In the United States the phrase, no replacement for displacement can often be heard around vehicle enthusiasts of every caliber. This a reference to engine size with the idea that bigger is always better. Americans just seem to not be happy unless their toys are larger than life. This post will attempt challenge that assumption.
The vehicle pictured above is manufactured by Earth Roamer. It is billed as an expedition vehicle that can go anywhere and do anything while enjoying all the comfort of total luxury. This monstrosity is 8 feet wide, 12 feet tall, and a whopping 29 feet long. It’s massive girth weighs in just under 20,000 pounds, or about the same as five modern jeeps, and that is before you put any of your stuff inside of it.
While many would, and do, drool for something of this magnitude, is it really an expedition vehicle? No, it isn’t. Yes it is four wheel drive. Yes is has a camper attached to the back. Yes it has a 900 mile range. But where can you actually take it? Where would you actually take vehicle with a base price of $438,000? That is nearly one half of one million dollars. Would you dare to even scratch such a thing? I digress, lets look at where you can actually go with this vehicle.
With the Earth Roamer you can, travel highways, well maintained dirt roads, and some that are not so well maintained. That’s it. At 29 feet long you at not going to traverse even a moderate switch back road with any sort of ease. At a full eight feet wide (not counting the mirrors) you are not going to run your favorite off-road trails. At 12 feet tall you probably won’t be heading through any sort of dense of forest any time soon.
So what do you really have then? You have something to brag about as you sit in an RV park next to every other RV that is built for highway use. Sure, you can take it to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska via the highway (such as it is). But at nearly 20,000 pounds you wont be diving off the main road to explore the country side without fear of the permafrost giving way and sinking your half-million dollar toy. This is a perfect example of why the age old mantra of, no replacement for displacement, is just wrong.
To prove this, all we need to do is to look to history. Specifically, the first vehicle crossing of the Darien Gap that occurred in 1960. This was accomplished by four men, plus eight locals that were hired for labor. The vehicles? 1 Land Rover Series 2, and 1 Jeep. Each had what would be considered today, rather small tires and each six cylinder engine produced around 52 horsepower. That’s it.
Granted these men were also accomplished off-roader’s and explorers, however, I doubt a massive vehicle such as the Earth Roamer would ever be able to pull off such a feat. Well, not until a major highway gets built anyway.
When you are exploring by vehicle in less than perfect diving conditions weight is the enemy. In point of fact, weight is the enemy of performance in any condition. While the idea of being able to take every creature comfort from home with you no matter where you go can be appealing, to some, the limitations that come with such a trade off are just not worth it for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate good design, but when I go exploring I am looking to go past the RV parks and county maintained roads. The earth roamer, as grand and ostentatious as it is, just can’t give me what I am looking for; a real sense of adventure.