County, which averages—zero inches of snow. Although the State Archives of Florida does have in its files a photo captioned “Boys having a snowball fight at the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, Florida,” which is in Jackson County. That was in 1958, and the snowballs look kind of like chilled dust, or maybe the grayish ash that falls during the annual summer forest fire season. Tallahassee, which isn’t that far from Marianna, received an all-time record of 2.8 inches of snow in what was referred to in the press as “The Blizzard of 1958.” No, seriously. 

Malott and his Arctic Cat, even if they lived in snowy Jackson County, Florida, are 42 years too late for the Blizzard. Even Arctic Cat was two years too late, since it wasn’t incorporated until 1960—in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, which is in Pennington County. Annual snowfall: 40.7 inches.

So we’ve established, to tedium, that this Arctic Cat will never see snow again, but Malott persevered. We’d expect nothing less from a man who said he does something electronic to forklifts we didn’t entirely understand for a living, and who is a dedicated tinkerer and an amateur motorcycle road racer who has finished on the podium in races at Daytona International Speedway, which is in Volusia County, annual snowfall of You Don’t Want To Know.

His racing bike can hit 180 mph on the track’s high banks, so we know Malott likes to go fast. Which does not explain why, when his father went up north on a trip a year or so ago, Malott told him not to come home without a junky old snowmobile, or something approximating that. 

Nor does it explain why Malott promptly went to work on the mostly green and black and silver-where-the-black-wore-off Arctic Cat to make it more suitable for Sumter County’s coldest month, which is January, average low of 48 degrees, average high a brisk 70.

So the skis went, replaced by wheels and tires that look like they came from Harbor Freight, but are actually from a Kawasaki 400 ATV, as are many of the front suspension parts. There are kits available to put wheels on snowmobiles, “but they are crazy expensive,” Malott said. “Like 10 times what this cost.”

The engine is a relatively stock fuel-injected Suzuki two-stroke. Arctic Cat began using Suzuki engines in 1976, but the company started building its own in 2014.

It’s loud, it’s quick–-about 105 horsepower at the track, which for Floridians is the big rubber belt that looks like the checkout at the Piggly Wiggly. Except Death Trap’s track—say that three times, real fast, and the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office might let you off with a warning—has big ridges and metal studs, so instead of a cloud of snow, you leave a cloud of grass clippings as you operate the fastest soil aerator in Webster.

It’s also hot, since it only gets to be cooled by snow zero months a year. Airflow is unimpressive, and what air that gets to the engine starts out at like 90 degrees most of the year anyway. 

So, using a worn-out swing arm as a bracket, Malott mounted up a radiator from a Suzuki GSX-R 1000, which are not that hard to find since the radiators sometimes survive the crash that occurs after doing a wheelie into the back of an F-350.

And to set it all off properly, Malott added a rear mud flap that says GIT-R-DONE, the never-get-tired-of-hearing-it trademark of Larry the Cable Guy, who is really Daniel Lawrence Whitney, who was actually living in Sanford, Florida, when he developed his, um, three-hyphenated-word trademark phrase that launched his career. And now Larry the Cable Guy is worth an estimated $50 million, because for some people, this really is the America that Sean Hannity thinks he lives in. But more importantly, LTCG, who can be forgiven for having never actually worked as a cable guy, and very likely never will, is accurately quoted on the back of Death Trap. 

Really, Matthew Malott, what were you thinking with this Arctic Cat? “It was kind of like a dog chasing a tire,” he said. “Once I got it where I wanted it, I thought, ‘Now what?”’

So it was for sale, but we snagged a ride before the gavel dropped. From a sitting start, the launch is unremarkable for, say, the first 12 feet. Then it's Hang On To Your Tractor Supply Hat, unless the rider is wearing a helmet, which you can probably guess on the basis of whether he or she wears a coronavirus mask into the Dollar General. 


Cornering on Death Trap is riveting to watch, character-building to do, as the front tire—which one depends on which direction you think you might want to turn—lifts like a terrier at his favorite fire plug. Brakes, or brake, are excellent. Is excellent.

So, as we established, Malott was ready to bid adieu to Death Trap, and while there was a modest amount of interest, much of it, he said, was along the lines of “I’ll trade you a switchblade and three cases of PBR!” which was at least one case of PBR too low and, consequently, insulting.

Anyway, he needed to get enough to help finance a turbocharged Buell he found in Canada, since apparently there are no motorcycles for sale IN AMERICA. Ironic since he used a Memorial Day patriotic theme in the Facebook Marketplace ad that finally, actually worked. Which read as follows, after some light editing:

So 1492 arguably marks the discovery of our great continent. I mean, that’s if you forget about the Vikings, or the Trans-Siberian plains immigrants who became the indigenous tribes, pre-existing before we brought over smallpox and Busch Light.

And $1492 is also the price I’m asking for you to be able to strap yourself into a snowmobile outfitted for off-road use. Knobby tires? Check. Coors Light coolant can? Hell yes. Tread with deadly ice studs? Mmmhmm.

Imagine it! Mullet flowing in the breeze, Kenny Chesney blaring in off-brand headphones, game warden hot on your tail, cold beer on your breath, girlfriend shrieking in terror on the back. Just like George Washington did it. Or would have.

This sumbich two-stroke has new power bands, exhaust valves and spare muffler bearings. You can hear eagles screaming when you get on the pipe. No, not your pipe! This pipe. I’m willing to entertain some partial trades.”

And what do you know? It worked! The mullet worked for Malott. Interested parties, at least those who can read, received a text that said, in part: “Gentlemen and ladies, the beast has been sold to an anonymous buyer. Through intense deliberation and three or four knife fights, we were able to settle a fair deal that may or may not have involved corn liquor, a Razorback pig and some scrap aluminum.”

The text went out at 12:38 p.m. On Sunday. Memorial Day. In a word, or three words, or two hyphenated words and a letter, Matthew Daniel Malott flat Got-R-Done.

Damn poetic, almost. Now, off to Canada.

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View comments on the GRM forums
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter)
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
5/29/20 1:01 p.m.

I love everything about this.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/29/20 1:20 p.m.
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) said:

I love everything about this.

Thank you, thank you. Please like and share. 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/29/20 1:44 p.m.

This is definitely some of the best literature to grace your pages...or at least web page.

fidelity101 (Forum Supporter)
fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
5/29/20 1:48 p.m.

he wins the internet this weekend. 

Love it.


Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/29/20 5:24 p.m.
Steven Cole Smith said:

which are not that hard to find since the radiators sometimes survive the crash that occurs after doing a wheelie into the back of an F-350.



Rotaryracer Reader
5/29/20 5:44 p.m.

Very well written article capturing the inspired insanity of Death Trap.


offroadwine New Reader
5/29/20 5:51 p.m.

Best read I've had all day, and I'm stuck home, on crutches, the day after knee surgery, counting minutes until the next happy pill.

adam525i (Forum Supporter)
adam525i (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
5/29/20 7:26 p.m.

Didn't they know there was a ZR 900 they could've based this on? It could have been 50% better!

Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Forum Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/29/20 10:16 p.m.
adam525i (Forum Supporter) said:

Didn't they know there was a ZR 900 they could've based this on? It could have been 50% better!

Waiting for the swap in build threads, Adam.

bigben Reader
5/29/20 11:18 p.m.

I love it! I've actually  mildly day dreamed of something  similar.  I have a lonely Polaris back in Utah that I haven't seen in about 10 years. I'd love to bring it down here and scare the native Texans....loud pipes, 131" of churning paddles, and an engine that doesn't even start making power till almost 6k rpms, plus that wonderful two stroke smell...

I think we should put Ken Block on it with a few Go Pros and see what happens. 

wvumtnbkr UberDork
5/30/20 8:39 a.m.

Isn't memorial day on Monday?


Quite entertaining article.

hobiercr (FS)
hobiercr (FS) SuperDork
5/30/20 10:33 a.m.

Needs more Nitrous!

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