Old School – The Original ATV
Every so often while exploring a new ride area, we’ll stumble onto a vehicle we haven’t seen before. Then again, sometimes it stumbles onto us. Such was the case when a charismatic character called “Tinley Park Dave” clattered by us at the Badlands Ride area in Indiana. With World War II helmet slung low on his head, unfastened strap swinging in the breeze, heavy work gloves on the stick, and dark shades and heavy work coat completing the image, we managed to flag down General Dave’s one man invasion force. This guy had a story, and we were eager to hear it!
In the late 60’s and 70’s, many companies were cranking out all manner of off-road capable (and some incapable) vehicles.
A few can still be found on the trails and prowling around the backwoods today, and as with just about everything else, there are even a few internet sites frequented by enthusiasts. According to Tinley Park Dave (no doubt named after his Chicago area home), his vintage vehicle was called a TRACKSTER and produced by Cushman.
Our research and an article from the June 1969 issue of POLULAR MECHANICS indicate that the first production Cushman Trackster rolled off the line in February 1970, at the Nebraska plant of parent company Outboard Marine Corporation. Literature from the time called it the “go anywhere vehicle” and “the easiest handling, most exciting vehicle you've ever driven!” Ok... After crawling over Dave’s Trackster and asking him a bunch of questions, he informed us that an updated version of his Trackster was still in production! We’re pretty well versed on most off-road vehicles, but this was news to us, and we definitely wanted to know more. As it turns out, General Dave’s intel was right on the money, and today a company called TerraTrack cranks out the RangeRunner in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
RangeRunner - 2010
Today’s RangeRunner is to the original Trackster as the M1A1 Abrams tank is to a WWII Sherman; definitely related, but a distant relative none the less. Designed as a true “any terrain at any time vehicle,” the RangeRunner is meant to take you places where a traditional ATV or UTV turns around and heads back to camp. Other than wings, tracks are the best thing for reaching truly difficult terrain, and for anybody that crosses deep snow, marshes, mud, thick underbrush, or all of the above, possibly all on the same day, a tracked vehicle is likely your only form of transportation. If work means pipeline inspection or repair duty, or you’re in pursuit of a true trophy buck or moose far out into the marshes, a RangeRunner can get you there. About the only thing it can’t do is float, although it can slog through water up to 24 inches deep.
The RangeRunner rides on a pair of heavily reinforced rubber tracks driven by hydrostatic pumps and drive motors that are virtually maintenance free. That means no gears, belts, or chains to give you problems, and as far off the beaten path a RangeRunner is capable of taking you, the last thing you need deep in Grizzly country is a broken down vehicle. As long as you have hydraulic pressure, you will keep moving.
Surprisingly, the RangeRunner also features a dynamic suspension system for the twin, independently driven tracks. Each track rides on stainless steel capped wheels with watertight triple-lip seals, suspended by steel or rubber torsilastic springs. This means that as the vehicle claws its way over rocks, logs, or ice jams, the track bogey wheel and guide system soaks up the bump with minimal feedback to the driver and passenger.
Power & Control
The RangeRunner is powered by a liquid cooled, 950cc turbocharged, Briggs & Stratton/Daihatsu 3-cylinder diesel engine with a 60 amp alternator. Designed for torque and pulling power rather than top speed, you’ll top out around 15mph, but when climbing over rocks and slogging through the swamp, that will be fast enough.
Controls of the RangeRunner are well placed and easy to understand. A single, center mounted T-handle controls the vehicle's speed, turning and braking. Slide it forward to go ahead, twist to either side to steer, and pull back to apply brakes and back up. Since the twin track motors are driven independently, the RangeRunner can spin around in its own length! The crew compartment is limited to a driver and single passenger, and because of its low center of gravity and extremely wide footprint the vehicle is extremely stable. Always wear a helmet and the seatbelts however, just as with any off road vehicle. The RangeRunner people require training before operation as well.
Any time you need tracks just to get to the job site, you’ve got serious work ahead. Electric utility crews, surveyors, fire fighters, pipeline workers, ski patrols, geologists, and farmers and ranchers all cover extreme terrain on a regular basis, and every job requires a bunch of specialized tools on hand as well. The RangeRunner is well equipped to carry both, and can even be equipped with a remote hydraulic system capable of powering tools or attachments such as an auxiliary blade. The twin tracks provide ample traction for pushing snow and even light dirt, but the added benefit is they have a very light footprint, even when the vehicle is fully loaded. The RangeRunner exerts less than one psi of ground pressure, which is far less than any wheel, and this is important when covering sensitive terrain, semi frozen tundra, or bogs. There are plenty of accessories for the RangeRunner as well such as winches, cargo carriers, sprayers, grooming equipment, blades, etc, and they can be attached to either the front or rear of the vehicle through quick-pin receiver hitches.
Sportsman and hunting guides will also find the RangeRunner is both a handy form of transportation, and a useful mechanical pack mule for hauling big game or gear on hunting or fishing expeditions when camp is far from where the two track ends.
The Proving Grounds - RangeRunner Test Ride
We were anxious to get behind the controls of the RangeRunner. Since it is designed as a serious work vehicle and a natural fit for any industry that requires extremely limited access work, we brought along our own expert for his opinion. With over 30 years in the field and as the Senior Lineman for one of the largest electric and gas utility companies in the country, Al Arens has seen just about every tough job in the utility business, and could provide invaluable insight to the RangeRunner’s capabilities. After a brief training and operation session, he was off! Rather than take an easy joy ride around the field, AL went right to work and pointed it at the side of a steep, snow covered grade, just as if there were downed power lines to be fixed after a storm. Before we could grab our camera and click off a few shots, he was traversing the side of the hill and climbing to the top!
It quickly became evident the RangeRunner is an extremely stable machine, and we had a hard time walking on the slopes the machine crossed and climbed with ease. The suspension soaked up any bumps and lumps on the frozen ground, and at any engine RPM or speed, there was no noticeable vibration felt by the driver or passenger. Engine noise was much less than expected, and we considered it to be quite low for either a recreational or work machine. It was very possible to carry on a conversation while underway! Steering action was precise and really easy to control, with no jerking or lurching to either side. Move the T-handle stick, and you get a smooth, predicable response --very nice! Al was also quite impressed with the hydraulics on the unit, and there was no “dead spot” in the steering, or when accelerating or coming to a stop. When it came time to back up, that was very smooth as well, and within a few minutes it was easy to precisely maneuver the RangeRunner around obstacles or over difficult terrain. When attempting to climb steep grades or pull extreme loads, in order to utilize maximize hydraulic torque capability it is necessary to actually pull back on the T-handle. Once that trick is learned it will climb like a Sherpa!
After our test session, AL’s evaluation is that the RangeRunner is an extremely capable, stable, safe, and easy to operate vehicle that would be a natural fit for any serious work way beyond the end of the trail. He especially appreciated the receiver hitch at both ends, the ability to carry and power a winch, and the accessory tool rack. In fact, he suggested that to carry an extra transformer or tools, an accessory basket could be installed into the rear receiver. This would alter the center of gravity, but not adversely --unless you took the whole storeroom along. Our experienced evaluation: two heavy leather gloved thumbs up!
Nuts & Bolts
Impressive! Often times when power sports enthusiasts speak about attention to detail, Honda is the unofficial gold standard. The TerrraTrack people will give them a challenge any day! They are every bit as detail-oriented, and the design, fabrication, and general workmanship on the RangeRunner is EXCELLENT! Nothing is left to chance. The welds are perfect, even on areas that will never show, such as the undercarriage, and hoses and wiring are well routed, securely fastened, and even rubber coated in any area that could either create or be subject to vibration; no detail is overlooked. This is a solid, well designed, and carefully assembled vehicle and chassis in every respect! We looked for any bare metal that would be subject to corrosion, or any potential problem area, and we could not find one. Every surface is either plated, powder coated, or sealed to prevent corrosion, and again the coating work is excellent. It’s as if they’re building a race car - don’t tell the crew otherwise!
Carry On Solider
We’ve been to riding areas and trails all across North America and we’ve never seen anything quite like the RangeRunner. Then again, we’re not usually riding in terrain where the RangeRunner really shines. If you’ve got extreme terrain to cover for either work or play, other than a rotary wing pilot’s license, the RangeRunner is likely your best option. It can get you there and back. If recreational riding is more your thing, the RangeRunner can handle that too, and you can always join up with General Dave’s campaign to conquer a few acres of rural Indiana.
- Hydrostatic Drive
- T-Handle Control
- Zero turning radius
- Water cooled engine
- Welded steel frame
- Heavy-duty fiberglass body with gel coat finish
- OPS (Occupant Protective Structure) & Light bar
- 3-point operator and passenger seat belts
- Halogen headlights
- LED Taillights
- Polyethylene skid plate
- 12-volt power port
- Cargo tiedowns
- Tow hitch
- 10.5 gallon fuel tank
- Turning Radius Zero inches
- Speed Up to 15 m.p.h. (24km/h) maximum
- Grade Climb limit 100% grade or 45°
- Side Hill Stability 45°
- Drawbar Pull 1000 lbs., dependent on ground conditions
- Ground Pressure:
- Unloaded 0.82 PSI
- With Operator 0.92 PSI
- With Operator and 100 lbs. of equipment 0.97 PSI
Engine: 34 Horsepower Liquid Cooled turbo charged diesel
Drive: Tandem hydrostatic pumps, and wheel motors
Steering: Single T-handle control
Tracks: Endless tracks of heavy duty reinforced rubber with double drive lugs molded inside
Bogie Wheels: Polyethylene wheels with stainless steel outer cover. Watertight triple-lip seals for protection of ball bearings. Future models to include a full UHMW wheel with aluminum hub.
Suspension: Each set of bogie wheels individually suspended by steel springs or torsilastic springs
Brakes: Hydrostatic brake through T-Handle
Windshield, light kits, remote hydraulics, snow blade, heater, wiper, electric winch, rear cargo rack, Auxiliary Hydraulic System, vinyl all-weather enclosure, 3-Point Hydraulic Hitch, Snow Blade, Snow Blade Storage/Installation Cart, Heavy Duty Brush Guard and Winch Mount, Transport Tilt bed Trailer
Length 94 inches
Width 63 inches
Height 70 inches
Weight 1700 pounds
Track Width 15 1/2 inches
Ground Clearance 9.875 inches
Specifications subject to change without notice
Manufactured by TerraTrack A Division of Mac's Trax, Inc.
2689 Walkent Ave., Ste F, Walker, MI 49544
Visit us at www.terratrack.com phone 616-735-0580