Magdeburg, Germany - This overgrown Meccano set is actually a real vehicle, designed (yes, designed!) from the outset for durability, ease of assembly and simplicity of repair and maintenance.
Called the Partisan Kremlin, it’s the brainstorm of Dr Yury Postnikov, a Russian engineer now living in Germany. It’s made almost entirely out of rectangular section stainless-steel tubing and flat sheets, but the really interesting stuff is under the car’s exoskeleton: each wheel has its own electric motor with double-wishbone air suspension all round, so it has no gearbox, transfer case, or propshafts, which reduces weight and improves reliability and maintainability.
The battery pack fills the space between the inner floor - which is completely flat for comfort and accessibility, and the outer floor, which is V-shaped to act as a blast deflector, so even if the Kremlin runs over a mine the worst that can happen is that one wheel gets blown off.
There’s a stand-alone combustion engine under the bonnet with a turbo-generator to keep the batteries charged up; as in the Chevrolet Volt, it’s not connected to the drivetrain at all.
The flat stainless-steel sheets that make up the body panels can quickly and easily be replaced with either armour plate (if weight is no object) or ballistic kevlar and carbon fibre, if it is.
This is actually Postnikov’s second prototype; the first was a little shorter overall with three doors rather than five and a conventional all-wheel drive diesel powertrain.
As the colour chosen for the prototype indicates, it’s intended as a military vehicle - a Russian-inspired EuroHumVee, if you will - intended to be deployed by pallet or parachute, assembled in the field by infantrymen with little or no engineering training, and stand up to the worst they can throw it.
But when he found out that the company tasked with producing an official off-road vehicle, code-named ‘Cortege’, for Russian president Vladimir Putin had suspended work on the project indefinitely due to ‘lack of resources’, he came up with the bigger and better 'Kremlin' version.
While strongly reminiscent of similar back-to-basics (or, as they are now called, ‘appropriate technology’) vehicles such as Gordon Murray’s OX flat-pack third world ugly truckling and the Port Elizabeth-designed and built Chevrolet Nomad of the 1970s, the Kremlin is very much its own vehicle, considerably bigger than either.