Before the road network matured, there seemed to be real potential in go-anywhere vehicles equipped with self-laying tracks
Matt Burt
26 March 2015

These days, mainstream car makers don’t have a habit of developing vehicles with tank-style caterpillar tracks on their rear axles.

In the early 1920s, however, there was a good argument for tracked vehicles, especially in less hospitable regions of the globe.

“A vast future lies before vehicles which are equipped with self-laying tracks,” proclaimed Autocar in a 1922 article.

“If we study the history of any new country, we usually find that the limiting factor in its evolution is the question of transport, and hitherto this has depended upon the development of railways or hard-made roads. There is an urgent need for vehicles which can operate freely over unmetalled paths or virgin land.

“The capability which these creeper track vehicles in general possess of covering soft ground is due to the fact that the load is distributed over the whole area of contact of the track with the ground, whereas with a wheeled vehicle the area of contact of the wheels with the ground is extremely small.”

There were some drawbacks to creeper tracks, Autocar noted: “One difficulty has been the absence of an efficient system of compensated springing to enable a perfect distribution of weight to be obtained in crossing rough or uneven ground.

"It is easy when passing over an undulation for half the weight of the machine to be borne on a very small area, the result being that the ground is flattened, or the machine is lifted bodily over the obstacle.

“One effect of this absence of compensation is that the tracks arefrequently overloaded and have a very limited life in such cases.”

A potential solution was at hand, though: “A system of springing which has been termed ‘cable suspension’ has been applied with every success.

“When the machine passes over an obstacle, the roller immediately above the obstacle rises against the tension of the cable and passes over the obstruction without appreciably affecting the level of the chassis. It is thus obviously impossible to exert undue pressure on any part of the track or ground.”

Creeper tracks also reduced wear on roads. “Probably many motorists have had occasion to notice the road surface after the passage of one of the war tanks and, despite its 30-tonneweight, they will doubtless have observed that no damage has been done. This is due to the uniform distribution of the load,” said Autocar.

“As the great portion of the world’s surface is not yet provided with roads, it would appear that a vast future lies before the creeper track. Its use upon the roads of this country would possibly be the means of solving the vexed question of road maintenance by lessening wear.”

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine? 

14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour

2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding

21 January 1949 - Tidier tails

27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test

19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test

13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm 

16 March 1994 - Bentley's Concept Java

16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Join the debate

Comments
2

26 March 2015
Quite a common Monster truck conversion, state side, offcourse.

www.KOOOLcr.com

 

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Jaguar E-Pace P300
    First Drive
    19 November 2017
    Jaguar’s second SUV faces up to the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. Tough task, so is the E-Pace up to it?
  • Jaguar E-Pace D180
    First Drive
    19 November 2017
    Not the driver’s car many would hope from any car wearing the Jaguar badge, but the E-Pace is an attractive and interesting addition to the compact premium SUV ranks
  • Subaru Impreza
    First Drive
    17 November 2017
    The fifth-generation Subaru Impreza is much improved from top to bottom, but a poor engine and gearbox keep it trailing in this competitive class
  • Ford Fiesta Vignale
    First Drive
    17 November 2017
    We get a first taste of Ford’s poshest Fiesta in turbocharged diesel form
  • Seat Arona
    Car review
    17 November 2017
    Seat is on a roll but can the Arona, its new junior SUV, cut it in such an ultra-competitive class?