BRP: A HISTORY STUDDED BY INNOVATIONS
PART 1: JOSEPH ARMAND BOMBARDIER, A PRODIGY
Joseph Armand Bombardier, founder of the company bearing his name and that today resonates internationally, would have hardly believed the rapid expansion that his company took. As a Spyder passionate, I will mainly focus, in this series of four texts, on the history of this recreational products company now called BRP that became a separate entity and that is not affiliated to Bombardier Transportation.
J-A Bombardier was born in Valcourt, a tiny village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec on April 16th, 1907. Already at an early age, Joseph Armand finds ways to motorize, in his spare time, children’s toys including a locomotive propelled by a clock mechanism. Bombardier demonstrates early on an interest in the development of a recreational vehicle. However, motorisation constraints force him to push back his plans.
As a young teenager, Joseph Armand gets as a “gift” from his father Alfred, an old Ford T-Series engine, which is unusable according to his father. Alfred hopes, with this gift, to keep his young son away from the engine of his own automobile that Joseph Armand enjoyed taking apart and reassembling. On New Yearâ€™s Eve of 1922, Joseph Armand, who formed a team of volunteer workers including his brother Leopold and some of his cousins, brings out for the first time from his fatherâ€™s workshop a ski sled powered by the old Ford engine miraculously restored and equipped with a propeller. This will be the prototype for the Skidoo, which will take another 40 years before launching. Joseph Armand was only 15 years old.
His father, who intended that the eldest of the family join the priesthood, as dictated by the French Canadian society at that time, quickly understood that it would not be possible. He accepted that his son quit college to gain experience in mechanical garages in Stukely, in the Eastern Townships and soon after, to take classes in mechanics and automotive electricity in Montreal.
At age 19, J-A Bombardier opens his garage in Valcourt. His father lends him money to build the modest building and to purchase equipment. The young mechanic is quickly recognized for his talent to repair various mechanical parts ranging from car engines to bench saws and agricultural equipment.
Winters being less busy, Bombardier begins working on the project to create a means of locomotion that would move the snow from village to village and break the isolation.