Nfld. & Labrador

Restoration revving up on Labrador's 1st snowmobile

A rare piece of Labrador history is slowly taking shape, as machinist Frank Noseworthy is painstakingly reconstructing a 1927 Ford Model T snowmobile.

A restoration expert is hard at work, bringing a piece of Labrador's history to life

Frank Noseworthy is restoring this century-old Ford Model T, which had been converted into a snowmobile. (Submitted by Frank Noseworthy)

A rare piece of Labrador history is slowly taking shape in a barn on the Northern Peninsula.

Machinist Frank Noseworthy is painstakingly reconstructing a 1927 Ford Model T snowmobile that was discovered in Nain two years ago.

It's an intricate mechanical puzzle, and for Noseworthy it's both a job and a labour of love.

This Ford Model T was converted to a snowmobile for use by Chicago scientists who were working in Labrador in the early 20th century. (CBC)

"It keeps my mind occupied all the time, thinking, where am I going to get this part? Where am I going to get that part How can I restore it?" Noseworthy told CBC's Labrador Morning.

"The thing is, this has such providence, this vehicle, it's absolutely necessary that every piece of it be restored as is. None of this buying modern replacement tin."

Labrador's first snowmobile

The snowmobile is a nearly 100-year-old Ford Model T that was converted to ride through snow on skis. Chicago scientists used it during an expedition to Labrador, and it was later abandoned in 1928.

The Model T was discovered in Nain by archaeologists in 2014. (Submitted by Jamie Brake)

A team of archeologists in Nunatsiavut discovered the machine in August 2014.  And almost immediately, they started making plans to get it up and running again.

"This is absolutely restorable … it's totally in the realm of possibility to get this thing running again," said Jamie Brake, one of the archeologists who made the find.

Labrador children hitch a ride on a Model T, converted into a snowmobile. (File photo)

"I think people would be pretty excited about their history and heritage if they were seeing this, the original snowmobile, in Labrador, driving around."

Searching for spare parts

Noseworthy was hired bring the Model T back to life, but his commitment to authenticity has resulted in exhausting searches for original parts.

Archaeologist Jamie Brake shows off the Model T snowmobile, shortly after it was discovered. (CBC)

Recently, Noseworthy was stymied in his restoration because a particular part, unique to the Model T, could not be located: a king-pin bracket, which sits on the front axle and carries the ski.

"I was actually thinking seriously about having to reconstruct them, to try to get them as original as possible, which would have taken hours and cost an exorbitant amount of money." he said.

Machinist and restoration expert Frank Noseworthy hopes to have the Model T up and running within a year. (Submitted by Frank Noseworthy)

Noseworthy is in constant competition for parts with other hobbyists around North America, who are all hunting for the same rare parts.

But this week, Noseworthy said he got lucky.  A friend in Minnesota found an advertisement from a man in Ontario who was selling Model T parts.

"Contacted him and sure as shoot, this guy had those particular parts."

Noseworthy said the king-pin bracket is the biggest remaining piece of the puzzle, and he now hopes the total restoration will be complete within a year.

With files from Labrador Morning