Forget What DARPA Is Pushing These Days, Here’s A Look At Vintage GM Military Prototypes1
General Motors has a long history of creating experimental military vehicles, and thanks to the company’s FastLane blog, we’re able to take a look back at some of its strangest and most innovative creation.
GM specifically calls out six of these beastly machines that were designed with the intention to keep our country safe.
1956 GMC XM-157 Drake
First up to bat is the GMC XM-157 Drake. This 45-foot long amphibious machin relied on eight wheels to transmit the power of two 5.0-liter six-cylinder engines to the ground, allowing the Drake to theoretically reach a top speed of 44 mph. Top speed in the water was a theoretical 9 mph, and an air suspension allowed the big military machine to lift its wheels into the hull upon entering the water. Unfortunately, as FastLane puts it, “development ended when the Army switched its focus to the LARC amphibious landing craft.”
1964 GM Sidewinder
Not all was lost, though, as eight years later General Motors cooked up another experimental military vehicle dubbed Sidewinder. Consisting of a mid-mounted 215 cubic-inch V8, the Sidewinder was made in three segments: the front third housed the driver, the middle third housed the engine and the rear third housed the cargo box and rear axle. As FastLane explains, the beauty of this design was that “The middle powertrain module…could theoretically be removed and replaced as a contained unit in the field. “
Like the Drake, the Sidewinder never saw the light of production, though FastLane claims, “it did influence the design of two other prototypes,” one of which was the space-bound GM MGL/MOLAB the company built for NASA. (We’d guess the other prototype the Sidewinder influenced was GM’s AGL-4.)
1964 GM MGL/MOLAB
The MGL/MOLAB is arguably the oddest-looking of all the prototypes General Motors created. And what’s a vehicle designed for NASA doing in a piece about military prototypes? As FastLane notes: “NASA might not be part of the armed forces, but once upon a time, it was very closely tied to them.” So there.
The MGL/MOLAB got its power from a Chevrolet Corvair flat-six engine, and though the big truck could only reach 21 mph when pushed to its limits, “it was capable of traversing 30 percent slopes and side slopes up to 45 percent” grade. The experimental vehicle never did leave this planet, though, as the truck was instead “used as a geological survey vehicle by the U.S. Geological Survey.” The lone example is on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
MAN KAT 8×8
Twenty-two years after the development of the Drake, GMC had yet to give up on the eight-wheeled dream, and in 1986 the MAN-GMC 8×8 prototype was developed. Though the truck looks a lot like the German MAN KAT 8x8s that came before it, the MAN-GMC 8×8 prototype relies on a North American-sourced powertrain. Specifically a Detroit Diesel engine and Allison transmission. Unfortunately, General Motors’ eight-wheeled MAN-GMC 8×8 never came to fruition.
2003 Chevrolet Silverado Diesel Hybrid
As the century turned over, General Motors’ experimental military vehicles took a new turn into the world of alternative energy. In 2003 the automaker introduced the Chevrolet Silverado Diesel Hybrid, a truck, that as its name implies, was a diesel-electric hybrid. The tough-looking truck used the tried-and-true 6.6-liter V8 Duramax diesel engine and paired it with an electric motor. Courtesy of an on-board hydrogen fuel cell, FastLane notes that, “The Silverado Diesel Hybrid prototype was… capable of providing silent power”, an obvious tactical advantage in the truck’s proposed line of military duty.
2005 Chevrolet Silverado Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Finally, in 2005 General Motors revealed arguably its most ambitious experimental military vehicle on FastLane’s list: the Chevrolet Silverado Hydrogen Fuel Cell. The truck featured three 700-bar compressed hydrogen storage tanks, which fed a pair of 94 kW fuel cell stacks, which in turn converted hydrogen into electricity. The electricity produced, “then drove a pair of motors – one coupled to the rear wheels, and another coupled to the front.”
With a top speed of 93 miles per hour, the Silverado Hydrogen Fuel Cell was able to go approximately 124 pollutant-free miles between fill ups. Although the hydrogen-powered truck used a unique independent rear suspension and offered four-wheel-steering, it never served duty in any of the major military battles of its time. Instead, “The Army primarily used it as a delivery vehicle at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia.”
As FastLane notes: “Although this particular program came to an end, GM continues to work with the U.S. Army in advancing and developing fuel cell technologies to this very day.”
Personally we can’t wait to see the next experimental GM military vehicle.
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I bet my restored GMC EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle I bought from Sargent Hulka could take all of em!