The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter has to be simultaneously
one of the coolest and strangest vehicles ever built.
The Surface Orbiter came from humble beginnings, a milk
tanker to be precise. But thanks to the hard work (14,000
hours over four and a half years) by Rick Dobbertin of
Syracuse, New York, the Surface Orbiter became a reality.
The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter was designed to be a truly
all-terrain amphibious vehicle, and one which could circumnavigate
the globe without the need for support vehicles. Unfortunately,
due to a lack of funding, this epic vehicle never got
to prove itself as a true globetrotter.
That's not to say it didn't do its fair share of testing
and travel. It logged over 33,000 miles on land, and perhaps
more incredibly it traveled over 3,000 miles by water,
including open seas with waves up to 18 feet (5.4 meters)
high! The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter was also the first
amphibious vehicle to pass the length of the Panama Canal.
The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter's build process was one
of truly gargantuan proportions, especially for one man.
Measuring in at 32.5 feet (10m) long, with a width of
7.5 feet (2.3m) and standing 10.5 feet (3.2) high, the
body is a 1959 Heil stainless steel milk tanker with 2.5
inches of Styrofoam insulation packed between the two
It can carry 340 gallons (1,287 litres) of diesel for
its 250 hp 6.5 litre V8, and 40 gallons (151 litres) of
drinking water for the crew.
Top speed over land is a respectable 70 mph. However in
the water it's a much more placid 11 mph.
Equipment for the Dobbertin Surface Orbiter includes a
GPS system with 24-mile range radar, multiple radio systems,
auto-inflating life raft, dual steering wheels, marine
cruise-control, and a bunch of other essential equipment
for the independent world-traveller.