Today we retreat to a quiet backwater of the Federation, where no harm could possibly befall us, for some quiet research with Ralph Savelsberg's L.U.R.C.H. and mobile lab.
Having anti-gravity technology and flying around at relativistic velocities can be a lot of fun, of course, but sometimes you just have to move something large and heavy across the surface of a planet. In that case, a wheeled vehicle is still the way to go. The Federation’s standard vehicle for this kind of task is called L.U.R.C.H., which stands for Large Ultra-Rugged Cargo Hauler. That name pretty much covers it. Rather than going for a high-tech option, this vehicle was built using old-fashioned but highly dependable technology. It has to be rugged. Where this thing goes, there is no breakdown service. There is no road either. In fact, other than a lot of dirt and the occasional scenic view, there generally isn't much of anything.
The scenic view is an important part of this particular L.U.R.C.H.'s mission. It is delivering a luxurious mobile home/ laboratory to a remote location overlooking a particularly nice lava lake. The beneficiary of this endeavour is the famous exo-botanist Annie D. Quite why the Federation goes to this trouble isn't clear, but rumour has it that it is a birthday present by Commander Armstrong.
Ralph says: Ed and I have done collaborative builds before. We seem to work well together, because usually we end up building something that either of us would never have built alone or wouldn't have built as well. This one is no exception. I normally don’t do science-fiction and Ed's initial attempts at building a vehicle weren't exactly really going to plan. Of course, with Ed being the kind of guy he is, his plan was ambitious. It goes without saying that the vehicle had to be big and as though that wasn’t enough, he wanted power functions remote control. When I got involved, I'd only just built a six-wheeled military vehicle of my own design and on a visit to Ed and his wife Annie, it formed the basis for a quick sketch of a six-wheeled cargo/exploration vehicle. Ed and I both liked the look, but there were a few issues. Because it was going to carry some sort of mobile base and shouldn't be too high overall, the wheels that did the steering simultaneously had to be the drive wheels. I am hardly the world’s most experienced technic builder, but we agreed that I was going to build the vehicle, obviously with Ed's and his wife Annie's input and using Ed’s still impressive collection of old grey left over from building HMS Hood. The build wasn't very easy. Initially the vehicle just wouldn't come together. Versions one, two and three all had problems: they were either too slow or too fast, the steering mechanism wouldn't self-centre or would self-destruct. One version drove with an odd-looking lurching motion, which gave the vehicle its name. Finally, with version four everything worked.
* Happy birthday Annie!
We love both L.U.R.C.H. and the mobile lab, and all the fantastic interior details. As if it wasn't awesome enough, it's motorised with a Power Functions remote control - check out video here. Let's just hope that Dr. D. is safe on her remote outpost...