Rare 1926 Ford Model T Snowmobile has the White stuff
Have snow, will travel. That wasn’t always the case when it came to automobiles, but it was the basic idea behind the “original snowmobile,” a clever Ford Model T conversion kit that was created by Virgil White more than 100 years ago.
White was an inventor and authorized Ford dealer who serviced and sold Model Ts in West Ossipee, New Hampshire. In 1913, he patented a Snowmobile conversion kit for Model Ts, but he didn’t put it on the market until 1922, after he had “perfected it in every detail.” Henry Ford was impressed and allowed White to sell the kit exclusively through Ford dealers for $400 (a Model T cost about $300). White also offered a complete, already-converted Model T Snowmobile for $750.
White’s new-fangled Snowmobile conversion included the addition of skis up front and a second set of wheels in back so that each pair of rear wheels could operate heavy caterpillar tracks. According to the Model T Ford Snowmobile Club, the earliest units included tracks made of metal cleats joined by a heavy fabric; White later switched to all-metal tracks consisting of stamped steel shoes connected by chain links. A cast iron step sporting the “Snowmobile” insignia took the place of running boards, which were removed to allow room for the track system.
White claimed the Snowmobile could travel through 30 inches of snow at an average speed of 18 mph. (And it wasn’t just for snow, either. With the skis removed and the Model T’s front wheels in place, a Snowmobile could easily traverse mud and heavy sand.)
Typical Snowmobile customers were those who had a job to do no matter how severe the weather, people like doctors, rural mail carriers, grocers, and milkmen. According to Yankee magazine, a Snowmobile led the 1926 funeral procession for Calvin Coolidge’s father in Vermont; another went to subarctic Canada with explorer Donald MacMillan in 1927.
White produced about 70 Snowmobile kits the first year and continued to manufacture the conversions through 1925, when he sold the rights to Farm Specialty Manufacturing Company of New Holstein, Wisconsin. Farm Specialty turned up production and sold as many as 3300 Snowmobiles annually, but as the use of snowplows increased and made winter car travel easier, the market for the conversion kits dwindled. Farm Specialty shuttered its factory in 1929.
Today, a Model T Snowmobile is a rare find. This 1926 Ford Model T five-passenger Touring Snowmobile is even more special because it’s different from others we’ve seen—it not only has skis up front, but it kept its front wheels as well. It also wears removable side coverings.
Offered for $59,900 by Legendary Motorcar Company in Ontario, Canada, the Snowmobile is powered by a 177-cubic-inch inline four-cylinder engine and utilizes a planetary gearbox with two forward gears and one reverse gear. It underwent a complete restoration in 2014 that was performed by a marque expert in New Hampshire, right where it all began.
Let it snow.