I don’t know what it is, but I want one!

This is some Russian invention from the 1970 era. I don’t know what it is, but I want one!

It drives over lakes, marshes, mud, snow, even scrub brush and small trees…



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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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12 Responses to I don’t know what it is, but I want one!

  1. Steve says:

    I wonder if they got the idea from the Armstead Snow Vehicle.

  2. Clay Marley says:

    I’d go with the Landmaster, from the movie “Damnation Alley”. Not a good movie, but a credible suspension system.

  3. The True Nolan says:

    Ding ding ding! I think Steve is a winner!

    I want one to make nice crop circles with….

  4. H.R. says:

    Roads?!? Roads?!? We doan need no steenkin’ roads!

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Looks like the idea has been around a while. Here’s a guy DIY one:

    Though I’d use bigger screw / tanks for better buoyancy without the boat hull…

    An earlier version didn’t have the boat hull and was in need of a lot more floaty…

    Then there’s a strange animation version that, IMHO “needs work’…

    from comments in Steve’s link, we find out that the magic search term is “Zil screw drive’; which gets things like:


    Chrysler had one:

    And another DIY:

  6. Graeme No.3 says:

    Handy for navigating swamps. Isn’t there someone in Florida who needs something like this?

  7. H.R. says:

    If you want one, E.M., check ebay. I’m sure there’s one listed there. ;o)

    You posted on these screw drives a couple of years ago, E.M. You wanted one then and you want one now, so… just how big did you say your garage was?

    It seems to me that the DIY jobs were made from a pontoon boat cylinder and the DIY part was welding on the spiral. I’ve been trying to visualize how I’d make the spiral, but I haven’t come up with a sure-fire way to form one. Machinery exists to make spirals for augers and grain elevators, so the only difference I see is the ‘shaft’ of the spiral is a huge diameter for these screw drives as opposed to what’s usually made for current common augers.

    I noticed on one of the DIY jobs above that one portion of a spiral was bent a little, meaning it wasn’t quite stout enough. The Zil in your article had really heavy spirals and could probably run on concrete without damage to the spirals, though I’d think the State Highway Department would take a dim view of that.

    Maybe you can convert one of those spare Mercedes you have lying around, eh?

  8. The True Nolan says:

    Does rotational direction make a difference? I think it does. On snow, ice, or firm ground it doesn’t seem to make a difference, but notice the Chrysler version which is operating in swamp. Viewed from the front, the screw to your left rotates counter clockwise. The screw to your right rotates clockwise. Why might this be important? The mud and water is dragged along in the direction of rotation, so the mud (and water) helps lift the vehicle up. If the screws rotated the opposite way, (as some of the homemade versions seem to do) the mud would be dragged toward the outboard of the vehicle, making it sit lower in a bit of a hole.

    The experimental “flapjack” fighter plane built by the US military back in 1942 used the same principle to increase lift.

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    Wants tend to be persistent… I’d be tempted to just weld on a bunch of wedge shaped cleat things, then fill in the gaps between them with built up weld… then again, I always did like welding…


    I ran into some videos of newer ones where each side pontoon / spiral is actually 2 of them half length; and they turn in opposite directions. So net sideward ‘drag’ on any given side is net zero (assuming the surface under the two is uniform – i.e. it will be different when climbing out of a lake where the rear half is still in water and the front half is digging in mud…)

    I would expect there’s a lot of room for testing and choosing here.

    1 pontoon per side – rotate outward
    1 pontoon per side – rotate inward
    2 pontoons / side: front out, back in; back out, front in; back & front out; back & front in; rt front out lft front in / rt rear in lft rear out; etc. etc.

    Then one could always do 3 pontoons per side, or maybe 4… or have one down the middle and two on the edges… and…


    Yes, we have swamp here and yes that makes a fellow think of swamp buggies… and how to get to that hard to reach bass hole… but until I’ve got a trailer and towing done so my stuff is all in one place; I have a moratorium on new big toys.

    There’s also a thing called a Sherpa from Russia that might be better for fishing anyway. The front opens up and you could just cast out a line…. OTOH, the tires are very thin and barely inflated (good for low psi on sand, mud, etc) so maybe fishhooks are not such a good idea…

    So I’m just a little more likely to get one of them…. they can drive across lakes too…

  10. Josh from Sedona says:

    Yes definitely from Armstead snow motor, they actually have one in a museum in Northern California, used to do a mail deliveries in the Sierra Nevada

  11. jim2 says:

    There is a Sherpa-like vehicle that allows inflation/deflation of the tires from the cabin. Makes it easier to adjust to surface conditions.

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