Another day, another story about those massive LARC-LX amphibious vehicles washing up on a beach in New Jersey. Yes, the two huge 4x4s are back on land with mechanical trouble, still on the way down to Chesapeake Bay after engine issues held up progress last week.
If you haven't seen our previous coverage of these machines' ongoing journey, there's a bit you need to know. The LARCs were previously beached further north near the town of Seaside after trundling down the coast from Staten Island at around six knots. The two amphibious landing craft were purchased two years ago and have been undergoing repairs by their new owners ever since; however, once they hit the water, a few more troubles arose. We know now that an issue with one of the vehicle's fuel lines forced the first landing, and now a hydraulic leak has caused the second.
“Wild Sally” and “Big Jack” landed near the town of Brigantine on Wednesday, and John Hennage—part of the brother-sister operation who plans to use these vehicles in a business venture—explained the issues they were having. "We realized that one of the old steel hydraulic lines had ruptured,” he told NJ.com, continuing to explain that they haven't just been stopping on beaches for vital repairs the whole trip. “From Barnegat Lighthouse down to Atlantic City was really a nice, pleasurable trip."
Hennage is one of a five-person crew driving the vehicles down south to Virginia, where they will be used for a variety of purposes. "There's a lot of need for erosion mitigation, dredging, riprap, all the problems that you’ll have up here, we have the same problems on the bay,” Hennage previously explained to News 12 New Jersey. “It's just we don't have the infrastructure... so [the LARC-LX] allows all the equipment to be brought in from the water.”
The LARC-LX is perfect for jobs like this. The vehicles were originally used by the U.S. Army, starting in the 1950s, and they saw service primarily in Vietnam until their eventual retirement just after the new millennium rolled around. Powered by one Detroit Diesel 6-71 engine per wheel, they're capable of hauling 100 tons of cargo over land or water. They were all built by Letourneau Technologies, which also manufactured vehicles like the incomprehensively massive TC-497 overland train. After their retirement, many were simply sold to the public, which is how Hennage ended up eventually getting his hands on them.
Of course, the sight of two massive landing craft arriving on a beach in New Jersey is a little surprising. “Are we being invaded?” one person on the scene reportedly joked. Another, Brigantine City Manager Jim Bennett, was an Army Veteran and had actually trained on one of the vehicles. For him, it was a somewhat familiar sight. "They’re the largest amphibious vehicle the U.S. military has ever built,” he confirmed to NJ.com after commenting on his military service in the 1980s and 90s.
As for other future stops, Hennage told NJ.com that when they do come ashore, they try to make it brief so as to not make a fuss. This latest stop in Brigantine will be over once repairs are complete, a process that will reportedly take until first light Friday morning at the latest. After that, the vehicle will make one more stop in New Jersey in Cape May for fuel before continuing south. “Our plan is to be off the beach before anybody is trying to get on the beach for the holiday week,” Hennage noted, referencing Memorial Day. So if you want to see a LARC, maybe head down there ASAP.
If you can't make it to Cape May, there is at least one other functional LARC-LX at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. That one won't be floating down the east coast any time soon, though.
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