At Roadkill, in between hunting down sad-level rust bucket projects and obscure intake manifolds, we spend a big chunk of our spare time prepping for the upcoming apocalypse by scanning Craigslist for end-times deals. That’s how we found this Ford F-350 COMBATT 4X4 Prototype, a vehicle which proves you can never go too big when there’s an asteroid hurtling through the atmosphere, or when you’re trying to snag some of that sweet, sweet DoD development budget.
Back in the early 2000s, General Dynamics Land Systems got the idea that it could muscle the AM General HMMWV (or Humvee) out of the U.S. Army’s procurement books by presenting a vehicle that was cheaper to build and maintain, while also being much easier to drive. Working directly with the Army’s National Automotive Center, the COMBATT initiative (COMmercially Based Tactical Truck) tagged a number of players in both the defense and the auto industry world and had them collaborate to produce a next-generation troop transporter.
One of the end results of this program – the Ford F-350 COMBATT 4X4 Prototype – was a lot more than just a rattle-can camo heavy-duty pickup with a lift kit. Upgrades included FoMoCo strengthening the chassis to boost its gross vehicle weight rating to 12,000 lbs, Dana 60 front and Dana 80 rear Hydra-lock differentials, 2 piece beadlock wheels, an adjustable air suspension, electronically-adjustable shocks, full skid plates, and a 12,000 pound winch that can be attached to either the front and rear bumper. The truck even boasts the Humvee’s central tire inflation/deflation system for its run-flat 37-inch tires, letting it bounce its way over off-road obstacles that would stop lesser rigs. General Dynamics tested the truck to tackle a 60-percent grade, 40-percent side slops, and 30-inches of standing water.
Under the hood, the four-door pickup is outfitted with the same 7.3-liter Powerstroke turbodiesel you’d get from the factory, matched to a four-speed automatic transmission and a unique Eaton ‘Hydraulic Launch Assist’ system that captures braking energy and then releases it into the driveline during acceleration for improved performance. In the cab, however, you’ll find old-school GPS, a period-correct computer, three different voltage outputs (12, 24, and 110) for the vehicle’s electrical system, and even an infrared night vision system matched with front and side-looking radar. The truck can be swung from a helicopter and washed out with a hose, and it comes with a camo tent for the bed as well as a shovel and pick axe so you can dig in, or dig out, when Judgment Day looms.
A weird footnote to the story of the COMBATT project is that a big part of the Army’s plans revolved around being able to lease, and then return these rigs to Ford, GM, or Dodge, who would then theoretically sell them on down the line to everyday folks (or companies) who had a hankering for a military-spec off-roader. This would help keep costs down even further, although given the pennies-on-the-dollar price of former military vehicles sold at auction, it’s hard to know if the strategy would have worked.
The seller has repainted the truck from its original Army colors to a stealthier black that makes it more suitable for urban bug-outs. They’re also asking $30,000 for the pickup, which seems high until you realize that General Dynamics probably spent at least 20 times that figure developing the vehicle. With less than 40,000 miles on it, this unit is ‘one-of-one,’ especially if the Craigslist claim that ‘THE SISTER TRUCK OF THIS MACHINE WAS ACCIDENTALLY BLOWN UP BY AN F-16 ON THE RANGE’ is actually true.
You can believe everything you read on Craigslist, right? Fingers-crossed that the invading aliens aren’t flying F-16s.