1949 to 1958: Industrial vehicles
The future seems certain, but 1948-1949 brings new
challenges to L'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée. On top of a winter of very light snow,
the Quebec government adopts a policy demanding all rural routes be cleared
a major blow to the snowmobile market. In one year, sales fall by close to
A disaster? Joseph-Armand Bombardier takes it as a challenge. He plans his
company's survival by ending its dependence on snowmobiles and creating new
machines for new markets.
Joseph-Armand's diversification effort begins with a period of intense and
varied research for an alternative product to the snowmobile. A number of
prototypes emerge from the inventor's new experimental centre in the small
town of Kingsbury near Valcourt, and are designed to tackle all sorts of
terrain, from snow to swamp to peat bogs.
The BT1 (Bombardier Truck)
industrial vehicle is a modified B121 snowmobile ready to serve the local
forestry industry. New modifications, mainly based on experiments, give rise
to the C41 model, the first all-track vehicle, and the B51 model, equipped with an interchangeable system of wheels and skis.
These vehicles advance the inventor's research and lead to the later
development of other commercially successful vehicles. The R series1, for
example, consists of interchangeable wheels and skis in front allowing it to
travel on asphalt or snow. Its sales are strong, and ensure L'Auto-Neige
Bombardier Limitée success through the 1950s.
The most significant results from the rebuilding of the company's strong
position come with the launch of a new traction mechanism, the TTA1 (Tractor
Tracking Attachment), which Joseph-Armand Bombardier perfects from his
brother Gérard's design.
The TTA1 improves tractor traction in muddy and
swampy terrain, and thousands are sold to tractor manufacturers in North
America, Europe, and South America. Patents are awarded to L'Auto-Neige
Bombardier for the TTA1 in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
In 1952, unsatisfactory rubber quality and market prices lead Joseph-Armand
to produce rubber from raw material himself. Together with his father,
eldest son Germain Bombardier founds Rockland Accessories Ltd. Established in Kingsbury, the plant opens in 1953 with the mandate to produce all the rubber
parts required by L'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée. Rockland Accessories Ltd. became the first subsidiary of L'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée in 1956.
The entrepreneur is also aware of the fact that his vehicle's track shows
weakness due to the lack of resistance in the rod bolts. His track suppliers
seem unable to produce the continuous track he constantly requests. For
Joseph-Armand, the impossible is unacceptable: he will produce his own
His ingenuity wins out with the development of a new vulcanization process
for which he received a patent that enables the production of the
continuous track he requires. Joseph-Armand simultaneously succeeds in
producing an all-rubber, unbreakable and shape-retaining sprocket. Thanks to
these major discoveries, he can market more reliable, higher-performance
The celebrated Muskeg tractor
Of all vehicles produced at the Valcourt plant in the 1950s, Joseph-Armand
considers the Muskeg®3 his greatest success of that era. The tractor's unique
quality is its low impact on the soil, which gives it enhanced accessibility
to swampy areas. "Muskeg" is swamp in Amerindian.
The Muskeg®3 tractor is an all-track, all-terrain vehicle. Launched by the
Valcourt plants in 1953, it meets with great commercial success because it
fills the need to work and transport on difficult terrain, and is used as
much in the Alps to carry skiers as in the Sahara to clear roads. In its
modified version, the Muskeg3 tractor is still sold today around the world.
In 1955, the J5TM3tractor the first tracked vehicle designed specifically
for the forestry industry is launched and is another commercial success.
Later, the vehicle is adapted by adding a shovel in front and becomes the
popular sidewalk-clearing SW3 still seen on the winter landscapes of towns
and cities across North America.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier is especially interested in the forest and forestry.
He has already developed vehicles specifically for transporting wood, but he
foresees other mechanized applications that will improve productivity. The
machines he envisions can fell trees, remove their branches, cut lengths,
load the logs onto the transport vehicle platform, and chip branches. Two of
these machines, the VFB1 skidder and the BPU1 delimber, are launched and
The Valcourt company enjoys an intense level of activity in the 1950s,
thanks to its founder's personality a happy mix of tenaciousness,
ingenuity, vision, audacity, and the constant search for self-sufficiency.
TTA1 in summer
TTA1 in winter