The history of technology is littered with failed starts and aborted prototypes. Jalopnik readers know that none are more strange than those machines built to help us kill each other, as these ten bizarre vehicles demonstrate.
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Photo Credit: Boston Dynamics
10.) The Flying Bedstead
Suggested By: hiekkaa
Why it was built: This early attempt at building a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft was built by Rolls-Royce in 1953. Not needing runways is a great idea, but the craft wasn't stable at all and landing was near-impossible. The program was scrapped.
The idea was picked up by NASA in the ‘60s for the Apollo program. Five were built as training vehicles for the lunar landing. Despite some crashes, these Lunar Landing Research Vehicles were a vital part of the program as a whole.
Photo Credit: NASA
9.) The Krupp Kugelpanzer
Suggested By: Segador
Why it was built: Very little information is available on this round, single-person armored vehicle, on display in the Kobinka Tank Musuem outside of Moscow. Kugelpanzer means "ball tank," and the one halfway-decent source of information online believes it to be a rolling reconnaissance vehicle captured in Manchuria in 1945 by the Russians, having been sent to Japan as part of a technology transfer with the Japanese.
We are extremely skeptical that this is anything but a dummy tank designed to confuse the enemy, or even just a fake, despite its similarities to the first World War's Hansa-Lloyd Bremen Treffaswagen
Photo Credit: Morpheios Melas/Wikipedia
8.) Schwerer Gustav und Dora
Suggested By: burglar
Why it was built: The Nazis built two 80cm railway siege guns in 1939-1941, and they were then deployed in late 1942. They were designed to break through extremely strong fortifications, specifically the forts along the Maginot Line. And how was this accomplished? With 7,100 kilogram projectiles fired out of a 30-meter-long barrel.
The first of the two, Heavy Gustav, was deployed twice, but only used at the Siege of Sevastopol, having been carried on a 1.5-kilometer long train. Its sister Dora was deployed but not used at Stalingrad. Gustav still holds the record for the largest-caliber rifle ever used in combat.
Schwerer Gustav is visible in the video at 1:24.
7.) Vespa 150 TAP
Suggested By: SpainisInYurp
Why it was built: The French Airborne Forces (TAP) built something around 800 of these "Bazooka Vespas" in 1956 and 1959 for use against the Algerians. What the French did was mount an American recoilless rifle straight through a cheap Italian Vespa. A two-Vespa team would be parachuted down, one with ammo and the other with the gun.
You never fired while riding, sadly, instead mounting the whole Bazooka Vespa on a tripod, making it functionally a light, mobile anti-armor gun. Back in May, one was up for sale for $15-20,000.
Photo Credit: Coys
6.) Boston Dynamics Big Dog
Suggested By: becaus3Porsche
Why it was built: It's a robotic pack mule, but it dwells so deeply in the uncanny valley that it will likely scare the enemy into submission. You first saw it in 2008, creepily stepping through rough terrain, and since then Boston Dynamics have been building a bigger version for carrying 400 pounds of infantry gear, as well as a backwards-running high speed version.
Much as they will haunt your dreams, they will allow infantry to bring more stuff with them wherever they go.
5.) Progvev-T Gasdynamic trawler
Suggested By: Serbian Bear
Why it was built: Stalin's Russia took one of their trusty T-34 tanks and put a MiG-15 jet engine on top. The blast from the jet would uncover and detonate mines.
Photo Credit: Dark Roasted Blend
4.) VZ-9 Avrocar
Suggested By: Jayhawk Jake
Why it was built: When flying saucers were en vogue in the early years of the Cold War, the Air Force tried to build one of their own and were partially successful. Avro Canada actually constructed two of these things in 1959.
They were supposed to be a replacement for helicopters, but they proved more than a little difficult to fly. The project was cancelled in '61.
Photo Credit: US Air Force
3.) Tsar Tank
Suggested By: rawtoast
Why it was built: Instead of using tracks, this experimental Russian tank built at the start of WWI was a giant tricycle. Up front were two spoked wheels, nearly 27 feet in diameter. We would call them three-hunna-fitties. The five-foot-tall single wheel in the rear was used for steering, while the front two were powered each by their own engine.
Given how early this vehicle appeared in the history of tank development, it's understandable how a giant tricycle might make sense.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
2.) ZIL-2906 and 4904 screw-drive tanks
Suggested By: Fordboy357 wants all the bacon and eggs you have
Why it was built: Stranger still than gigantic tricycle tanks are screw-drive tanks, built by Russian truck and presidential limo manufacturer ZIL. The idea behind screw-drive vehicles is that they can cover just about the most tortuous terrain imaginable. In other words, Russia.
The smaller 2906 was built in the ‘60s with the strict goal of recovering cosmonauts who land in Siberia. The two-and-a-half ton 4904 was built in '72, but at that point the Russians realized screw drive was hopelessly inefficient. After a few 4904s were built, the largest screw drive vehicles of all time, the project was scrapped.
Why it was built: It's not a ship and it's not quite a plane. It's a ground-effects vehicle that flies on a cushion of air jut over ground. Us Americans found out the Russians were building them during the Cold War when aerial photographs turned up what could only be called the Caspian Sea Monster.
Ekranoplans need only very short, stubby wings to work, so absolutely massive vehicles could be built, the greatest of which being the sole 240-foot-long Lun-class Ekranoplan built in '87. The idea was it could cruise across the Pacific at high speed, while staying low enough to avoid radar detection. Filled with Russian soldiers and packed with six missile launchers, it would stealthily attack the US.
Ekranoplans aren't the most cost-effective means of transporting hundreds of thousands of cargo anymore, but they're still awesome.
Photo Credit: Stock Archives of Soviet Navy/Wikipedia