There’s big, and then there’s this list of runners and riders for the title of world’s biggest land vehicle. You won’t see any of these giants doing the school run or in the supermarket car park, that’s for sure. In fact, when it comes to the largest land vehicle on Earth, it’s so big it weighs as much as almost 12,000 Ford Fiestas. Yes, it’s that big. But what does it look like and where does it operate?
The biggest land vehicles in the world are the result of thousands of years of development. For millennia, human beings walked. Then around 10,000 years ago, wooden canoes were built and that allowed our ancestors to move longer distances to find food and shelter.
The earliest evidence of wheeled vehicles – most likely rudimentary carts – is from around 6,000 years ago and if we fast-forward all the way to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the passenger train, the automobile and then the aeroplane revolutionised how people moved from one place to another.
We are driven to go faster, further and bigger and if these vehicles are anything to go by, we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Length: 15 metres | Width: 9.7 metres | Operating Weight: 623.7 tons
The Caterpillar 797F is one of the world’s largest ultra-class haul trucks. Costing around £4.1 million depending on specification and configuration, the latest iteration of the 797 has a 363 tonne payload. It is one of the world’s largest two-axle vehicles and was designed for heavy construction and high production mining applications.
The big truck entered service in 2008 and is powered by a 3,793 hp engine. It has a 7,571 litre fuel tank and a top speed of 68 km/h. It may not be the world’s biggest land vehicle but if you need a lot of rubble shifted, there’s only one cat for the job.
Length: 47.3 metres | Width: 7.1 metres | Weight: 1,350 tonnes
Translated as ‘Heavy Gustav’, the Schwerer Gustav was the largest gun ever built and a contender for the biggest ever land vehicle. Made by German heavy engineering company Krupp, the railway gun was designed specifically to break through the fortifications of the French Maginot Line during World War II. In fact the line was destroyed by heavy artillery before the gun could be used so it was deployed at the Battle of Sevastopol on the Eastern Front.
This was no ordinary gun. It was in fact the largest calibre rifled weapon ever used in combat. Each shell weighed seven tonnes and the barrel alone was thirty metres long. It took hundreds of men to assemble and fire the gun, thousands more to dig embankments and lay the railway tracks, as well as two entire flak battalions to protect the gun from air attack. It was eventually destroyed by the German army in the final few months of the war to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Russians.
Missile Crawler Transporter Facility
Length: 40 metres | Width: 35 metres | Curb Weight: 2,721 tons
NASA’s famous crawler-transporter isn’t quite the world’s largest land vehicle but it is definitely the slowest! It has a top speed of just 1.6 km/h, yet it moves the world’s fastest vehicles. Two were built in the mid-1960s and these tracked crawlers transport spacecraft from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Florida’s John F. Kennedy Space Center to Launch Complex 39 in readiness for lift-off.
The sixteen traction motors are powered by four, 1,341 hp generators which themselves are driven by two, 2.750 hp diesel engines. Among other famous vehicles, they brought to the launchpad the Saturn V rocket that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon, as well as the Space Shuttle from 1981 to 2011. They’re among the largest self-powered vehicles in the world.
Overburden Conveyor Bridge F60
Length: 502 metres | Width: 241 metres | Weight: 13,600 tons | Wheels: 760
At over half a kilometre long, the F60 is the world’s biggest land vehicle by physical dimensions as well as the world’s longest vehicle. It has been nicknamed ‘the horizontal Eiffel Tower’ and it’s easy to see why.
The bridge is designed to remove ‘overburden’, the layers of material covering huge open-shaft mines, and it can skim sixty metres of material each pass (hence the name). It’s powered by external electricity, generating the equivalent power of 35,000 hp and is operated by a fourteen-person crew.
Length: 225 metres | Width: 46 metres | Height: 94.5 metres | Weight: 14,200 tons
Not content with being the world’s biggest land vehicle, the Bagger 293, a bucket wheel excavator designed to shift huge amounts of rubble and earth from mine sites, is also the biggest ever land vehicle.
The huge wheel at the front has a diameter of more than twenty-one metres – around the same height as a five-storey building – and has eighteen buckets, each capable of carrying five tons of unwanted material.
Each day, the largest land vehicle ever built can remove a staggering 85,000 tons of earth, or roughly the weight of 34,000 great white sharks.