The Rhodesian Pookie Is Not A Tiny Toy Dog

The term "Rhodesian Pookie" sounds like it would refer to a designer dog fit only for riding in puppy purses, but no, it's a very cool VW Beetle-based, armored landmine detector created during the Rhodesian Bush Wars. Used F1-tires anyone?


Ask most people where Rhodesia is and you're likely to get a blank stare. It was a former British colony in the south of Africa and has gone on to become Zimbabwe, but following its declaration of independence there was a brutal civil war dubbed The Rhodesian Bush Wars. One of the terrifying aspects of the conflict was the extensive and calculated use of landmines along huge stretches of road with the effect of paralyzing supply and trade routes. Hunting for the mines one-by-one was too dangerous and required a huge amount of manpower, so a solution had to be developed and the result was the Pookie.

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The Pookie is a lean, mean, mine detecting machine. The design was simple: keep the vehicle as light as possible so it can roll over and detect mines. Starting with the bones of dissected VW Beetles, five of these machines were built using the front suspension and steering and rear engine, the driver was up high in a V-hulled blast-resistant armored cabin, and to spread the weight out as much as possible, giant F1 tires left over from the South African Gran Prix were fitted. With minimal pressure on the ground, the land mines under the road would not be tripped, allowing the mine detector underneath to do its thing with high speed and excellent accuracy. When a mine was detected, the vehicle stopped and the mine was removed and neutralized.

The Pookies were a huge success in detecting the Soviet land mines (oh, right, the Commies got mixed up in the whole thing) but when they learned of the Pookies they switched to plastic land mines which were much more difficult to detect. A version of sonar was then fitted to the vehicles to detect the less dense dirt in the road surface where the hole for the mine had been dug, not as effective, but better than nothing.

Just when you thought you'd seen every possible use for a VW Beetle, here comes the Pookie. [African Crisis via TCL]

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