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Zamboni® Ice Resurfacers & the Jeep

• CATEGORIES: Features, Fire/Police/Industry Vehicles, Museums • TAGS: .

UPDATE: We had a busy, long weekend, Normal updates resume on Tuesday morning. In the meantime, here’s a rerun from 2010.

Eureka, Utah is a very small town.  I imagine it was even smaller when Frank Zamboni was born in 1901.  From those humble beginnings, Frank grew up to create one of the most iconic service vehicles ever:  The Zamboni® Ice Resurfacer.  I’m not sure why they have entered the public’s imagination in the way they have, but if you say Zamboni®, people know what the vehicle does.

In fact, the Frank J. Zamboni company is legitimately concerned about the name Zamboni® passing from being a description of an Ice Surfacer into a noun, which can spell death for a Trademark.  You’ll note on the website that Zamboni® is quickly followed by Ice Surfacer for that specific reason.  In addition, there’s an extensive discussion of the Zamboni® trademark here.

By now, you are probably asking yourself what all this has to do with jeeps? For about 7 years, from 1942 through 1949, Frank Zamboni attempted a variety of experiments to create a good ice resurfacer, mostly using different Jeep models. Below is a summary of the Zamboni® history from the company’s website coupled with pics I’ve found all over the web.  The CJ-3B Page also has some information.

  1. Model A was Frank’s prototype ice re-surfacer.  In 1949, he built the model below (which has been restored and still exists at Paramount Iceland in California):

2. Model B introduced the jeep to ice surfacing.  In 1950, apparently Frank decided he needed something more portable, so he came up with Model B, which used a War Surplus Jeep (I’m assuming MB?).  If you look closely below, you can see Frank connected a U joint to the steering column and then added another steering rod so that you could steer from behind the jeep.  According to the Frank J. Zamboni Corp:

In 1950, Olympic skating star Sonja Henie’s traveling ice show was practicing at Paramount Iceland, and she saw the Model A in action. She had to have one and asked Frank if he could build one in time for an upcoming Chicago performance. The deadline was tough, but Frank worked day and night, then loaded all of the resurfacer parts into a U-Haul® trailer. He towed the trailer to Chicago behind the Jeep he would install the parts on and assembled the Model B there.

Here’s one that’s in rough shape. It’s a good shot from behind.

The Model below is incorrectly labeled on the company’s website as a Model C, though it is correctly labeled in the name of the file as a Model B.  Frank is sitting in the driver’s seat.

3. Model C introduced a high seat behind the jeep and utilized the CJ-3A:

4. Model D brought about the use of the CJ-3B.  Of course, the CJ-3B Page covers this model pretty extensively.  Here’s one image of the Model D from eh company’s website.  Visit the CJ-3B Page or visit this company page to see more pics and information.

5. Model E used both the CJ-3B and the CJ-5.  Here’s a CJ-3B Model E, according to the company, from the Company’s website:

The CJ-5 Model E shown below has been restored and can be viewed at the Paramount Iceland and sets next to the original Model A Zamboni®.

6. Model F eliminated the use of the body, but kept the Jeep running gear.  Also, Model F was the last to use any drive train as Model G was designed with a different running platform altogether.  You can see Model F below.

Here’s an interesting pic of a line of jeeps awaiting conversion into ice surfacers.  The image tag suggests these are war surplus jeeps, but those frames look more like mid ’50s CJ-5 frames or later and might have been used in the Model Fs.

Following Model F, the company left jeeps behind. Occasionally, one of the old jeep-based Zamboni Ice Resurfacers surfaces for sale.

You can view pics of all the Models on the company’s ‘evolution of machines’ page.
Also, this book about the Zamboni company has some good pics, too.


11 Comments on “Zamboni® Ice Resurfacers & the Jeep

  1. Kevin

    You amaze me and other readers with information that confirms to all that read on this site….we are certified Willys crazy.
    I remember when our towns Zamboni first was delivered. My father was one of the main players in the building/construction of our indoor arena…no more freezing cold days of outdoor hockey. We first flooded the ice surface with a 55 gallon barrel sleigh with a water drip pipe wetting canvas…it sure was smoother than outdoor ice which was made by applying the water in freezing temperatures using a fire hose….or on the nearby lakes that had expansion cracks. But when the Zamboni arrived, it put Grand Rapids, MN on the map has a northern Minnesota Hockey Town…great memories.

  2. SE Pennsylvania Steve

    The 7th picture from the top shows one on wooden boards. This is the boardwalk outside the old Convention Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. The reason they had one is that they played minor league hockey there, up until the the 1950’s, I think. I know this because my dad played center for the Atlantic City High School Team (there were only 5 area school teams in the league) that played their games just before the minor league team (the Seagulls) did in the late 1930’s. My dad, who died 25 years ago yesterday (March 15) once pointed out to me the 3 small scars on his face from being hit by pucks, they wore no helmets and practically no protection back then. There’s also another photo of what looks like this same Zamboni on their website.

  3. Greg O

    That is so cool! Pun intended. I’ve spent half my life waiting on Zamboni’s to finish and I still loved them. I love them even more now that I know they were made from flat fenders. Great work!

  4. Zack

    Hahaha! To think my sister said I could never relate A Willys Jeep to Ice Skating…. ( She Skates )
    She was so WRONG! Awesome find! 😀

  5. Pascal

    Hi Dave, Interesting post here. We spoke about it on facebook.
    Can you update those links through CJ3B and Zamboni website?

  6. Colin Peabody

    The Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum which opened in 1968 had a Zamboni that had the CJ3B chassis and engine, but the later style Zamboni body. Phoenix had a minor league Hockey team, The Roadrunners up until the early 1990s, before the Coyotes came to town.

  7. rdjeep

    Our local rink had the ‘F’ model, judging by the pictures. I recall watching it run in my youth. At about 20 years old or so, and having owned my CJ5 for while, I recognized certain features of the Zam looked decidedly familiar. The rear cross member, the front bumper and the headlight rings…. Yikes! There’s a Jeep chassis under there! And in that moment, I decided to return to school to become the ‘geek’ I am today! That model ‘F’ was sold off some years ago. I often wonder who got it, and if they did anything with it.

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