The tireless inventor
June 22, 1967
Born in 1907, Joseph-Armand Bombardier shows a genius for tinkering early in life. He's only 10-years-old when he takes a cigar box and a broken alarm clock and makes a working model of a tractor. As he gets older, Armand dreams of building a vehicle that can glide over snow — a fitting goal for a boy growing up in rural Valcourt, Que. At 15 Armand designs and builds his first snow vehicle which is basically a large sleigh powered by a Ford Model T engine with a wooden airplane propeller at the back.
He and his brother drive the noisy contraption through Valcourt before their father orders them to stop. Undeterred, Armand keeps working on his idea while he earns a living as an auto mechanic. His big breakthrough comes in the mid-1930s when he develops a drive system that will revolutionize travel in snow and swamp. In 1937 Armand sells 12 snowmobiles — named the B7 — and opens the company l'Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée five years later.
• Bombardier attended school at a seminary in Sherbrooke, Que. He was expected to enter the priesthood but convinced his parents he would make a better mechanic.
•On Aug. 7, 1929 he married Yvonne Labrecque, with whom he had six children.
•The death of his son Yvon in the mid-1930s further motivated J. Armand Bombardier to complete his snowmobile invention. The young boy died of an appendicitis attack when a snowstorm prevented getting him to a hospital.
•Adalbert Landry and Antoine Morisset of Quebec's Gaspé region made a rudimentary snow vehicle in the mid-1920s. They converted an automobile by putting skis in the front and a caterpillar belt over the double rear wheels. In 1924 they travelled nearly 600 kilometres to show off their vehicle at a Montreal automobile show.