We’re at peak pre-new Star Wars hype right now, and I’m not immune. I bought my 5-year old a can of Spaghettios because it had a picture of R2-D2 on it, and I was glad to do it. What’s happening to me? I’m okay with it, but there are no cars in the movies, which is an issue for me. Luckily, there’s landspeeders, which are close enough to get me thinking.
Landspeeders have been an essential part of the Star Wars universe since the first (or fourth, whatever) movie came out back in 1977, when my little kid brain was blown away by Luke Skywalker’s floating, glorious shitbox, his brown, striped Landspeeder.
I’ve been thinking about that vehicle off and on for decades, and, on the cusp of the new movie coming out, I decided it was time to give it a good scrutinizing, via all the questions I had about it. The answers will be a combination of canonical information from the movies, what I can find online, and, if not attributed, stuff I extrapolate and/or make up. So get in.
Who makes Luke’s landspeeder?
Luke owned a SoroSuub X-34. SoroSuub is, according to the Wookiepedia,
... a massive Sullustan corporation that specialized in mineral processing, but contained divisions and subdivisions which handled everything from energy mining to food packaging.
So, based on their considerably diversified products, I’d say they most resembled Hyundai here on earth, since Hyundai makes cars, cargo ships, owns apartment buildings, and probably sells seafood or something.
How much did the X-34 cost?
Again according to Wookiepedia, the X-34 sold new for 10,550 credits, and Luke got his for 2,400 credits, used. He had to take a bath on his when he sold it, getting only 2,000 credits, which he blamed on the newer X-38s coming out.
I think he was fooling himself. No one in the market for a newer X-38 is cross-shopping dented, sun-baked old X-34s, kid. A quick wash and a replacement for that missing engine cowl would probably have got him 2,250, easy.
According to this iO9 post, a Galactic Credit is about $0.50, so half those numbers for the number in our American Human Dollars. I’m not sure what the salaries are like in the Star Wars universe, but I bet they’re lower, since those prices seem low.
What was Luke’s landspeeder really?
Okay, fine. It was built on a Bond Bug, and designed by Ogle Design, the firm that designed the Reliant Scimitar, among other cars. You can still see bits of the Bond Bug in the dash and interior layout.
Why is a landspeeder better than a wheeled vehicle?
That’s a good question, me. I like how you’ve been thinking. At first, I was thinking that a wheeled vehicle would be far more efficient, since it’s not expending precious energy just to stay up or when standing still. Wheels are pretty good ways of getting around.
Then I thought about the hovercraft-like advantages of a repulsorlift-magic vehicle, and realized such vehicles don’t really require any sort of road infrastructure or network. If you live in a massive, multi-planet society, it may make more sense to have vehicles that can handle almost any terrain rather than having to build massive roadway infrastructures on every planet. We just did it to our one planet, and it was a shitload of work, and it’s still nowhere near done, really. So, I get it now.
What are the specs on the X-34 landspeeder?
I don’t know; probably dust, maybe mud? Oh, that joke never gets old!
Sorry, this is important. Here’s what’s known:
Top speed: about 250 KPH/155 MPH
Max altitude: ~1 meter/3 feet
0-60 (est): 4.1 seconds
Seats 2, with a pair of small, flat areas behind the passenger compartment that can be magnetized for stowing two droids, minimal (5 kg) other cargo capacity
Three jet-turbine engines, outer pair possibly used for steering
Repulsorlift (housed under front ‘hood’) used for hovering
How do you drive the landspeeder? What does it drive like?
Neither of these questions have definitive answers (at least in-universe; on Earth, I imagine it’s like driving a very heavy and unbalanced Bond Bug) so I’m going to make some guesses here.
Looking at the cockpit, there’s a number of controls. We have a strangely complex-yet-completely-uninformative center console (HVAC controls? What’s the equivalent of satellite radio for the Empire?), a lever that’s totally not the gearshift of a Bond Bug, a familiar steering wheel, and, according to cutaway drawings, two pedals.
Based on these, here’s how I think you drive an X-34 landspeeder:
The steering wheel, of course, steers. It’s either vectoring the exhaust of the engines, or varying the thrust of the two outer engines, or, maybe, both. Without any aerodynamic control surfaces, I don’t think these could make really sharp turns, unless you can selectively reverse thrust on one of the side-mounted engines at a time. Maybe you can!
For the pedals, let’s keep this Earth-similar (why not, Galactic Basic Standard sure sounds like English to me) and say the right pedal is the throttle (possibly just to the center engine if the side ones are reserved for steering, but likely all three) and the left one is the brake, which would have to work by reversing engine thrust, which would blast the back of your neck with hot exhaust, I think.
Perhaps if you press the brake pedal to the floor it would activate the emergency/parking brake, which I’m imagining is some sort of physical mechanical drag-arm.
The not-a-Bond-Bug-gearshift I think is where you can select your hover-height, from 10cm to 1 meter. Let’s say there’s, oh, six settings:
10 cm Superlow for fast travel on smooth surfaces
20 cm Low for medium-speed travel on smooth surfaces
40 cm Mid-1 for variable-speed, multi-surface use (slightly smoother)
60 cm Mid-2 for variable-speed, multi-surface use (slightly rougher)
80 cm High for rugged terrain
100 cm Full Height for very rugged terrain or non-solid surfaces, like water or ground-gel
That seems like it’d cover everything. You can shift on the fly without stopping, which is a relatively new feature for landspeeders. I heard on the old X-28s you had to get out and crawl under the damn thing to get to the height slider! Plenty of lifeforms got crushed doing that. Big mess.
Wait, so what does it drive like?
Oh, right. Based on everything we know, I’d say the closest earth-analog to a landspeeder is a Citroën DS. The DS is way slower, sure, but I bet the repulsorlift setup feels pretty close to a DS hydropneumatic suspension, and like a landspeeder, the Citroën has several heights you can pick from.
So, my guess is it feels like a jet-powered Citroën DS.
Why doesn’t it have any lights?
FANTASTIC question. And I have no idea. I don’t even see anything that looks like a mounting point for lights, like it had some, but Luke stripped them off. It makes no sense.
Even if the Empire’s Department Of Surface Transportation (DOST) doesn’t mandate anything like turn indicators or brake lights or related running lights, it still gets dark, right? Those twin suns of Tatooine do set, don’t they? Why doesn’t this thing have a set of headlights?
Hell, based on what I’ve seen of greater Mos Eisely-area infrastructure, there’s hardly any street lighting, so a landspeeder like Luke’s should have a big-ass light bar on the hood.
I have no idea why none of these seem to have lights. It seems a ridiculous omission. If I ever end up in the Star Wars universe, I know what business I’m going into.
What sort of fuel does the X-34 run on?
This is a tricky one to answer; all of the exciting ‘stop for gas, pee, get snacks’ scenes from the movies seem to have been cut. From what I can tell, landspeeders burned some sort of liquid fuel — those jet engines are not electric, they produce exhaust, though the repulsorlift system likely is something like electric and may be powered by a fuel-driven generator, some sort of batteries, or maybe some kind of reactor.
Until I see the little sticker inside the fuel filler flap, I have no idea.
How’s the space utilization of the X-34?
Terrible. Like, really awful. Look at this lovely cutaway by Hans Jenssen:
There’s hardly any room in that thing. The entire front end is crammed full of repulsorlift hardware, and the back end must be full of fuel tank, batteries/generators or all of the above. The three engines are externally-mounted, and the only usable passenger volume is a small little space for the two seats in the center. There doesn’t appear to be any real enclosed luggage areas.
Maybe the X-34 was marketed as more of a sports model, like a Miata or an MR-2 or something, and cargo-carrying just wasn’t a priority. Still, that’s a lot of densely-packed hardware in that body. It’s worse than a Fisker.
Is a roof available?
I hope so. No shade under the twin Tatooine suns? That’s got to suck. And that looks like vinyl upholstery. Luke’s thighs must look like a rotisserie chicken.
I bet whatever the Star Wars universe’s version of the JC Whitney catalog is has pages of aftermarket snap-on duraplast roofs for X-34s. I bet some even have integrated roof racks (very handy) and I also bet a lot of people get them, even on cooler planets, to avoid the blast of hot braking exhaust from that center engine.
You can even get them covered in Wampa skin! Classy.
What’s the tow rating?
Not bad, 2,600 lbs.
Were there ever any special edition X-34s?
Briefly, some dealers offered a Sy Snootles Signature Edition X-34, which had special paint colors, interior fabrics, a signed dash plaque, and a hood decal of the singer’s famous lips.
Only 5,000 were sold. These are, of course, highly prized by collectors.
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