Through the course of developing my new film Persephone, I knew I wanted to create story that featured some cool vehicles and technology. In addition to my lifelong love of spaceships, I am also a fan of futuristic all-terrain vehicles. I wanted to design a rover for the film that was futuristic, aggressive, and most of all, believable.
As I sat in a Phoenix coffee shop creating may first sketches of the TerraCat vehicle, I reference d some of my favorite, rugged ATVs as inspiration. Here are the five I looked at the most:
1. Ark II
When I was a child, I was constantly looking for new science-fiction TV shows. I was fairly intrigued when I saw that a new series was being released on CBS Saturday Morning. From 1976 though 1977, Ark II was a bizarre show about a jetpack-flying scientist and a group bright youth who travel a 25th Century wasteland in a mobile laboratory attempting to restore order and intellect to a now barbaric world.
The Ark II vehicle was a 44-foot-long fiberglass shell built atop a Ford C Series cabover. It was sleek and really cool-looking and high-concept craft of a simple children’s show. Part of it was eventually reused as the nose section of the Seeker spacecraft in the series Space Academy and Jason of Star Command. I looked at this vehicle for its clean, sleek lines.
The post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Damnation Alley from 1977 felt like a mix of a 50’s disaster flick and a warning about the dangers of nuclear war. A group of survivors ad military personnel cross a devastated landscape in a futuristic, 12-wheeled amphibious vehicle called a Landmaster. It’s well remembered by science-fiction fans due to its ability to cross water and even drive over trees with its three-wheeled star configuration tires.
Built on yet another Ford drive train, the Landmaster could travel up to 60 miles per hour. It cost over $350,000 and is currently owned by a private collector in California. I reference the Landmaster for its rugged durability.
3. M577 ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER
To this day, Aliens remains the most exciting movie theater experience I’ve ever had. The 1986 film featured awesome and believable tech. Of all the vehicles showcased in the film, my favorite had to be the APC. There was nothing cooler than when Ellen Ripley took the controls and rescued the Marines from the alien hive.
The APC was built to be driven by a crew of two and carry soldiers and armaments. It’s nearly 10 meters long and was built using an aircraft tug once used to tow 747’s at Heathrow Airport. It weighed about 28 tons and was rebuilt by metalworkers near Pinewood Studios where most of the movie was made.
The ability to monitor and manage data inside a tough, futuristic shell is a significant inspiration for the TerraCat.
I’ve been a fan of various versions of the Batmobile over the years—especially the one from the 1989 film. However, the best one by far is the Tumbler from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) of Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences Division sure knows how to make a kick-ass vehicle.
In “Attack” mode, the driver’s seat moves to the center of the car, and the driver is repositioned to lie face-down with his head in the center section between the front wheels. I love how the driver can move to the center of the vehicle in an intense situation both front tires can eject to allow the driver to be able to man the Batpod motorcycle. I looked at the powerful tires and sturdy suspension of the Tumbler as an example of how the TerraCat should look.
5. BIG TRAK
Just behind the Mattel Space 1999 Eagle, my second all-time favorite childhood toy is the Milton Bradley Big Trak from 1978. It was an awesome, spacey design. The rover was programmable and could store up to sixteen moves. I would often program it to drive around my house and shoot at my father with its “photon cannon”. I imagined that the toy was a huge transport on an alien planet where it carried a team of astronauts on amazing adventures.
I loved the Big Trak so much, I wished it was from a TV show or movie where I could see it operate full scale, in “real life”. I used the design of the Big Trak as an influence on the overall aesthetic of the TerraCat.
In the end, my TerraCat design is meant to be original and iconic, and stand on tits own in annals of science fiction vehicles. I’ll share more on it’s genesis soon!
Updated: The Runners-Up
I had to add a few more ATVs that have been lifelong loves. These all happen to drive on tank treads. ~JM
This was one of the coolest aspects of the original Battlestar Galactica. I also loved the gun turret on top. A great way to shoot down those pesky Cylon Raiders!
Perhaps my all-time favorite science–fiction show, Gerry Anderson’s UFO, featured three mobile vehicles called, well, MOBILES. They were traveling recon units used to fight the alien menace!
The original Lost in Space was campy, even stupid in a lot of ways, but it did feature some pretty darned cool futuristic tech—even if it coudn’t fit truly fit inside the Jupiter 2. The Chariot was an awesome rover featured in early episodes. I so wanted to jump onboard as a child!