A focus of off-road locomotion since the beginning of automobile is formed by Archimedes screw propelled vehicles. They exchange their wheels for wide pontoons, which wrap around a helical surface, invented by Archimedes, Greek mathematician who lived from 287-212 BC. Generally, these vehicles, excellent in mud, snow and water prove otherwise slow, fuel-efficient and important traces appear behind them. Hard surfaces such as roads are closed to them. They can still move sideways, but their steering is no more assured, unless the ‘Amfirol’. Anyway, these machines are part of a bygone era, though some are still trying to perfect them or use them for processing ore residue.



1 - There are dozens of patents on this subject. We can go back to 1899 in U.S. patents where J. J. A. Morath, of Swiss origin, invented an 'Agricultural Machine, propelled by Archimedes screw. US635501 patent.


2 - ' Screw Locomotive ' of C.E.S. Burch patented in 1901. Screws seem adjustable to provide steering. US669210 patent.



3 - Ira Peavey, in 1907, patented a screw articulated vehicle in yaw : the 'Locomotive Snow' for timber industry. Driven by an internal combustion engine, it was ahead of his time in the first decade of the 20th century. Tested around Bangor, Maine, it worked well but presented nevertheless challenges on rough roads and could not compete with the 'Lombard Log Hauler' crawler. US864106 patent.


4 - George Arthur Bloxam also filed a patent in England in 1914 for ‘Improvements on tractors’, agricultural. It is unfortunately not easy to search online older European patents. GB18674 patent.




5 - Armstead Snow-Motor kit, Snow-Motor Co. Inc., Detroit, 1926, fitted on a Fordson Tractor, on which the tracks gave way to cylinders surrounded by a spiral shape. The advertisement claimed it could pull 20 tons of logs.




6 - This copy of Snow-Motor, now at the Hays Antique Truck and Heidrick Antique Tractor Museums, Woodland, CA, was used by the U.S. Post between Truckee and North Lake Tahoe in the 20s. Orders came from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Alaska and was widely tested in Russia.




7 - We can see 'Armstead Snow-Motor’ used by Wilkes expedition in Nenana, Alaska in 1926. Today, the Museum of Valdez, Alaska, has a tractor of the expedition, but it is not sure, it could come from the Kennicott Mine, AK.

Geoffrey Pike, wilkes expedition inventor, thought he could build a vehicle propelled by screw on the model of Armstead Snow-Motor for moving armies in snow covered areas. From 1941, Lord Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, planed to build this vehicle and Pike moved to Canada to oversee the project, which failed. However, it leads shortly after to the tracked M29 Weasel, more universal, built at 16000 units in the Studebaker factory in the USA during WWII.



8 - The Motobob sleigh in Russia with skis at the front was built in 1927.

 Pict from book of Alain Dupouy, Auto-éditeur : 'Les véhicules tout-terrain N° 13 Tome III'. 1995.



9 - Johannes Raeder, a veteran of the Eastern Front in Germany, designed a prototype of screw-propelled vehicle in 1944, and tested it in Tyrol. Very slow, it could still pull 1 t and had good capabilities in the snowy slopes in which he sank 30 cm.



10 - Emmitt Tucker Sr. designed many prototype vehicles for snow that led to the creation in the late 30's of his company later internationally renowned : Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation, Medford, Ore., which produced in the beginning half-tracks vehicles with front skis. He tried many prototypes propelled by screws from the early 20 (photo) until about 1935 without success. Finally, E. Tucker, like his contemporaries J. A. Bombardier and later Bruce Nodwell in Canada and other researchers choose in the mid-30s for caterpillars. Those of Tucker rolled on 2 articulated pontoons very distinctive of the brand and then 4 pontoons from the late '40s.

Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation, Oregon, produces 5 vehicles per fortnight with about 35 people, and still belongs to Tucker family. Pict from 'Mechanics Illustrated', Jan 1957.


11 - Prototypes of the 30s. Pict from review 'Le Weasel, Véhicules militaires' N°4, 2009.



12 - Different models of screw vehicles towards Alaska, the first winter of 1941-42 and the second in March 1943. 

 Picture from book of Fred Crismon ‘US Military Tracked Vehicles’, Motorbook International Publishers & Wholesellers, 1992.




13 - Daf Amfirol in 1966 was not built by DAF but by its creator Joseph Jean de Bakker, which owned a factory at Hulst in Holland, Machiefabriek J.J. Baker. This man in a hurry did not wait the tide is favorable for his fishing parties and found the screw propulsion very suitable to his problem, and even to that of his country, the one of the polders.

The first Amfirol were two 750 cc engine fitted with DAF transmission Variomatic, one set for each side. Subsequently, a rotary engine marine NSU Ro 135 drove the vehicle, then a Ford engine with a Sundstrand hydraulic transmission replaced the formers.




14 -15 - Amfirol steering system : as many of these devices, they can also move sideways when riding on hard surfaces by rotating the pontoons in the same direction. The interesting idea is this : the pontoons, usually parallel, can change their angle, which allows steer the vehicle in the right direction, although the curves are quite large. However Amfirol is not allowed on roads.


15 -Amfirol steering system. Amfirol brochure. J M M collection.


16 - They can see the significant traces left after the passage of an Amfirol.

Despite reduced activity of Hulst Factory, Amfirol is manufactured on demand.


17 - 18 - 19 - The Marsh Screw Amphibian of Chrysler Corporation in 1964, propelled by two Archimedes screws in cons-rotation driven by a 140 Chrysler engine reached a speed in the mud of 22 km / h, in water of 13 km / h and on snow of 32 km / h.

Pict from 4x4 Magazine, Rétrospective, Histoire des Amphibies by J G Jeudy, 1990.


18 - The Marsh Screw Amphibian. Advertising of Chrysler on ebay :


19 - The Marsh Screw Amphibian. Life Archives.


20 - Tested at Chelsea Proving Grounds, MI, and WES, Waterways Experiment Station (with searchers like Knight, Freitag, Nuttall), Vicksburg, MS, the Marsh Screw failed, like his counterparts, in the sand and not slippery hard surfaces, at an average speed of 2.5 km / h despite the possibility of rolling laterally without being able to steer unlike to Amfirol.



21 to 22 - To travel on roads, Chrysler unveiled in 1965 a screw vehicle model equipped with additional retractable wheels. Pict from 'Classic Military Vehicles', Oct 2003.


22 - To travel on roads. Pict from 'Classic Military Vehicles', Oct 2003.


23 - 24 - Despite disappointing results, Chrysler built in 1969 a much larger vehicle, the Riverine Utility Craft or RUC moving on two aluminum rotors 1 m diameter and powered by two 6.7 liters Chrysler engines. The test program requested by the Navy was held in South Louisiana and South East Asia. The water speed was 25 km / h and 46 km / h on marshland but only 7 km / h on solid ground. Testing in the rice fields showed a tendency of the RUC to cling on earth dikes. Chrysler built 10 copies of the RUC for the Marines in Vietnam in 1969, one of which was armored. From :


24 - Riverine Utility Craft.


25 - Today, a RUC is parked outdoors at WES in Vicksburg, Mississippi.



25 - The Japanese Doroshi introduced in 1966 had four Archimedes screws, two per side, with the drive mechanism in the middle. Maximum speed was 20 km / h. Pict from '4x4 Magazine, Rétrospective, Histoire des Amphibies' by J G Jeudy, 1990.


27 – 'Archimedean Screw Tractor' AST-001 of Mitsui was an amphibious prototype craft propelled by screws that could travel at sea and break a not too thick layer of ice. Contemporary of Chrysler RUC around the years 69-70, it is now on display beside the Garinko (see below), to the Monbetsu depot on the island of Hokkaido, Japan. 1.6 t of capacity, speed : 9 km / h, in water : 5.7 km / h.


28 - 29 - The AST-002 of Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Japan, was built in 1985 in two copies of which only one survives. Weighing 11 tons, powered by a V12 300 hp diesel engine and a hydrostatic transmission for 11 km / h on ice, 8 on the water, it could carry 5 people. A surviving copy was on sale on eBay in November 2010.


29 - The AST-002 of Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, 1985, Crew of 5, mass 10.8 tons, payload 1 ton on water, 300 hp,  full hydrostatic transmission, speed on water 6 km/h, on ice 11 km/h, to sale on ebay in 2010 and seen on :


30 - Russia has large areas of snow, mud and swamps that make it the ideal ground for testing screw vehicles and explains the large number of models, none of which were really series produced. The Research Laboratory of the All-Terrain Vehicles, ONIL VM, University of Nizhny Novgorod, formerly Gorky Polytechnic Institute, made many models :

The LFM-66, 1968, or GPI-63, produced based on the tracked vehicle GAZ-47 (GT-S), mass 3600 kg, 1200 kg load capacity, 20 km / h on snow and 10 km / h in water, amphibious, 75 hp engine.


31 - 32 - LFM GPI-72, 1971 made from components of the truck GAZ-66 reached 20 km / h on snow. Pict from '4x4 Magazine, Rétrospective, Histoire des Amphibies' by J G Jeudy, 1990.


32 - LFM GPI-72


33 - LFM- GPI 72 appeared in the press.



34 - PVT-84, 1972



35 - RVVP-68, 1972


36 - RVVP-68, amphibious version

The LFM-75, 1973 and RVT-85, 1977 also existed.


37 - VM-99, 1976


38 - SLU-119, 1981


39 - RVB-GPI-02, 1973, produced with the Association of Kuryanovo Sewage, Moscow, used for the treatment of sludge and wastewater in the tank bottom, 115 hp engine, speed 5 to 20 km / h.


40 - 41 - Test of RVB GPI-02 used in the construction of RVB GPI-06 and diesel GPI-3906.


41 - Test of RVB GPI-02. Pict of Russian screw vehicles were extracted from the former site of Nizhny Novgorod University. www.


42 - GPI-16 is the first for the research of snow-mobile individual.


43 - GPI-16VS, 1967.


44 - GPI-16VA, 1967.


45 - GPI-05, 1972.


46 - 47 - ZIL, headed by Vitaly Grachev, realized large screw vehicles as the ZIL-NHS-1 with 180 hp ZIL-375 engine, dating from 1968 and 1969 with hydro-mechanical transmission. Cylinders 800 mm in diameter were filled with polyurethane for improved buoyancy. It crossed snow depths of 1m on slopes of 35 °.


47 - ZIL-NHS-1., excellent site.


48 to 51 - ZIL 4904, amphibious screw vehicle of 1972 of 5 t and 2.2 t payload. One of these vehicles is preserved in an open air museum : the Autoreview Museum, Russia. Only a few copies were built. Designed by V. Grachev, it was used by the Russian Federal Service for Aerospace Research.


49 - ZIL 4904., excellent site.



50 - ZIL 4904


51 - ZIL 4904


52 - In 1975, the beautiful 6x6 amphibious vehicle ZIL 4906 Blue Bird issued from PEOu truck, was put into series production from 1980 to 1991. This was used to recover astronauts after landing. Payload 500 kg at 13 km / h on water, 12 km / h in the marshes, and 25 km / h in the marshes. 154 hp engine.


53 - The Blue Bird could carry, after processing, a vehicle propelled by Archimedes screw, the 'Shnekohod 29061', from 1981 to 1983, with aluminum and fiberglass bodywork and VAZ transmission, the whole representing a unique set in the world. The series would be made about twenty copies.

(Video :


54 - 55 - Two newer , looking like boats about 2008.




55 - Russian-built vehicles about 2008.


56 - A vehicle used in a farm in Siberia.



57 - Mieczyslaw Gregory Bekker (1905 -1989), a leading specialist of all-terrain vehicles in the 50 to 80, the author of reference books and founder of the theory of off-road locomotion for predicting the behavior of a vehicle in different lands. Founder of ISTV, International Society for Terrain-Vehicle System, always active, he took several patents including a vehicle propelled by screws, in collaboration with Howard A. Wilcox in 1967.

The vehicle shown on the patent is semi-articulated in pitch and roll. Each body receives two screw pontoons which can entire rotate to steer the vehicle (wagon steer) but also switch from a screw locomotion in mud or snow to a wheeled locomotion on hard surfaces if the pontoons are pivoted at 90 °. The sand should be crossed in an intermediate position.

Probably quite expensive and without elastic suspension for high speed, no prototype was built despite a quite appealing theoretical idea. US3354861 patent


58 – M.G. Bekker led the 'Defense Research Laboratories of General Motors in Santa Barbara, CA, from 1963 to 1972. He worked at the completion of the rover that landed on the moon, and calculated itself the lattice of the tires and elastic chassis of lunar rover. But before arriving at the conclusion of a vehicle with 4 wheels, he reviewed many types of locomotion may respond to movement on the moon (tracked vehicles or wheeled articulated vehicles, crawling or jumping) and he achieve among others a working model of an articulated screw propelled vehicle. Pict issued from a film of Moon Locomotion by Bekker.


 59-61 - Ice Challenger : Steve Brooks and five crew members have crossed by land and water the Bering Strait April 7, 2002, that is to say 83 km of water and floating ice at – 30° C between America and Russia. The vehicle used, the 'Snowbird 6', designed by Barry Deaking of Wolfson Unit at Southampton with the Scott Polar Research in Cambridge, was a Bombardier 160 with Perkins 6 cylinder engine equipped with waterproof and floating retractable pontoons hydraulically operated. A winch at the front and an additional rear float operated by hydraulics also completed the set. Good performance with a vehicle like no other ! From


60 - Ice Challenge. From The Weed-end Magazine, 2002


61 - Ice Challenger. From


62-63 - The SRL, Survival Reasearch Laboratory, manufactures quite surprising vehicles. In particular, this laboratory in 2007 realized a 'Screw Machine' fitted with a set of little wheels arranged on the top of the two propulsion screws to reduce friction on hard ground. The vehicle worked well on hard (and clean enough) surfaces but it got stuck in snow. It appears that the diameter of the pontoons was too small to provide good support on soft ground.


63 - SRL Screw Machine


64 - Today, some specialized tasks are assigned to screw vehicles, such as compaction and dewatering of ore residue, especially bauxite. The repeated passage of the machine turns an inconsistent ground into a hard surface suitable for equipment that is more conventional.The Australian company : Residue Solution Pty Ltd, a world leader in this area, built to order screw vehicles, 'MudMaster' : 18t, 8.5 m long, Cummins diesel engine, hydraulic transmission, which produce over 25% of the treatment of bauxite residue of this company.




65 - The Drive-Tesh, of 2009, is a patented system by Alexey Burdin in Russia. A vehicle propelled by screw loses a lot of energy by friction that the deep tracks in the mud after their passage can testify. However excellent in mud, these slow moving vehicles travel over hard ground sideways, the two pontoons turning at this moment in the same direction. The new idea is to inflate a resistant rubber tube which wraps between helical blades of the screw, acting as tires for shock absorption and increasing speed. The steering of the prototype is performed here by an articulated joint.


66 - The inflatable tube between the helical blades of Tesh-Drive.


67 - A project-vehicle with Tesh-Drive in 2009.


68 - Screw Machine for Public Works seen in the Internet in 2010


69 - The radio controlled ‘Spiral Track Autonomous Robot’ (STAR), designed by L. Perrez in 1996, Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California was marketed as a spy robot (microphones, cameras), radiation or landmines detector. Speed 4 m / min in sideways moving, 0.6 m / min forward for a length of 30 cm.


70 - STAR led to STAR 2, lighter.


71 - In 2004, Mattel Inc. produced the Tyco Terrain Twister, a RC screw propelled toy. The two pontoons could be ordered "no parallel" to steer the craft in its lateral movement, as Amfirol.


72 - Although not land, mention is made of ‘Garinko’, experimental ice-breaking 25 m long, built in 1987 for use in the oil fields of Alaska and converted into a cruise ship. The four screws mounted beneath the front of the boat, used to break not too thick ice, constitute the main feature. In the 10 seasons prior to 1996, he moved 80.000 tourists. Currently the vessel is exhibited to the depot of Monbetsu Marine Park on the island of Hokkaido, Japan.


73 - The new ‘Garinko 2’, 35 m long, Garinkotawa Inc. Okhotsk, Japan, from 1997 to today, still with four Archimedes screws with a capacity of 195 passengers, is converted into the summer in fishing recreational or pleasure boat.


74 - Designers and inventors are developing new vehicles.


70717&icg_dbkey=887 http://www.darkroa


75 - Russians inventors also left their imagination.


76 - Cover of 'Popular Science' in the 30s : the Sea Slug.


77 – M.N. Gubkin, Moscow Institute, planned a craft (picture) with two Archimedean screw rollers rotating in opposite directions and a transmission that allows a rig to move in 4 directions. Other projects were emerging in Russia : project truck with retractable screw in Kaliningrad, a project of converting a Moskvich car with rear screws by Gavrilov in 1965 and a vehicle with a single screw in a down returned U and ski at the front, the KRAB-1 in 1973.

 Pict from book of Alain Dupouy, Auto-éditeur : 'Les véhicules tout-terrain N° 11 Tome I'. 1995.





78 - This stair-climbing robot with little wheels at top of screws from Ariel University Center, Samaria, Israel has identical principle to the SRL Screw Machine No. 62 and 63 and it climbs stairs easily.