Moto-Ski snowmobiles were very popular “family sleds” marketed from 1963 through 1985. The company was acquired by Griffin Industries in 1969 and was sold again to Bombardier two years later. The new owner virtually sold their popular Ski-Doo snowmobiles under the brand name of Moto-Ski until 1985. If you want to learn more about these iconic sleds or are even considering buying one, you are in the right place.
We at PowerSportsGuide compiled all you need to know about vintage Moto-Ski sleds!
Moto-Ski Snowmobile History
Moto-Ski was a well-known snowmobile brand manufactured by Les Industries Bouchard.
The company was founded by a Canadian businessman named Charles Eugene Bouchard. He also had interests in other business lines like pharmacy and industrial machines but turned his attention towards the snowmobile industry in the early ‘60s.
The first prototype was built by Raoul Pelletier and Jean Yves Bélanger in LaPocatière, Québec. This machine was known as the “Le Cupidon” and featured a cleated track and a large windshield.
Mr. Bouchard was satisfied with the result and gave the green light for moving ahead. The design of the prototype was polished, so production of Moto-Ski snowmobiles started in 1962.
Surprisingly, the brand name of these sleds was selected by a naming contest managed by one of the local schools, called La Pacatiere. The name that the school originally offered was Ski-Motorise but later it was adjusted to Moto-Ski.
Instead, these sleds were decent user-friendly machines that offered a reasonable but moderate performance. Because of this, the brand became widely popular among families.
The first Moto-Ski was introduced in 1963 and was often called “Tin Cab” Moto-Ski. The body of the machine including the hood was made of metal, which is where this name came from.
This vehicle weighed 250 pounds and was powered by a 148cc JLO engine. This tiny 2-stroke power mill cranked out a moderate 8 HP.
The orange Moto-Ski sleds became instantly popular thanks to their durability and reliability.
In the first two model years, the sleds were listed by their engine displacement. For instance, the Moto-Ski 300 was powered by a 300cc Hirth engine, which produced 12 HP.
The three models in the 1965 Moto-Ski lineup were the Zephyr, Capri, and the tiny Cadet. However, these names were surprisingly given in the middle of the season. The original names of the machines were the 200H of the long track and 100J of the snort track sleds.
These sleds were powered by 300cc, 13 HP Hirth, as well as 247cc, 9 HP JLO engines.
The smallest sled in the offering was the 1965 Moto-Ski Cadet, which was the world’s first mid-sized snowmobile!
According to Motoskisnowmobiles.com, in this model year Moto-Ski sold 2,365 sleds, 235 to the U.S. and 2,130 to Canada.
These sleds featured a fiberglass hood, a large chrome bumper and grab rails, as well as leaf spring front suspensions. The fuel tank was the part of the body and the rear compartment was also made of steel.
Moto-Ski was also among the first in the industry to offer sleds with long tracks. These cleated tracks featured a “center driven” design.
For the ‘67 season Moto-Ski sleds got a slightly different design but they were still close to their predecessors. Some of these models were available with the new 300cc Hirth engine that offered 15 HP. They still featured leaf spring front suspensions but were already equipped with snow flaps.
The seat was wrapped with a blue pleated cover while the cushion on the backrest was attached with snaps and leather tabs.
In the ’67 model year, Moto-Ski sold 8,234 units, 2,880 to U.S., and 5,354 to Canada. The Cadet wasn’t offered in this year but made a comeback in the following year.
The 1968 Moto-Ski lineup was rounded up to four families: MS-18, Cadet, Zephyr, Capri. These sleds were offered with six different engine options, which were as follows:
- 246cc, 10 HP Hirth 82R – Cadet
- 297cc, 17 HP JLO L297
- 300cc, 16 HP Hirth 190R
- 372cc, 21 HP JLO L372
- 372cc, 20 HP Hirth 160R
- 600cc, 30 HP Hirth 170R
All of the new models except the Cadet featured rubberized track cleats, which were much less prone to breaking. The sleds also utilized a new “wrap-around” bumper design, improved passenger handrails, plastic trunks, and blue and white seat colors.
By 1969 production had already exceeded 12,000 units a year but after the unfortunate death of the founder, Moto-ski was sold to Florida-based Griffin Industries.
Sadly, this acquisition did more harm than good to the company’s reputation. This is because the new owner was much more profit-oriented and did not pay attention to development.
The 1969 Moto-Ski models were available with 9 different engine options from 246cc up to 634cc. These 2-stroke power sources were manufactured by Hirth and JLO.
The offering was expanded with a new model line, called SM-Racer. This stock race sled was actually a Moto-Ski Capri equipped with a special exhaust, a speedo, and a sport seat.
The most powerful model in this model year was the limited-edition Capri, which was offered with 500cc as well as 634cc Hirth twin engines.
All of the ‘69 sleds featured a removable plastic fuel tank and a cam-driven clutch. The front bumper was made of two bars while the rear bumper wrapped around the machine and worked as a handgrip.
The Golden Age
Just like the entire snowmobile industry, the biggest years of Moto-Ski were the early ‘70s. During these years, the company sold more than 30,000 units annually. Production peaked in 1971 reaching 37,449 sleds.
The 1970s models were offered with 15 different engines. The most powerful “SM-Racer engines” were a 760cc JLO and a 793cc Hirth triple that cranked out an amazing 80 HP!
That year Moto-Ski introduced two new models, the Mini-Sno and the Grand Prix. The latter was a Capri with a special clutch and a metal paint job.
The entire lineup got a facelift, which meant a different design, more padded seats, a two-lens taillight, and rounded skis. The reverse system also debuted on the MS-18 family, but ultimately just a couple of the sleds were sold with this option.
In 1971 the Moto-Ski Bullet debuted, which was powered by a KMS (Kebec Moto-Ski) engine. Unfortunately, this sled faced serious quality issues.
Other Moto-Ski models got some exterior changes, new colors, and a handlebar-mounted shut-off switch. The Mini-Sno and the Grand-Prix families were manufactured with engine covers.
The company ran some popular commercial campaigns like the “Tougher Seven Ways” that tried to enhance Moto-Ski’s reputation. In one of the famous ads the sleds were virtually ridden on bare rocks and a roller coaster.
Despite these clever ad campaigns, Moto-Ski struggled to become profitable.
Although production peaked in 1971 and Moto-Ski became one of the leading brands on the market, it was actually in bad financial straits.
To make the situation worse Dufrane Motor Distributors terminated cooperation with the company.
Finally, Moto-Ski was sold to the competitor Bombardier (the parent company of Ski-Doo) in 1971. Along with the brand name, the patents and all of the assets were also acquired.
Although the Canadian company kept the Moto-Ski brand and operated it as a separate division, these sleds were not real Moto-Ski products anymore.
Instead, the new sleds were virtually equivalent to Ski-Doo models but were sold under the brand name of Moto-Ski.
Because of this, the original Moto-Ski snowmobiles were virtually discontinued after the 1971 season, even if the brand name was kept alive for more than a decade.
Finally, Bombardier stopped production of Moto-Ski snowmobiles in 1985.
Moto-Ski Snowmobile Models
There were several great Moto-Ski snowmobiles manufactured over the decades, but the most famous ones were as follows:
- 1962 Cupidon (prototype)
- 1965 Moto-Ski Zephyr (originally: model 200)
- 1965 Moto-Ski Capri (originally: model 100)
- 1966 Moto-Ski Cadet
- 1968 Moto-Ski MS-18
- 1969 Moto-Ski SM-Racer
- 1970 Moto-Ski Grand Prix
- 1970 Moto-Ski Mini-Sno
- 1971 Moto-Ski Bullet
Moto-Ski Snowmobiles for Sale
It’s safe to say that Moto-Ski snowmobiles were among the most popular snowmobiles of their time. That’s why these machines are still popular among vintage snowmobile fans and collectors.
If you’re considering buying one, you should start your research on online classified ad sites. There are many great sources to choose from!
With a bit of luck, you can find a vintage Moto-Ski snowmobile for sale on Craigslist, Snowmobiletrader, or other dedicated snowmobile classified sites.
Furthermore, you may want to check out some Moto-Ski snowmobile forums or even Facebook groups.
Besides some good deals, you can find a ton of useful info on these iconic machines!
Takeaway – FAQs About Vintage Moto-Ski Snowmobiles
As a takeaway, we’ve collected some frequent questions about vintage Moto-Ski snowmobiles, with the shortest possible answers.
Who Made the Moto-Ski Snowmobile?
Moto-Ski snowmobiles were originally manufactured by Les Industries Bouchard in LaPocatière, Québec. The company was founded by Charles Eugene Bouchard, but the sleds were built by Raoul Pelletier and Jean Yves Bélanger. Because of financial issues, Moto-Ski was sold to Griffin Industries in 1969.
When was Moto-Ski Acquired by Bombardier?
Two years later, in 1971 Moto-Ski was acquired by the competitor Bombardier that already owned and managed the popular Ski-Doo snowmobile brand.
Why did Moto-Ski Stop Making Snowmobiles?
From the 1972 model year, Moto-Ski snowmobiles were actually Ski-Doo models with different exterior designs. This meant that Canadian Bombardier marketed its sleds under two separate brand names and through two dealer networks for 14 years. Finally, the company decided to cease the entire Moto-Ski brand and move its focus to the more popular Ski-Doo family.
When did Moto-Ski Stop Making Snowmobiles?
Production of Moto-Ski snowmobiles was officially stopped in 1985.
What Years did Moto-Ski Make Snowmobiles?
Moto-Ski snowmobiles were in production from 1963 through 1985.