Living in the 21st century, it’s easy to forget that until relatively recently populations in cold-weather areas were practically stranded by snowy winters. That all changed with the invention of engine-powered snowmobiles. While we’re all familiar with the modern version it turns out the snowmobile has a long and colourful history, spanning more than a century. To celebrate this we’re taken a trip down a memory lane, and unearthed the coolest snow transports of all time. Wrap up warm and enjoy the ride!
(1910) Coanda Snow Sleigh
Designed by Henri Coand this sleigh was owned by Grand Duke Cyril of Russia. Its powerplant was a piston engine which drove a ducted fan or “suction turbine”, the same power plant that Coanda had exhibited in 1910 on his first aircraft, later called the Coand?-1910.
(1937) Bombardier B7, B12 and C18 Snowmobile
Inventor and designer Joseph-Armand Bombardier, founder of the Canadian aerospace and transportation company which bears his name, created his first snowmobile in 1937. The B7, as it was called, was followed by the 12-seater B12 and the 18-seater C18, which brought the hoped-for financial success in the decades to come.
(1939) Antarctic Snow Cruiser
At more than 15 metres long and nearly 4.5 metres high, the Antarctic Snow Cruiser was huge, but its performance never matched its size. It suffered technical problems even on its maiden trip from Chicago to Boston in 1940. But on arriving in Antarctica, things got very much worse for the 37-tonne behemoth. It hadn’t sufficient traction to cope with snow and ice and the failed Snow Cruiser was abandoned in Antarctica.
(1955) Tucker Sno-Cat Type 743 Double Drive
Even if the Tucker Sno-Cat actually made it across the gorge in the end, the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) from 1955 to 1958 made very little use of it. According to rumour, the engine never ran right after a nut fell into it during assembly.
(1958) Cuthbertson Land Rover
In 1958, Scotsman James A Cuthbertson presented this Land Rover tracked vehicle. It had great benefits on swampy ground, but the height did make it rather unstable. Ultimately, only 15 were built.
Bored with the usual après-ski party? The tech-savvy owner of this 1966 T1 has done a great job: not only is the microbus a chain-drive, it also has a 1,600-Watt sound system. An après-ski party in the slopes-grade T1 is truly hard to beat.
(1970) Rupp Super Sno-Sport:
By the end of the 60s, quarter-mile races on frozen lakes had become all the rage. Since there were practically no rules, Mickey Rupp, founder of Rupp Manufacturing, built a dragster with chain-drive and runners. Equipped with an approximately 500HP Ford V8, the Rupp Super Sno-Sport of 1970 reached a staggering 150mph on snow and ice.
(1970 – 1973) Sno Coupe
In the early 1970s, the Innovar Corporation of Dunnell in Minnesota recognised the potential for an elegant, gentleman’s snowmobile with side-by-side seating, rollover protection, plenty of luggage space and much more besides. A great idea, yet only 200 units of the fashionable Sno Coupe were ever built.
(1979) Tundra Buggy: Polar bear safari
The ten-tonne Tundra Buggy, now produced in Churchill, a small community in the Canadian province of Manitoba, can accommodate a whole school class – and return them safely across the snow. Why? To explore the life of endangered polar bears up close.