1907 - 1925 1926 - 1938 1939 -1945 1946 - 1948 1949 - 1958 1959 - 1964


1959 to 1964: The Ski-Doo®2 snowmobile
  

At the close of the 1950s, the Valcourt company is very successful, as shown by its sales of $3.5 million and profits of $850 000 in 1958-59. The coming few years will launch Joseph-Armand Bombardier's greatest invention, the recreational snowmobile, marketed under the name Ski-Doo2. This invention will fulfill Joseph-Armand's boyhood dream and have a profound impact on the success and future of L'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée.

A "miniature" snowmobile

Joseph-Armand's ability to finally develop the light, individual vehicle he had always dreamed of was made possible by the advent of lighter motors, and especially by the revolutionary continuous track designed and patented by his son Germain at the Kingsbury experimental site.


At the end of 1958, working with close collaborators, Joseph-Armand creates the prototype for a "miniature" snowmobile. The April 1959 thaw meant the end of Joseph-Armand's Valcourt trials ­ and a chance to take the machine for a visit with his friend Maurice Ouimet, a Marie-Immaculée oblate and missionary among the Ojibwa peoples of Lansdowne House in Northern Ontario. Fascinated by the little vehicle, the natives try it almost non-stop for three days. Joseph-Armand is satisfied with the results, gives the vehicle to Father Ouimet as a gift, and returns to Valcourt to complete the project.

Father Ouimet

Production and marketing

Mass production of the Ski-Doo2 snowmobile begins in the autumn of 1959. It is immediately welcomed by missionaries, trappers, prospectors, surveyors, and other people who need to travel over snow in isolated regions. But the little $900 machine also finds a keen new clientele in sports and outdoor recreation lovers, who eventually become the reason for the snowmobile's immense popularity in the years to come.

After a modest start, demand increases from year to year as promotion and the sales network expand. In 1959-60, 225 units are produced; 250 in 1960-61, then 1200 in 1961-62, 2500 in 1962-63 and 8352 in 1963-64 ­ requiring numerous expansions to the Valcourt facilities.

Always concerned with self-sufficiency, in 1963 Joseph-Armand Bombardier establishes his company's second subsidiary, Roski Ltd., in Roxton Falls near Valcourt, for the manufacture of fibreglass parts required for the snowmobile hoods.

The dream is interrupted

Joseph-Armand Bombardier would only see the earliest signs of the phenomenal popularity of his snowmobile. His death on February 18, 1964 at the age of 56 ends a full and happy life. With his departure, the world loses an ingenious inventor and exceptional entrepreneur. In a moving letter to his children, he encourages them to pursue his work. The success of Bombardier Inc. and the humanitarian and social mission fulfilled by the J. Armand Bombardier Foundation show he had every reason to have confidence in them.

A model citizen

Success in no way diminishes Joseph-Armand Bombardier's social responsibility and attachment to his hometown. He recruits his workforce in Valcourt and respects the pace of life in the region, such as by allowing farmers to work their fields in the summer and take factory shifts in the winter. He also demands the best of himself and his employees, increasing their pride and sense of belonging.

Joseph-Armand takes an active part in the community life of Valcourt. He serves as municipal councillor, founds council 3207 of the Valcourt Knights of Columbus, and earns the title Knight of Saint-Grégoire-le-Grand for his support of Church endeavours.

Passionate about music, he is a member of the parish choir, and enjoys many happy moments singing with his children whom he accompanies on the piano. His love of music leads him to promote and finance the launch of an harmony in Valcourt, and his concern for education leads him to help and encourage youth to pursue their studies.

Knight of Columbus

 

Despite his need for solitude to dream, cogitate, design, invent, develop, and test, Joseph-Armand Bombardier always welcomes family, friends, employees, and fellow citizens who need a sympathetic ear, a helping hand, support, or advice.

Hunting and fishing are his ways of enjoying the natural world, which he loves and visits often while testing vehicles. He also enjoys flying, and buys a plane and learns to pilot it ­ maybe even dreaming of one day exploring air transport.


A prototype, 1957

View Joseph-Armand at the command of one of his prototypes 


The first Ski-Doo2 model snowmobile, marketed in 1959-1960, is equipped with wood skis and a helical spring suspension. It includes an all-rubber track and a centrifugal clutch made of only six moving parts. Driven by a four-stroke Kohler engine, its maximum speed is 40 kilometres per hour.


1960 sales brochure


Patent for the
snowmobile


Joseph-Armand piloting his plane

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