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1 Heavy autotractor Meili used in forest, about 1937. Picture from book of Gerold Röthlin 'Meili, From Autotractor to modern special vehicles’ from Verlag Gerold Röthlin, Kriens, 2004, the reference book of Meili.


2 Meili Industrial tractor, 5,5 t, 100 hp, in the 30s for agriculture and all industrial transports, could be built from used cars and trucks. Picture from book of Gerold Röthlin 'Meili, from Verlag Gerold Röthlin, Kriens, 2004.


3 Steel wheeled Meili Autotractor. Picture of Gerold Röthlin Archives.


4 Meili P22 introduced in 1950 inaugurated the range of small tractors. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


Metrac Meili patent showing a variant : tracks could be fitted in the middle of the vehicle.


6 Meili Metrac first prototype in 1958. They can see front wheels of the vehicle raised by hydraulic actuators : the new idea.


7 Meili Métrac, V position.


8 Meili Flex-Trac showing its ability, as the Metrac, to remain horizontal. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


9 Meili Flex-Trac.The three dimensions of Flex-Track made in Shaffahousen whose two smallest were amphibious. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


10 Meili Flex-Trac with 108 hp diesel Ford engine, payload 3 T, Mass 4.5 T, speed 65 km/h, marketed by J.C. Bamford, Rocester in 1961. Nice truck without success !

Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.



11 Kässbohrer Flexmobil in 1960 was a reworked Meili Flex-Trac. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


12 Kässbohrer Flexmobil crossing a wall. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


13 Dumper Meili D-1500. Agricutural tractor production at the beginning of the 60s lowered so it was decided to build a dumper sold by Charles Keller construction machinery. Engine MWM 31 hp, speed 22 km/h, On 80 built, 10 were sold, until Iraq. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


14 Meili Multimobil, little off-road semi-trailer 6x6 was marketed in 1964.


15 Meili Snow-Flex 112 hp tracked vehicle articulated in the middle and fitted with a hydraulic positive pitch control from 1966/67, incorporating the first idea of the Métrac. It was studied by Ernst Meili Jr. Picture from book of Gerold Röthlin ‘Meili, from Autotractor to modern special vehicles’ from Verlag Gerold Röthlin, Kriens, 2004.


16 Meili Snow-Flex 112 hp tracked vehicle articulated in the middle and fitted with a hydraulic positive pitch control from 1966/67, incorporating the first idea of the Métrac. It was studied by Ernst Meili Jr.

Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.



17 Meili Multicat at the end of the 60s were not for trial grooming. The Company manufactured tracked vehicles for personal or material transport. Many of these vehicles were built according to customer specifications. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


18 Meili tracked vehicle from 1970 used in Zurich District for maintenance of swamp lands. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


19 Meili VM-9000 6x6, heavy transporter for Alps, payload 7 t, 2 m maxi wide. About 1980. Picture from book of Gerold Röthlin ‘Meili, from Autotractor to modern special vehicles’ from Verlag Gerold Röthlin, Kriens, 2004.


20 This is the first tracked transporter of Viktor Meili in 1975 for swamp land of Zurich district. V. Meili AG built now tracked vehicles instead E. Meili AG of his brother. He sold them in Switzerland and after in the world. Nowadays, The same improved model is called VM-1500 Transporter. Picture from book of Gerold Röthlin ‘Meili, from Autotractor to modern special vehicles’ from Verlag Gerold Röthlin, Kriens, 2004.


21 Combi-Model 2010 currently with front linkage and bucket. Picture Gerold Röthlin Archives.


22 Clark Flex-Trac of 1961, of Clark Equipment, Battle Creek, MI, tested at Fort Knox. It was sold on in 2007 to a Company in Houston, Texas.


23 Clark Flex-Trac of 1961, of Clark Equipment, Battle Creek, MI, tested at Fort Knox.


24 Gama-Goat first prototype. William (Bill) Janowski, Reno, Nevada, bought this prototype with Corvair engine from Roger L Gamaunt in 1987 and restored it in 2007.


25 Gama-Goat first prototype delivered in September 30, 1960. Corvair engine. Pict J M M Archives.


26 Gama Goat was tested in Thaïland in 1962 and 1965. In 1965, Goodyear terra-tires were suited with good performances and it was said that steering wheel (not assisted) was not too hard to maneuver.


27 Gama-Goat pictured by J M M at Etrechy, France, November 1991.



Ernst Meili (born in 1900 in Oberandwil, Canton of Thurgau, died in 1975 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland) created his company in 1932 : Meili, Traktorenfabrik, Shaffahousen. His wife, Erika, deeply involved in the operation of the company for several decades, died in 2001 at age 84.

Meili came out in 1934 his first agricultural and industrial use made self-tractor from used cars (photos 1 and 2). These highly reinforced tractors, equipped with large American V8, could also be equipped with retractable grip spikes, similar to those of TR Latil tractors in the same time.

During World War II, from 1942 to 1945, he continued to build industrial tractors, usually enclosed cab, whose sales will last until the 50s. Some were fitted with recovery iron wheels for lack of rubber (Fig. 3). 600 pairs of these wheels were built. Gasifiers were also mounted on some vehicles.


From 1946, modern agricultural tractors (Photo 4) were offered for sale, a product that will last till the mid-70s. Meanwhile, a competition launched by the Swiss Army in 1958 prompted Ernst Meili to file a patent in 1957 (photo 5) of a 6x6 vehicle with a hydraulic control system. So he built a 6x6 pitch articulated revolutionary tractor, the Metrac (Photos 6 and 7), whose concept will make some noise in the western world of all-terrain vehicle. Its articulated design with positive pitch control by hydraulic cylinders allowed it to cross the vertical walls of nearly one meter, making 'V' or 'big back', supports the progression on rough terrain. The front wheels were steering, but with brakes, it could turn in place, in ‘V’ position. From a central axle containing the locking differential output 4 arms operated by hydraulic cylinders and containing chains of transmission to the wheels. The system also allowed riding horizontally on hillside (photo 8).

Ernst Meili, circa 1959-60, neither had the time (he had been chosen as vice-president of the Association of Cable Car ski resort of Celerina) nor room enough in Schaffhausen to launch mass production of this vehicle. In addition, customers of agricultural tractors were becoming more demanding putting a risk to leaving the company. He only wanted to sell his patents, which he did.

The manufactured units of Flex-Trac at Shaffahousen, had 3 sizes (picture 9) : the largest was a Chevrolet engine, through a Porche engine and smaller, a VW engine. In 1960, a comfortable cabin was installed on the Flex-Trac (Photo 10), sold with Ford diesel engine 108 hp for a payload of 3 tons, a mass of 4.5 T and a speed 65 km / h. Meili sold the patent to J.C. Bamford, Rocester, who presented for sale to the Geneva Motor Show in 1960. The brochure showed all the capabilities of the Flex-Trac : freight transport, fire truck, expedition, rescue, but found no customers.

The patents also sold to Kässbohrer Gelanderfarhzeug AG, Ulm-Donau, served to build the Flexmobil prototyp in 1960 (photo 11 and 12) almost identical to Meili Flex-Trac with a few modifications and a Ford V8 engine of 91 hp. The name of Flexmobil, taken by Kässbohrer for later tracked vehicles, still exists. Mr. Haug, head of R & D of Kässbohrer, still in office in the 80s, had helped Ernst Meili to build the first Metrac. But again, no Flexmobil Kässbohrer were sold. Why ?

A little too new, but probably quite expensive especially with its joints, the hydraulic system, moreover unreliable at this time, its steering levers and many references ! Driving quite complex in off-road conditions with numerous controls to raise or lower the right wheel at the right time, while electronics did not exist. Climbing a regular wall of 0.90 m is one thing but moving in a random arrangement of rocks is another ! It should have a command of the Army to get sales up, but not more than U.S. Army, Swiss Army did not buy this beautiful and expensive truck.


Always full of ideas for new gear, to the detriment of the development of its agricultural tractors, E. Meili designed a platform of transport in 1960 and a small dumper D-1500 (photo 13) which only 10 were sold.

In 1964, the company had moved to Schübelbach where were built on agricultural vehicles of any kind until 1982, with 70 people. There were shovel lift tractors, the Agromobil, small transport mountain vehicle with rear farm wheels, similar to other brands like Aebi, Rassant, Reform (which also uses the term 'Metrac') or Carraro. The Multimobil (photo 13) was introduced in 1964 as a small 4x4 vehicle with driven semi-trailer (6x6).

At the ski resort of Celerina, they did not buy groomer Ratrac (become Rolba in the 70s), importer of Bombardier and Thiohol groomers. E. Meili, Jr., the son of E. Meili, therefore created in the mid-60s, modeled on the wheeled Flex-Trac, the Snow Flex (photos 15 and 16), controlled articulated tracked vehicle for transportation on snow and trail grooming. The two models, the first for the season 1966/67, proved excellent, but there were also quite expensive and they returned to more traditional systems of tracked groomers (very wide). The Multi-Cat (photo 17), personnel carrier, opened the way for a series of tracked models manufactured to customer needs.

Meili mini helicopter prototype was also built with the help of the manufacturer Berger in 1966. Diversifications in all directions were the rule in business at that time and Meili was no exception.

From 1969, the factory produced articulated milling snow, 4x4 wheeled or tracked. A milling salt prototype crawler was built that same year, but weight problems could not be overcome.

 IV – FROM 1975

In 1975, the succession of Ernst Meili was provided by Erika Meili and her 3 son but as soon as 1974, Viktor Meili, the youngest brother, disagree with his brothers, had already established his own business : the manufacture of tracked mowers from 1970 (photo 18) for maintenance of wetlands in the Zurich area by E Meili AG was taken over by the company of Viktor Meili, Meili AG, become manufacturer of special communal machines and construction, wheeled or tracked. Among them, we could see the heavy 6x6 truck VM 9000 (photo 19) 7 t payload, maximum 2 m wide, for transportation in the mountains, the tracked carrier (photo 20) was the first tracked vehicle manufactured by Viktor Meili and called today 'Carrier VM-1500'.

Ernst Meili Jr. and his company E. Meili AG were on verge of bankruptcy in 1984 but his brother Viktor Meili managed to save it. Today, the company V. Meili AG, Schübelbach, manufactures road gears, wheeled or tracked, as the Combi-Model 2010 (photo 21) currently in catalogue of V. Meili, snow-grooming machines, milling machines, snow maintenance equipment of swampy areas, small municipal vehicles and even amphibious vehicles, upon request of the customer if necessary. 80% of its turnover comes from sales to local governments.

Here is the website address of Viktor Meili AG :

But what happened to these wonderful prototypes? We know that the first Metrac long gone, eaten away by rust, but Clark 'Flex-Trac', you could see before in HCEA (Historic Construction Equipment Association) and MPVA, was sold in 2007 on Armyjeep site to a petroleum company of Houston, Texas. For those of Kässbohrer, what is it?


Let's go back!

Specialists from the U.S. Army, working tirelessly at that time (1960) for maximum ground mobility were very impressed by the Metrac, especially since it really innovated in this area. They tested it at Aberdeen in 1961 as an improved version, the Flex-Trac, but still under the name Metrac. This confirmed their initial impressions and they decided to build the Clark Equipment Company, Battle Creek, Michigan, who bought the patents, 2 copies (one 1 T and the other 2 T), amphibians, 'Flex-Trac' (photos 22 and 23) with a Jeep engine, a little weak with 72 HP on a vehicle of 1500 kg payload and 2500 kg empty mass. A copy was sent to Fort Knox for testing.

The tests were so conclusive that it was decided to build by Chance Vought Corp., Dallas, Texas, Division of Ling-Temco-Vaught, Inc. (LTV) since 1962, a articulated 6x6 but without hydraulic system and thus without positive pitch control. Chance Vought, aircraft manufacturer, diversified, like all manufacturers of that time in all-terrain vehicles.

Roger L. Gamaunt (1921-1987), had the idea in 1947 to an articulated 6x6 and filed a patent for the Gama-Goat in April 1960. Articulated in pitch and roll with the addition of a spring suspension on each wheel, unlike Meili Flex-Trac articulated only in pitch whose longitudinal arms absorbed roll in addition to their work of suspension, the first prototype was completed shortly after (photos 24 and 25). William (Bill) Janowski also contributed to the project until 1966. After many tests, including two in Thailand in 1962 and 1965 (photo 26), the vehicle took its final form in 1963 whose the U.S. Army ordered two other prototypes in early 1963 as the XM561, and 14 others. Equipped with amphibious capabilities in calm water with an aluminum body, mass of 3350 kg, payload of 1,300 kg, speed of 90 km / h, its Detroit Diesel 3-cylinder 103 HP, unfortunately very noisy because behind the passengers, made it unpopular despite its great crossing capabilities. Driving with the rear steering additional wheels asked some familiarity. Its price of $ 8000, high at the time, made it replace by the HUMMER in 1985 after producing more than 15000 copies between 1968 and 1972 by Condec, Consolidated Diesel Electric Corp., Charlotte, NC.

Nowadays, private collectors 'love' their Gama-Goat become an iconic vehicle (photo 27).




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