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Wednesday, 02 January 2019 18:17

On the Lighter Side: VIDEO: The Incredible Story of America's Lost 1939 Antarctic Snow Cruiser

Written by Gillian Carmoodie, AutoClassics
On the Lighter Side: VIDEO: The Incredible Story of America's Lost 1939 Antarctic Snow Cruiser © Autoclassics



Such weight required enormous structural strength, provided by a framework and steel skin constructed from Inland Hi-Steel, which was then coated in bright red paint to ensure the vehicle would be easily spotted from aircraft above. Naturally, it would have been foolish to set off on such a treacherous journey without reserve tires; so two 10-foot high spares were carried in a rear compartment.


But sheer bulk and jaw-dropping proportions weren’t going to be enough for a successful Antarctic mission. It was anticipated that the Snow Cruiser would drive across uncharted ice fields and scale polar mountains as well as having to straddle numerous deep and dangerous crevasses.


Power was provided by a diesel-electric hybrid, which consisted of two 150bhp Cummins H-6 diesel engines, powering individual generators running electric motors contained within each wheel hub. Now commonplace in modern mining trucks, this was likely the first use of a diesel-electric powertrain in such a large vehicle.


The wheels themselves could be retracted back up inside the long body overhangs when progress-halting crevasses presented themselves. The front set of wheels could be raked in, while the rear wheels used their contact with the ground to push the front end of the Snow Cruiser over each gap. Once straddling the crevasse, the method would be repeated for the rear wheels, as the front set propped themselves back up. It was an innovative, and unique, system.


To further enable the Snow Cruiser to progress, despite a whole range of testing obstacles, it came fitted with four-wheel steering that was controlled by two levers, rather than the conventional steering wheel. The hydraulic system operated with a 30-foot turning circle, using rams at 15,000 pounds pressure to minimize potential breakages.


These combined features made the Snow Cruiser a technological marvel that captured public imagination. Possessing a number of innovative features, the exploration vehicle was dream material for a wide range of scientific and engineering publications. Amongst them was Popular Science which, in November 1939, published detailed cut-away diagrams so those with mechanical curiosity could devour them.

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