1939 to 1945: The war years
Success of the B71 snowmobile is such that by
1939 the L'Auto-Neige Bombardier is unable to keep up with demand. A more
modern plant is built in 1940 with an annual production capacity of 200
vehicles. It will be inaugurated on January 29, 1941 under the name L'Auto-Neige
Birth of the B121 snowmobile
Through 1941, Joseph-Armand perfects a new snowmobile called the B121,
which receives a patent on June 23, 1942. This new version of the snowmobile
seats 12 passengers and features a longer, more aerodynamic profile than the
The launch of the B121 snowmobile meets with great success, and orders
increase. But momentum is short-lived, halted prematurely by Canada's
declaration of war.
Material and manpower rationing now
prevents Joseph-Armand from manufacturing civilian vehicles. His offer of
service to the Minister of Munitions and Supply is greeted with a mandate to
develop a prototype military snowmobile for transporting troops in snowbound
operation zones, such as Norway.
Using the B121 snowmobile as a model, the inventor takes a few weeks to
develop the prototype B11, with technical innovations submitted for
Canadian and American patents. The
Canadian Forces orders 130 vehicles, to be delivered in four months.
The Valcourt plant is too small for such an order, so Joseph-Armand begins
production in an existing Montreal factory. He continues manufacturing parts
in Valcourt to maintain employment for village workers.
At the request of Canadian authorities, Joseph-Armand develops a prototype
of an armoured tracked vehicle, named Kaki1, in 1943. Conclusive trials
carried out near Valcourt allow the inventor to perfect the first in a
series of armoured snowmobiles, named Mark I1, armoured snowmobile which after modifications becomes the Mark II1, also known as the Penguin1. It is followed by the Mark III1.
More than 1900 tracked military vehicles are produced following
Joseph-Armand Bombardier's designs between 1942 and 1946. Although wartime
production is limited, civilian snowmobiles are still manufactured at a
modest pace in Valcourt to meet the needs of special permit holders.
Production even increases annually, going from 27 units in 1942-43 to 236 units in 1945-46.
As the war ends, Joseph-Armand Bombardier leaves Montreal to return to
Valcourt where he continues expanding the company.
Despite the war and its many restrictions, Joseph-Armand tirelessly pursues
his research, trials, and inventions, and continues to submit patent
requests in Canada and the United States. To protect his rights and benefit
close associates, he decides to give the company a legal framework. On July
10, 1942, L'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée is born, with a head office in
Valcourt, Quebec and authorized capital of 3,000 shares.
Wartime restrictions and challenges brought out the best in Joseph-Armand
Bombardier: an exceptional ability to adapt to the most limiting of
circumstances, an almost limitless capacity for work, a heightened sense of
responsibility toward his hometown, and a sense of open-mindedness to the
changing horizons lying ahead. He possessed crucial wisdom in surrounding
himself with quality people to help run his business successfully which
left him more time for his inventions.