1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo Specs and Review [Video]

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The 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 was the first mass-produced personal watercraft in history. This ancient PWC was powered by a 318cc single-cylinder Rotax engine rated at 18 HP. Due to design flaws and reliability problems, the original Sea-Doo “Aqua-Scooter” was canceled after two years of production.

If you want to find out more about this iconic Sea-Doo, this post is for you.

We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know into this Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 review!

1968-1970 Bombardier Sea-Doo Review

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 Review

Contrary to popular belief, Kawasaki stand-up jet skis were not the first PWCs in the marketplace. Although these machines made this sport popular, the first mass-produced PWC was the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320.

Surprisingly, both of these machines were developed by the talented inventor Clayton Jacobsen II.

In the ‘60s, Bombardier was a successful snowmobile manufacturer that wanted to enter the marine industry.

The first PWC developed by the Canadian manufacturer was the Bombardier Sea-Doo 320, which was introduced in 1968. At first glace, it was obvious that this tiny vessel had some strong snowmobile roots!

The Sea-Doo 320 had the same yellow/black dressing as Ski-Doo snowmobiles and was labeled the “Jet-Powered Aqua-Scooter.”

As the name suggests, the machine was powered by an aluminum 318cc, air-cooled, 2-stroke Rotax engine featuring a Tillotsen carburetor. With this inefficient single-cylinder engine, the top speed of the craft was only 25-30 mph under ideal conditions.

Just like snowmobiles, this early Sea-Doo also utilized a belt drive. Yes, you heard me, the Rotax engine delivered power to the 5J5 Berkeley jet pump with four belts. Unfortunately, this setup was prone to slipping or even breaking.

To solve this issue, the setup was soon replaced with the more advanced clogged belt and pulleys.

The engine was planted into a weird platform that looked like a flying saucer. This fiberglass hull was quite large as it measured 7.5 feet in length and 5 feet in width. It was also filled with floatation material to prevent the hull from sinking.

Besides its engine, the craft inherited many other parts from Ski-Doo snowmobiles, like a removable 3.75-gallon fuel tank, metal handlebars, pull-start, and bench seat. Unfortunately, the latter proved to be very uncomfortable due to its wide design.

It also had unpadded motorcycle-like metal handlebars, which were downright dangerous on rough waters.

Standard features included a spill-proof battery, bailer, chrome bow ring and grip handles, water-cooled muffler, pull-start, and a storage compartment.

The pull-start also didn’t do a good job on this machine, as yanking the rope while in the middle of the water was far from ideal!

However, the biggest drawback of the 1968 Sea-Doo 320 was arguably its inefficient, 18 HP, air-cooled power source.

Unlike on snowmobiles, where the engine is exposed to the cold air, it sits in an enclosed hull on a jet ski. As you can imagine, this was not the best place for an air-cooled engine!

Although the engineers designed built-in stainless steel vents to deliver air to the engine compartment, they were ineffective.

Improper cooling resulted in ongoing overheating issues and various other malfunctions.

Because of this, the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 had a bad reputation for reliability.

1969-1970 Bombardier Sea-Doo 372 Review

The manufacturer tried to fix these issues, so the 1969 Sea-Doo 372 was powered by a 372cc water-cooled engine featuring a reverse and electric start. This new power source was somewhat more reliable and offered 24 horsepower.

Besides this new model, the Sea-Doo 320 also remained part of the 1969 lineup.

Although the specifications of the newest model were lucrative, the new cooling system didn’t solve all the malfunctions. Why?

Because most of these early Sea-Doos were used in the ocean, and saltwater caused serious damage to their systems.

Unfortunately, neither the engine nor other accessories were designed for marine environments. Because of the lack of sealings, saltwater damaged everything from the electrical system to the engine.

Let’s face it, in the ‘60s, Bombardier focused on Ski-Doo snowmobiles and did not devote enough resources to properly develop the Sea-Doo. At that time, the snowmobile market was booming, and the Canadian manufacturer wanted to keep up with that demand rather than dig deeper into a lesser-known market.

Because of this – and the bad reputation of Sea-Doo PWCs – Bombardier decided to discontinue its Sea-Doo line after the 1970 model year.

But a decade later, encouraged by its competitors’ success, Bombardier decided to re-enter the PWC marked with the innovative 1988 Sea-Doo SP.

The rest is history!

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo Advertisements

Here’s what the original ads said about this ancient Sea-Doo:

“SEA-DOO brings safe, sporty fun for everyone. The classic Sea-Doo design is virtually untippable. Sealed safety-lining keeps it afloat. And because it’s so simple concept, Sea-Doo is child’s play to drive. All oyu do is to turn a key. Instantly the engine purrs into action. Then press the hand throttle, lean to plane…and off you go on the newest, happiest water adventure of the decade. And what will you do on a Sea-Doo? Play! Ride the waves. Race another Sea-Doo. Set up a slalom. Spin. Splash. Bump. Kump a ramp or any wake. Troll with it. Skin dive from it. Gather a Sea-Doo clan and go picnic or exploring where no craft went before. Be among the first to ride the crest of a brand new sport. The low Sea-doo price makes it easy!”

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 Specs Chart

For your convenience, we’ve compiled the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 specifications into these charts!

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 Dimensions

1968 Sea-Doo 320Dimensions and Capacities
Lenght (in)94.12
Width (in)58
Height (in)32.5
Dry weight (lbs)289
Rider capacity1
Fuel Capacity (gal)3.75
Hull typeFlat bottom
Hull material Fiberglass

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 Engine Specs

1968 Sea-Doo 320Engine Specs
Engine typeRotax 318
Engine stroke2-stroke
Cylinders1
Displacement318cc
Performance18 HP
Bore x Stroke (mm)76 x 70
Compression ratio8.8:1
Cooling systemAir, open system
CarburetionTillotsen carb.
LubricationMixture
Air filterBendix-Flame Arrestor type (USCG Approved)
Top speed (mph)25-30
StartPull

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 Drive System

1968 Sea-Doo 320Propulsion
Propulsion systemBerkeley 5J5
Water jet pumpAxial flow, single stage
TransmissionDirect drive

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 Electrical Features

1968 Sea-Doo 320Electrical
IgnitionFlywheel Generator
StarterElectric and Manual
Battery12 volt 32 amps

These charts are for informational purposes only! For exact specifications, please refer to the factory manual.

1968 Sea-Doo 320 vs. 1969-1970 Sea-Doo 372 Specs Comparison

Let’s compare the key specifications of the 1968 Sea-Doo 320 with the 1969-1970 Sea-Doo 372 models head-to-head:

Specs1968 Sea-Doo 3201969-70 Sea-Doo 372
EngineRotax 318Rotax 372
Displacement318cc372cc
Cylinders12
Performance18 HP24
Cooling systemair-cooledwater-cooled
Lenght (in)94.1294.12
Width (in)5858
Height (in)32.532.5
Top speed (mph)25-3035
Electric StartNoYes
ReverseNoYes
Propulsion system5J5 Berkeley5JA Berkeley
Fuel tankPortableStationary
Storage compartmentYesYes

1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo for Sale

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find a vintage Bombardier Sea-Doo for sale. Since this ski was discontinued in 1970, most of them were scrapped or went to private collectors.

But with a bit of luck, you can find a used Sea-Doo Bombardier for sale on Craigslist, eBay, PWC trader, and other jet ski ad websites. Also, you may want to visit some vintage Sea-Doo forums and Facebook fan groups.

Takeaway

As a takeaway, we’ve answered the most common questions about the 1968-1970 Bombardier Sea-Doo!

What was the first Sea-Doo?

The first Sea-Doo in history was the Bombardier Sea-Doo 320, followed by the Sea-Doo 372 the following model year.

When was the First Sea-Doo Introduced?

The first Sea-Doo, namely the Bombardier Sea-Doo 320, was introduced in 1968, followed by the water-cooled Model 372 in 1969. These machines were marketed as Sea-Doo Aqua Scooters, but they were also known as Bombardier Sea-Doos. Unfortunately, these early models were discontinued after the 1970 model year.

What Size was a 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo?

The 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo was 94.12 inches long, 58 inches wide, and 32.5 inches high.

How Much Did a 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo Weigh?

The dry weight of the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo was only 289 pounds

What Kind of Engine Did the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo Have?

The 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo was powered by a 2-stroke, single-cylinder, 318cc Rotax engine featuring a Mikuni BN44 carb, pull-start, and air cooling system. By 1969, the Sea-Doo 372 was upgraded with a water-cooled, 2-stroke, 2-cylinder, 372cc Rotax engine.

How Much Horsepower Did a 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo Have?

The engine of the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo 320 was rated at 18 HP, and the water-cooled 1969 Sea-Doo 372 produced 24 HP.

How Fast Did a 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo Go?

According to the original owner’s manual, the top speed of the 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo was about 25-30 mph under ideal conditions.

How Much is a 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo Worth?

It’s hard to know the exact price of this vintage craft, as it depends on various factors like its year, condition, and location. Since it’s a collectible item, the price keeps going up! As a rule of thumb, a 1968 Bombardier Sea-Doo is worth about $1,000-$10,000.  Yes, it’s not uncommon for these vintage skis to sell for as much as $5-10,000!

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