Automotive

This 1960s LeTourneau TC-497 Would Make An Incredible Off-Road RV

The Cold War produced some very odd machines designed for specific purposes. One of the weirdest is the LeTourneau TC-497, an off-road tractor used to pull an overland train. Built to handle logistics needs, it was 572 feet long and holds the record as the longest off-road vehicle. 

Looking like the cross between an earth mover and a post-apocalyptic vehicle in a sci-fi movie, the TC-497 Overland Mark 2 would make a fantastic off-road RV. It’s air-conditioned and includes a full galley kitchen right out of a 1960s studio apartment. The General Chief kitchenette has a sink, stove, oven, and refrigerator. Next to it, a table with stools provides room for two people. 

To the rear of the kitchen are six bunk beds. The layout has the feel of a ship or submarine and is a very basic military spec. Like the kitchen, the sleeping area is a time capsule right out of that time period, down to the light green color of the walls and furnishings.

The TC-497 didn’t have an engine. It had an engine room. Three Solar 10MC gas turbines generated electrical power for the train’s electric drive propulsion, all housed in separate engine cars. A fourth turbine powered the cab and provided power to the vehicle’s air conditioning and electrical systems. Each turbine weighed over 1,650 pounds and produced 1,170 horsepower.  

But perhaps the most impressive feature is the incinerating toilet. Instead of wasting water, creating compost, or functioning like a cat’s litter box, the incinerating toilet burned waste leaving a small amount of ash. Next to it is a fold-out sink with hot and cold running water. Like everything else, it’s right out of the 1960s down to the bar of soap, toilet paper, and paper towel dispenser. 

Standing over 30 feet tall, the control cab offers a commanding view. Like everything else, it has a nautical feel and includes space for an operator, train commander, and navigator. The speedometer tops out at 30 mph. Video footage shown at the Yuma Proving Ground Heritage Center where the vehicle is located shows it moving at a walking pace. 

We’ve seen some pretty incredible overland campers made out of military vehicles, like the M1087 Military Tactical Vehicle, this 1954 Dodge Military Truck, or most recently, this M1078 known as the Expedition Nugget. But a TC-497 Overland Mark 2 camper would have them all beat.   

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