Whose Bright Idea Was It? True Stories of Inventions

Hundreds of true stories of invention, some the result of determination, some inspired by strange circumstances...and many that happened entirely by accident!


Selected, Canadian Toy Testing Council, 25 Great Books, 2001
Selected, CBC Radio Recommended Reading List
Shortlisted, Red Cedar Book Award (non-fiction), 1999
Shortlisted, Silver Birch Award (non-fiction), 1998
Selected, Our Choice Canadian Children’s Book Centre, 1998
Selected, Emergency Librarian: top outstanding books for 1997



When Armand Bombardier's father gave him a car, he was pleased and thankful. So thankful, in fact, that he promptly yanked the motor out of it.

Bombardier loved machinery and was a genius when it came to fixing things. For a long time an idea had simmered in his mind. Valcourt, Quebec, the tiny town where he lived, received so much snow each winter that buildings and roads lay buried under huge drifts. Travel was impossible. What people needed, Bombardier decided, was a machine that rode above the snow. He rigged the car motor to the back of the family sleigh, then attached an old airplane propeller to it. When he cranked up the motor, the whirling propeller pushed the sleigh forward. At full throttle, the contraption flew over the snow.

Bombardier built his first snowmobile in 1922, when he was only fifteen, but it was rickety and dangerous, and his father ordered it dismantled. Not one to be discouraged, he spent years making the snowmobile safer and more practical. In 1928 he created an improved model using an automobile frame with skis in place of the front tires. Instead of a propeller, four wheels at the back moved rubber belts that gripped the snow and pushed the machine forward. In 1937 he received a patent and started the Bombardier Snowmobile Company.

In the beginning his snowmobiles were bulky enclosed machines that resembled buses on skis. The largest of these, the B-12, was driven by a Ford V-8 engine and carried twelve passengers. In 1959 Bombardier made a smaller, lighter model that used a two-stroke engine, was pushed by a single wide belt, and carried one or two passengers. Believing this snowmobile would replace dogsleds used in the far north, Bombardier called it the Ski-Dog, then eventually renamed it the Ski-Doo.

The Ski-Doo revolutionized the snowmobile industry. Small and manoeuvrable, it provided fun and reliable transportation for snow-bound travelers around the world. Armand Bombardier, ever the tinkerer, continued to perfect his invention right up until his death in 1964.


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