Knez Motor Sled From 1931

The Croatian Technical Museum Nikola Tesla has a very interesting motor sled from 1931. Built by local mechanic, Marko Knez it once had a Maybach engine and at one point it even featured wheels in place of skids.

Back in the early 20th century there were two different approaches on how to deal with motorised transportation on snow or ice-covered surfaces. One was to convert an existing automobile by equipping it with half-tracks and skis made of metal. As the Model T Ford Snowmobile Club website shows, there were plenty of companies in America which offered conversion kits in the 1920s.

Another direction was to develop a purpose-built vehicle: Carl Eliason of Sayner, Wisconsin began building his snowmobile in 1924 from bicycle parts, skis and a front mounted, liquid cooled, 2.5 HP outboard motor. Much like a dog sled, the machine slid over snow on slide rail track guides and wooden cleats while riders steered with a rope. Eliason received the first snow machine patent three years later and went on to manufacture a series of such vehicles

Eliason snowmobile (Source:

Marko Knez was a mechanic in Zagreb, who repaired everything from sewing machines and typewriters to cars in the 1920s. His first patent was about a special motorcycle sidecar suspension. This sidecar was realised with the help of a local carriage maker, Kos.

Knez and Kos teamed up in 1927 again to realise a more advanced device, a snowmobile. It was to be a sled was covered with aerodynamic body. A rear-mounted engine drove a propeller.

The vehicle under development, powered by a BMW motorcycle engine (Source: Nikolas Tesla Museum)

Between 1927-1931 Knez experimented with various power units, including Megola and Maybach.

However lack of snow in the country and issues with the vehicle prompted Knez to convert his device.

Something you don’t see every day: a sled on wheels! (Source: Nikolas Tesla Museum)

Disillusioned, Knez eventually gave up his experiments. Later he donated his prototype to the Nikolas Tesla Museum

Sources: Marijo Zrna from the Nikolas Tesla Museum and Daniel Tomičić

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