Matchbox Snow Trac Tractor

by Peter
Categories: Diecast models, Matchbox, Tracked vehicles, Volkswagen
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The Matchbox Snow Trac is one of those vehicles that I am only really familiar with through having a Matchbox version way back in the 70′s and actually until recently assumed it was quite a big machine used in the artic, but no, it’s no bigger than the average family car.

The Matchbox Snow Trac was released in 1966 and made 3 different versions of the Aktiv Fischer Snow Trac ST4. All were very similar in appearance, 2 of them used the same moulds. All of the Matchbox toys are modeled after the 2 large wheel Aktiv Snow Trac; this version has 2 large rubber tyres, one at the rear, and the third about 24″ aft of the drive sprocket. Lesney designated their toy No35 in the Matchbox series, all were supplies with white tracks although black tracks have been seen.

  • Version 1 had the words SNOW TRAC embossed in the sides of the tractor
  • Version 2 had no identification of the Snow Trac at all with smooth sides
  • Version 3 had white decals reading SNOW TRAC on the smooth sides

Matchbox also produced a very limited run of cardboard puzzles featuring agricultural equipment and vehicles, one such puzzle featured the Snow Trac.

A few pictures set in real snow and the Matchbox model

The real vehicle

In 1954, Lars Larsson, the chief design engineer for a Swedish farm equipment company, AB Westeråsmaskiner, decided to develop a tracked vehicle to take him and his brother on fishing trips in the winter. The company put his snow vehicle into production in 1957. It uses a unique steering mechanism called a variator that allows the steering of a tracked vehicle to use a traditional automotive steering wheel instead of levers.
The Aktiv Fischer Snow Trac is a tracked vehicle, which was manufactured from 1957 to 1981 in Sweden. It runs on two rubber tracks powered by a Volkswagen flat 4 industrial boxer style engine and is suitable for both deep snow and soft surface use. The engine developed roughly 40 horsepower, but that varied from year to year as the earlier models developed 36hp, and later models developed 54hp. With a length of approximately 12′ (3.6 meters) and width of 6’2″ (1.9 meters) the vehicle is the size of a small car.

The Snow Trac is made up largely of off the shelf automotive and industrial parts supplied by Volkswagen including an air cooled flat 4 industrial version of VW Beetle engine, a VW Bus transmission, and hundreds of surplus parts including steering wheels, shift knobs, and lighting components. A proprietary drive variator was adapted to the transmission to allow the use of a steering wheel to control the tracks. The variator steplessly changes the speed of the left and right tracks, accelerating one track while slowing the other to affect a turn. Unlike traditional tracked vehicle steering, the brakes are not used to turn, increasing efficiency and reducing brake wear. Production of the air cooled VW engine ceased in 1981 in Europe and this effectively led to the demise of the Snow Trac, which ended factory production in Sweden.

In the standard cabin configuration, only the driver is facing forward. The interior is equipped with side-facing bench seats and there are enough seats for 7 people (including the driver). The entrance is by a door attached at the tail. There are no other entrances, but many are equipped with a large sunroof, which could double as an emergency exit. Unlike most other snow vehicles, the Snow Trac uses a traditional steering wheel instead of levers. Early brochures describe it as follows: As easy to drive as a car.

While manufactured in Sweden, the Snow Trac proved to be a successful export and approximately 550 Snow Tracs were shipped to Alaska. At least 200 units were shipped to Canadian telephone utility Northwest Telephone in the Yukon Territory, Canada. Approximately 200 Snow Tracs ended up at the Canadian National Railway, and Snow Tracs were also located at each of the microwave sites along the length of the ALCAN (Alaska Canadian Highway). At least 400 more Snow Tracs were known to have been shipped to the Lower 48 states of the United States. At least 200 were known to have been shipped to Scotland.

1 Comment »

  1. Danika Asher says:

    hey, great blog! love it :)

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