What Ever Happened to the MiniBob?
Below is a picture of perhaps the greatest winter sled ever created, the MiniBob. Anyone who was a kid in 1970s had no doubt used one of these:
The Classic MiniBob
As some old ad copy puts it:
THE MINI-BOB: the Seventies version of family fun. Easier than skiing, more mirth then sledding. Lightweight. Portable. Made of high density polyethylene. Fire-engine red with black vinyl seat.
Segment of a Gimbles Department Store Ad.
New York Times. December 17, 1970
They were the sledding version of the Big Wheel—but at least that toy has the dignity of its own Wikipedia page; by contrast, the MiniBob seems to have sunk into total oblivion. It has always been a mystery to me why they are no longer available. At some point there just weren’t any around anymore and nobody seemed to know why. I recall rumors of them having been recalled for being too dangerous, but who really knows? Perhaps it was just the memory of my father going over a jump on one—and the handle snapping off in mid-flight, leaving him to land in a mangled heap.
This ad clip indicates that they were available from a company called Recreonics, Inc.:
(See picture below)
There is still a company by that name that makes pool and other aquatic recreational equipment, but it’s unclear if this is the same company.
An American Patent for the MiniBob, i.e., TOBOGGAN OR SLED US Pat. 3522952 - Filed Mar 19, 1969, references a Norwegian patent from January, 1968. Presumably then, Recreonics Inc., was either licensing the manufacture of the MiniBob on their own or were perhaps simply distributing them for some European company.
Patent No. 3522952
Looking through The New York Times archives reveals only a single reference to a company by that name in the early 1970s – in a marriage announcement from May 13, 1973. At the time the groom was “the predisent of Recreonics, Inc. of Boston, manufacturers of leisure equipment such as inflatable boasts, and […] vice president of the parent company, Great American Industries, Inc.”
Interesting… so Recreonics was, by 1973 at least, a subsidiary of GAI. There is exactly one article available on Google with those two companies together: it mentions that GAI closed Recreonics in 1973 in a bit of consolidation. Could this be the real reason behind the MiniBob’s disappearance?
A bit more old ad copy:
Unrestrained Family Mirth—for only $14.95
Amazingly, the MiniBob seems to be making a bit of a comeback—in parts of Europe anyway, where it is also called a “Zipflbob.” Some ski resorts feature Zipflbob/MiniBob runs and there is even a competitive racing circuit. Here is a video of Bücherl Werner’s record 139km/h run.
And look: they can now be purchased directly from Amazon Germany—though the price has gone up a bit, € 25,77 (not including delivery):
The MiniBob at Amazon Germany. Put one on your Wunschzettel today.
They look a bit more well-crafted than the classic model, but since nobody has had the good sense to make them available in the U.S. as far as I can tell, I may have to get one shipped over.