SPORT ONE PIECE AT A TIME.
LETTER FROM ROBIN NODWELL SHOWS THAT
SNOSCOOTS SNOWMOBILES WERE MADE FOR...
FALL 1964 / WINTER 1965.
TRIALS: An obscure brand
grew up on the prairies of Canada. My passion for education, demonstration
and restoration has me attracted to
machines manufactured in the Western Canadian Provinces. My
friends north of the border love to
me “farm auction specials” --- their term for a rusty specimen of an obscure
old snowmobile that nobody else
bid on at the machinery sales they attend.
is a tale of the lowly Robin Nodwell SNO SCOOT, made for three years in
Sno Scoot brand rated one of 24 chapters in the large book, AS THE SNOW
FLIES and will be
in Pierre Pellerin’s SNOWMOBILE HISTORY Part 3 when published.
Robin Nodwell Company made large equipment for Canadian oil companies.
specialized in huge tracked vehicles to support oil exploration in the
bush and muskeg conditions of Northern Alberta.
unlike Armand Bombardier, Bruce Nodwell received several patents for tracked
vehicles and was awarded the
of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor, “for his contribution to the
opening of the Canadian North through his
and development of various types of tracked vehicles”. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Nodwell
the years I have been fortunate to be able to speak with the manufacturer’s
son in Alberta and the production manager,
retired in British Columbia, to learn more about the motivation behind
their snowmobile project and
experiences. Apparently, by 1965 the Calgary Company felt that they should
enter the snowmobile marketplace.
original company records, I acquired a feasibility study that spoke glowingly
about the potential growth in snowmobiling.
report compared the Sno Scoot prototype to eight other manufacturers and
concluded that it was as good as or better than
competition. Marketing was to be two fold --- traditional motorsports
distributors and a major merchandiser.
models were sold at Simpson Sears stores in Canada.)
cost estimates were based on 5,000 or 8,000 units per year, at a cost of
$ 600 and retail price @ $ 875.
of this turned out to be optimistic. In a production span of three
model years an estimated 475 were built.
it was discovered impossible to build them at $ 600. The manufacturer’s
son told me that he remembered a
rant at the dinner table one evening when Bruce Nodwell lamented that there
was no way to build their
for $ 600, which apparently Ski Doo was managing to do out east.
cost constraints were crippling. Subsequently, most Sno Scoots were
built very crudely:
exhaust was routed by flex pipe down into a tunnel cavity directly in front
that was stuffed with raw fiberglass insulation.
gas tank. Instead, a fiberglass bowl was molded to the underside
of the hood.
continuous track. Not even a piano hinge to seam the track.
the track material was simply overlapped at one cleat.
key switch. A single toggle operates spark and lights.
shafts made of tubing that was too thin.
of these deficiencies were remedied in their final model year (1967).
it played out, however, the upgrades were “too little and too late”.
years at my place, I used to enjoy showing my snowmobile buddies these
unsophisticated and peculiar features.
however, I got an itch to restore them. After a decade, I had both
( 1966 & 1967 snoscoot ) model years and
blue 1966 Snow King and went at it. In fact, seven un-restored machines
were chosen for refurbishing.
were in poor shape.
one prized 1966 model that I secured was never used. I bought it
from a Calgary kid who was just given it by a
who had won it at a 1966 golf tournament, but never removed it from the
the power of the Internet. I discovered the kid’s post on a Canadian
ATV blog, when
posted, “SNO SCOOT – what is it and what’s it worth?”
greatest restoration challenge came with the chassis units and track/bogies.
Once all stripped down, it became apparent
a major design flaw was lack of support at the chassis where the secondary
clutch was mounted.
chassis was cracked and ripped at this juncture. The fix required
reinforcement plates welded both above and below
top of the tunnel. It became apparent that the secondary clutch mounting
was misaligned at the factory. In one instance,
engine mount plate had to be moved over nearly an inch so that the two
clutches were aligned correctly!
two original tracks were usable. Three bogie wheel sets were reused.
Other than that, early Alouette and Ski Doo drive-train elements were found
to fit, or be modified to fit. With these other brands the entire
under-chassis drive was
over, including front driver, bogies, rear shaft, “scissor” rear suspension,
track and all.
original steering shafts were too light. In almost every case, the
shafts were twisted and bent. At one point in their lives, someone
had tried to turn the skis that were frozen to the ground. The skis
stayed stuck, and the shafts failed. Most were farmer-welded and
could not be reused. Special thanks to Mike Hubinak in Bend Oregon
who took on the project,
a special jig and hand crafted all new handlebar sets.
decision was made to install mufflers. The original set-up with flex
pipe and fiberglass batting was too crude and way too noisy. It was
discovered that a Ski Doo muffler of that era would fit and were readily
available. Another “upgrade” was to
a brake onto the secondary clutches.
trusty old JLO L252 engines were no problem at all. Even those that
came to me after sitting outside on the
Prairie were all able to run by cleaning the points and rebuilding their
tiny Tillotson HL carburetors.
1967 model had a Sachs engine. Like all manufacturers in the day,
they used whatever
European engine was available at the time.
room for a real steel gas tank under the hood, so a decision was made to
stay with the original setup.
was a simple “salad bowl” shaped fiberglass cavity, fiberglassed onto the
underside of the hood.
must hold a couple of gallons of gas. In practice, I have been advised
to install a drain spigot on the hose leading to the
and drain-down the entire tank for summer storage. Also, I will unscrew
the cap to vent any remaining gas tankfumes. I have learned about
other old snow machine brands where the gas tank was fiberglass, exposed
gas fumes can tarnish the paint finish or leave a ghost image.
there you have it. This Calgary manufacturer was trying to emulate
Armand Bombardier and his Ski Doo manufacturing
It didn’t work out and after three years, Robin Nodwell decided to stick
with his strong suit – manufacture of oil exploration vehicles.
S. Some old Sno Scoots did migrate to the USA.
VALDI FOR THE GREAT PICTURES AND HISTORY OF THE SNOSCOOT AND SNOW KING.