5 strange snowmobiles

As Christmas gets closer, wide-eyed children look to the sky in the hope that some festive snow flurries will bring us a white Christmas - which is all well and good but once that first blanket of snow has been mulched into a slushy mess, the novelty soon wears off. Let’s be clear here, snow on the road is a nightmare. No one enjoys digging their car out from under a foot of snow first thing in the morning, no one enjoys driving on road surfaces that are more reminiscent of ice rinks, and no one enjoys the possibility of being stuck overnight in a snow drift. So what if, instead of reaching for the ice-scraper and de-icer, you could step into one of these beauties to make short work of the school run?

Bombadier Snow Coach

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If there’s something the brilliantly named Armand Bombadier doesn’t know about snow vehicles, the chances are it’s not worth knowing. After years spent designing snow planes, Bombadier got his feet back on the ground and set about designing snowmobiles –his series of truck-based vehicles powered by caterpillar tracks and steered by skis was to become the basis of the modern day snowmobile. The company’s greatest legacy though was coming up with the design for the modern day Ski-Doo, which would actually have been the Ski-Dog had the original sign writer not misread the name.

Soviet Snowmobile Sever-2

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Just look at this thing! The shell of an old Cadillac, propped up by two skis at the front and powered by a massive propeller at the back -if Batman had a snowmobile this is surely what it would look like. This vehicle is not straight out of the Batcave, however, but is in fact from behind the iron curtain – the Russians ploughed ahead in snowmobile design for much of the last century. Initially developed to deliver mail and transport equipment across Russia’s harsh frozen landscapes, the vehicles were also picked up by the military – imagine seeing a fleet of these things bombing towards your snow-bound bunker? – and could be modified to run on wheels when the snow wasn’t so severe.

KA-30 Soviet Snowmobile

KA30

It seems that when it comes to snowmobile design, the Soviets love nothing more than to strap a massive propeller to a regular land vehicle and throw on some skis for good measure. And so hot on the heels of the Server-2 came the KA-30, arguably the best snowmobile ever invented. Not only could this vehicle be used as a passenger vehicle and an ambulance, it could be modified to run on rivers and waterways by adding floating equipment to skis or turned into a hovercraft by attaching hydroplaning equipment. All very impressive, but the claim that it was the “dream of the Soviet youth from the polar regions” seems a bit far-fetched, unless this was the only way said youths could get to and from the pubs in those days.

Antarctic Snow Cruiser

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In reality, the Antarctic Snow Cruiser was a complete disaster – as the vehicle was being unloaded from its carrier one of its wheels broke through a wooden ramp and once freed and on the snow it not only failed to get going but actually sank three feet into the snow. After the vehicle was freed and snow chains attached it did embark on a 92-mile trek – in reverse, as traction was a problem unless the Snow Cruiser was driven backwards – during which the scientists on board were able to take ice core samples and carry out cosmic ray measurements. Funding for the project was pulled and the vehicle abandoned in the Antarctic and despite being found under a deep layer of snow in 1958, it disappeared again and is now at rest at the bottom of the Southern Ocean. So while it looked the part – any vehicle that carries a light aircraft is going to look impressive – and had features such as retracting wheels that were heated by engine exhaust gases, it was by and large pretty useless.

Tucker 300 series Sno-Kitten

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The least imposing sounding of snowmobiles, and also the one that looks most like a Thomas the Tank Engine character, the Tucker Sno-Kitten is a reworking of the popular Sno-Cat, a four-track snowmobile that have been the preferred mode of transport for Arctic and Antarctic explorers for over half a century. This smaller, two-track version is designed for use in snow and swamp-mud and the tracks are designed to eliminate clogging and have superior traction and climbing ability. The best thing about the Sno-Kitten though, is that it really is a ringer for Terence the Tractor.

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