Up and Over: the Wildest Snow-Going Vehicles, Past and Present

Over the years, hearty folk have tried to devise ways of getting around when the snow falls.

Some of their creations are incredibly inventive, some are just plain nuts, and a whole lot of them were built by people who had friends with movie cameras. Thankfully, a lot of those films survive online.

Fordson Snow-Motor
At first, the concept of a tractor with two massive, sheet-metal screw drives seems wildly insane, but when you see this thing in action, you get an understanding of how ingenious it really was.

Fordson Snow-Motor vintage photo
The Fordson Snow-Motor effortlessly cruises over a hoe-handle’s worth of deep snow, and allows a guy in a fedora to go anywhere he needs to, regardless of the conditions. The only problem must’ve been getting your rain slicker caught in those massive augers.

We’re pretty interested in motorized stuff, but occasionally, something human-powered comes along that we’re in love with.

KTRAK Snowmobile Mountain Bike
Case in point, the KTRAK, a Canadian-designed kit that affixes to any mountain bike, turning your pedal-powered ride into a tracked vehicle capable of negotiating groomed trails. Based on the video, getting used to the absence of the gyroscopic effect of the spinning wheel up front is a little odd, but other than that, it looks like it works pretty well. We’re also not sure how it works in those boots, but whatever.

McGill University Electric Snowmobile
Snowmobiles are great, but nothing spoils the unmatched beauty of a winter landscape like the droning of a three-cylinder, gas-powered snow machine. In recent years, they’ve at least moved along from the old two-strokes, but they’re still pretty loud.

McGill University Electric Snowmobile
Electrical Engineering students at Montreal, Canada’s McGill University came up with a solution: An electric snowmobile that runs more or less silently over the snow.

The students built the snowmobile around the e-TORQ DC Brushless motor because of its high torque-to-weight ratio. Also, brushless motors are maintenance free and extremely reliable due to the fact that the phase commutation is achieved by an electric circuit instead of a conventional brush/commutator system. Since the students built it in 2005, it was put into use the Greenland Summit Station team of scientists, allowing them to collect snow samples without a trace of CO2. The snowmobile allowed scientists to double their productivity by carrying more and traveling more than they previously did on cross-country skis.

1975 Thiokol Imp
When you think “Ultimate Snow Machines,” the name synonymous with their production is the Thiokol Chemical Corporation of Logan, Utah, right? Uhh…yeah.

1975 Thiokol Imp snow machine
Thiokol was a chemical corporation that made a foul-smelling adhesive compound that clogged a sink in the laboratory and was completely resistant to any kind of solvent. As it turned out, that substance was a type of synthetic rubber, and the company went on to use it as the stabilizer in solid-fuel rockets.
Along the way, the company also built tons of these Ford-powered snow machines, along with ski-lift equipment through 1978. Interestingly, the snow machine division was sold that year to Logan Manufacturing Company (LMC), which was owned by John DeLorean.

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