We wheel the ultimate In bulletproof rigs
If you could build the ultimate rig, would it have four-wheel drive? How about eight-wheel drive? Four-wheel steering? Would it be waterproofed, or better yet, amphibious? Would you power it with a torquey turbodiesel engine and make the drivetrain bulletproof? Heck, while you are at it, make the whole thing bulletproof. Oftentimes we get to think of ways to improve the experience of wheeling, and with projects like the Mega Titan and Teal-J, we get to illustrate our ideas on how to build the most capable vehicles we think are possible-and then someone just has to trump us. Sometimes it is a reader, sometimes it is another magazine, and sometimes it is Uncle Sam.
Last spring, we were invited out to the United States Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to participate in live fire exercises and recovery operations with the 2nd LAR (Light Armored Reconnaissance) Battalion, C Company, as they prepared for their current deployment to Iraq. When we found out that we would be able to get up close and personal with some serious Marine Corps machinery, we got on the first flight out that we could find. After all, a huge portion of our readers are in the military, and what better way to thank you for your service and readership than to share your experiences? Besides, who doesn't like military metal?
Camp Lejeune encompasses 156,000 acres of prime North Carolina real estate near Jacksonville, and is the home for several Marine commands, as well as one Naval command. Its primary mission is to maintain combat-ready units for expeditionary deployment. After some cryptic directions, we managed to pilot our rental through a hole in the forest and down a dirt road to the correct gun range, where we met up with C Company and their impressive fleet of LAV-25s.
The Marine Corps LAV-25 is an eight-wheeled, light armor vehicle that projects power through its turret-mounted 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun. Cool. After a brief tour of the facilities, we got down to business with the Marines in charge of maintaining the fleet and received hands-on introduction to the LAV-R (recovery) variant, just one of the several variants in this company, including -25 (standard), -C2 (command and control), -AT (anti-tank), -M (mortar) and -L (logistics).
Originally built by General Dynamics back in the mid-'80s, the eight-wheeled LAV series of vehicles have been upgraded several times to best serve its current role of all-weather, all-terrain strategic and tactical mobility. They can be delivered anywhere in the world by ships, military cargo planes, as well as moved by CH-53E helicopters. Each LAV is powered by a two-stroke 318ci Detroit Diesel 6V53T V-6 with 225 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, backed by a five-speed Allison MT653DR transmission. Depending on variant, it can reach speeds of nearly 70 mph on hard surfaces or just over 6 mph in nonsurf bodies of water, such as lakes or streams. A maximum range of just over 400 miles is capable with its 71 gallons of JP-8 diesel fuel-not bad for a 28,000-pound vehicle.
LAVs are suspended by independent suspensions, featuring struts for the front four wheels and torsion bars for the rear four. Typically, LAVs run in four-wheel drive, but can be switched in to eight-wheel drive on the fly through a single-speed Rockwell transfer case. Low range is accomplished through a granny-low first gear. The LAV has a differential gear ratio of 2.3:1 and a set of planetary hubs with a 3.79:1 ratio. With 38-inch-tall 325/85 R16 Michelin XMLs on steel bead-locked wheels, the LAV has over a foot and a half of ground clearance and can conquer just about any terrain. Steering is power-assisted, as are the massive drum brakes.