Joseph-Armand Bombardier was a Canadian inventor and businessman, and was the founder of Bombardier. His most famous invention was the snowmobile.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier was born in Valcourt, Québec — a small farming village in the Eastern Townships. The eldest of eight siblings, Bombardier discovered an ease for mechanics at an early age. At 13 years old, he built a miniature locomotive that was propelled by clock mechanisms he bought from a local jeweller. This was followed by toy tractors and boats he built for his younger siblings. He also connected an aunt's spinning wheel to a small steam engine and converted a rusty rifle into a miniature cannon.
On New Year’s Eve 1922, when he was 15 years old, Bombardier tested his first full-scale invention. He strapped a Model T Ford engine he had refurbished to the top of two wooden sleds hitched in tandem. The engine drove a hand-made wooden propeller, which thrust the vehicle through the snow. Though it ran for over a kilometre, his father ordered the machine dismantled because its open propeller could cause considerable injury.
The first B7 (B for Bombardier and 7 for 7 passengers) snowmobiles were sold during the winter of 1936-37 and were well received. A new plant able to produce more than 200 vehicles a year was built in 1940. A new 12-passenger model was made available in 1941, but demand was halted when Canada entered World War II. Bombardier offered his expertise to the Canadian government and started producing specialized military vehicles for the Allies.
After the war, business declined when the Quebec government began clearing snow from secondary roads in 1948. Bombardier went on to build smaller snowmobiles during the 1950s and developed a new market for recreational products for one or two people. Barely 200 snowmobiles were sold when the model was launched in 1959, but by the time of Bombardier's death in 1964 the idea was a success and more than 8200 units were sold annually.