Snow-Motor from 1926


Now that I’ve had a chance to think about a modern version of this I’ve come up with a few updates.

  1. PTO to hydraulic pump,  then use separate hydraulic motors left and right to drive the screws. This would allow much better feathering of the controls and eliminate the need for a clutch on each side and the jerkiness of the steering seen in the film. Did you notice in the Russian film full forward on one side and reverse on the other move the machine sideways!
  2. Lower center of gravity and wider foot print. I’ll scale the vehicle to match modern trucks, so it can fit on normal dirt roads.
  3. A cab for sure, and a utility bed on the rear for moving people and stuff. This will be a work of art as well, so think 20,000 leagues under the sea for style!
  4. I like how aggressive the Russian spiral is. Should I go amphibious too, and could this run on pavement? Wondering if a rubber dock bumper would hold up to the street and dirt in place of the steel spiral.


Recently British adventurers Steven Brooks and Graham Stratford built a specialized vehicle which could cross the Bering Straights from Alaska to Russia, and could traverse water, ice, snow, and the tangled masses of ice ridges that can occur in that area. It could also climb out of the water onto the ice shelf. Their adventure is showcased at the team’s Ice Challenger site. The vehicle was a Bombardier snow grooming vehicle, driven by tracks, to which was added a screw propulsion system.

More info from Patent Pending



The crew that helped me build the snail car (god bless their souls) has a side bet as to when I’ll pop the new project on them for this year, well….. here it is.

I want to build a Playa-Motor based on this 1926 snowmobile and I have most of the parts in my shop, so crew are you ready?


In the 1920s the Armstead Snow Motor was developed. When this was used to convert a Fordson tractor into a screw propelled vehicle with a single pair of cylinders; the combination became known as the Fordson Snow Devil. A film was made to show the capabilities of the vehicle as well as a Chevrolet car fitted with an Armstead Snow Motor.[4] The film clearly shows that the vehicle copes well in snow. Steering was effected by having each cylinder receive power from a separate clutch which, depending on the position of the steering gear, engages and disengages; this results a vehicle that is relatively maneuverable. The promotional film shows the Armstead snow motor hauling 20 tones of logs.

In January 1926, Time magazine reported:

“Having used the motor car for almost every other conceivable purpose, leading Detroit automobile makers have now organized a company entitled “Snow Motors Inc.,” to put out a machine which will negotiate the deepest snowdrifts at six to eight miles an hour. The new car will consist of a Ford tractor power-plant mounted on two revolving cylinders instead of wheels—something on the order of a steam roller. The machine has already proved its usefulness in deep snow previously unnavigable. One such machine has done the work which formerly required three teams. In Oregon a stage line uses a snow motor in its two daily round trips over the Mackenzie Pass between Eugene and Bend. Orders are already in hand from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Alaska. The Hudson Bay Co. has ordered a supply to maintain communications with its most northern fur-trading stations. The Royal Northwest Mounted Police have also gone into the market for snow motors, and may cease to be horsemen and become chauffeurs, to the deep regret of cinema people. A number of prominent motor makers have also been interested in the proposition from the angle of adapting the snow motors equipment to their ordinary models. Hudson, Dodge and Chevrolet are mentioned especially as interested in practical possibilities along this line.[5]”

“An an extant example is in the collection of the Heidrick Ag History Center in Woodland, California. This particular vehicle is said to have been used to haul mail from Truckee to North Lake Tahoe.[6]“

“Despite this interest, the Armstead Snow Motor was not a long-term commercial success.”

A modern variation was done by our very own SRL and is called the Screw Machine. Our variation would sink quite nicely in any depth of snow, but works great on glass.



From Russia
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