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1959 Heil Milk Tank Trailer - The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter (DSO)
     Amphibious Craft - Travelled Through 28 Countries and 38 States 
     
      

 

- SPECIFICATIONS -

BODY

1959 Heil Stainless Steel Milk Tanker.

Double-walled with 2.5” Styrofoam

insulation between the walls.

 

FRAME

Constructed from 910 pieces of 304 stainless steel.

Every through-frame bolt hole is tubed to keep water out.

 

CONSTRUCTION

Built in Cazenovia, NY over a 4.5 year period. 

Logged in over 14,000 hours.

 

DIMENSIONS

Length – 32.5 feet

 Width – 7.5 feet

  Weight – 10.5 feet

      Weight – 17,500 pounds (full)

 

CAPACITIES

Diesel Fuel – 340 US gallons

 Potable Water – 40 US gallons

 Coolant – 17 US gallons

 Oil – 4.5 US gallons

 

ENGINE

GM Powertrain 250hp 6.5 liter

Intercooled turbo V-8 with a

Peninsular Marine conversion.

 

TRANSMISSION

4-speed 4L80E GM automatic with overdrive,

coupled to a 4WD transfer case.

 

AXLES

Front – Dana 60 – 4.56 ratio.

 Mid – 8000# Hayes

  Rear – Dana 70HD – 4.56 ratio.

 

SUSPENSION

4-links with panhard rods.

Air-assisted coil springs with

dual shocks. (12 shocks total)

 

BRAKES

Front - Discs with electric vacuum assist.

Mid - Electric auxiliary drum.

Rear - Discs with electric vacuum assist.

 

WHEELS

16.5 X 9.75 Weld aluminum billets.

 

TIRES

12.5” X 35” BFGoodrich radials.

 

LAND

Part-time 4WD with lock-out hubs.

Top speed - 70mph

Fuel consumption - 10-12 mpg.

 

SEA

 Single 22” 3-blade bronze prop with a 12” pitch

Top speed - 10 knots (11mph)

Fuel consumption - 1- 2 mpg.

 

CONTROLS

Dual steering wheels – land & sea.

Dual shifters – trans & transfer case.

Marine - RPM cruise-control.

 

MONITORS

33 VDO gauges

 10 indicators

  60 switches

 

ELECRTICAL
Dual 200 amp alters - 110V inverter.

Dual 12V 8-D marine gel-cell batteries.

 

NAVIGATION
Compass - GPS with plotter.

Radar with 24-mile range.

 

COMMUNICATIONS

Single-side-band radio

VHF marine radio

Cellular phones

CB radio

 

SAFETY

4 Halon fire extinguishers

Auto-inflating life raft

Braced Lexan windshields

5-way seat belts

 

REGISTRATION - LAND

Custom House on Wheels (Motorhome)

 

REGISTRATION - SEA

Registered Motor Yacht – “PERSEVERANCE”


- PHOTO GALLERY -
 
 
- FACTS AND HISTORY -
  • The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter is a handbuilt amphibious vehicle constructed from a 1959 Heil stainless steel milk tanker over a period of four and a half years (14,000 man-hours) by Rick Dobbertin and a great bunch of friends, in Cazenovia, NY.

  • The Orbiter was built inside a backyard garage measuring 14 - feet by 40 - feet.  Since the Orbiter was 8-feet wide and 32-feet long, there wasn't a lot of 'spare' space to construct it.

 

  • Rick is also the builder of Hot Rod Magazine’s 1982 Street Machine of the Year (a 1965 Nova SS) as well as Hot Rod Magazine’s 1986 Hot Rod of the Year (a 1985 Pontiac J-2000).

 

  • Project Earth-Trek began with the dream of doing something different and the desire to show that even in today's world, dreams can still realized through hard work and perseverance.

 

  • The vehicle was designed to circumnavigate the Earth, over land and sea, without any type of support vessel and was well on its way when the lack of funding cut the adventure short.

 

  • Even so, the Orbiter has logged in over 30,000 miles on land and over 3,000 miles in the open ocean, with seas up to eighteen feet high, off the coast of Puerto Rico.

 

  • The Orbiter has been the focus of attention of educators in many countries. It sparks interest in science, math, technology and geography for students of all ages.

 

 

PROJECT EARTH-TREK – PHASE ONE – 28 COUNTRIES AND 2 CONTINENTS

 

THE UNITED STATES - THE BAHAMAS - TURKS AND CAICOS

DOMINCAN REPUBLIC - PUERTO RICO - SPANISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - SAINT MARTIN

SAINT EUSTATIUS - SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS - MONTSERRAT

GUADELOUPE - DOMINICA - MARTINIOUE - SAINT LUCIA

SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES - GRENADA - VENEZUELA

COLOMBIA - PANAMA - COSTA RICA - NICARAGUA - HONDURAS

EL SALVADOR - GUATEMALA - MEXICO - THE UNITED STATES - CANADA

 

FEBRUARY 21-23, 1995

THE FIRST AMPHIBIOUS TRANSIT OF THE PANAMA CANAL

 
- MAGAZINE QUOTES -
 

The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter – Captain Nemo Builds a Corvette

CAR AND DRIVER MAGAZINE – APRIL 1994

Brock Yates – Editor At Large

“This thing makes an Indy car look like a homebuilt."

"Still, there is something wonderful, zany and hopelessly chimerical about the entire project which makes one think of other backyard wizards, like Mickey Thompson and Art Arfons and Bill Rutan, who bolted and welded together other seemingly insane dreams.”

“Rick Dobbertin surged onto the custom-car scene in the 1980s after building a pair of prize-winning show cars. His 1965 Nova was named HOT ROD Magazine’s 1982 Street Machine of the Year. Four years later, his 1985 Pontiac J-2000 was anointed as HOT ROD Magazine’s 1986 Hot Rod of the Year. Both have turned up in more than 100 car magazines around the world.”

 

The Magellanic Mechanic – Rick Dobbertin and His Surface Orbiter

MOTOR AGE MAGAZINE – MARCH 1994

Joe Woods – Feature Editor

“Speaking of welding, I have to say something about his workmanship. To put it bluntly, if such things were still in fashion, Rick Dobbertin would be burned for a wizard.”

“Dobbertin built the Orbiter over a period of four years and 11,000 man hours. Previously, he has built custom cars, sometimes described as the only perfect cars in the world.”

“Dobbertin’s doing something at the very top of our trade. He’s doing something all of us would like to do, but never will. To be frank, we owe him some support, not just for himself, but for our profession. No fat cats are underwriting the Orbiter.”

“I’m familiar with metal work on Japanese superbikes, military aircraft and musical instruments. Next to Dobbertin’s work, they all seem like lashed-up stone-aged tools. It’s hard to believe these tubes weren’t all made from one piece.”

 

Globe –Trotting Guernsey

MotorHome Magazine – November 1995

Jim Brightly – Feature Editor

“A milk truck with wanderlust, the Dobbertin Surface Orbiter and its crew of two plan to visit every continent on Earth, and most of its islands, too.”

“This endeavor sort of reminds one of “The Little Engine That Could”– the childhood story that encourages kids to keep trying no matter what the odds against succeeding. Rick Dobbertin (Is his middle name Perseverance?) must have felt that little story was a way of life, because he tackled the Dobbertin Surface Orbiter (DSO) project in the same manner.”

 

Rick’s Amphibian

SOUTH AFRICAN CARS – JUNE 1994

David Trebett – Editor

“We’ve spent the last two and a half years working 12 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, building a vehicle that will go around the world. If we weren’t confident that it would make it, we wouldn’t be setting off, Rick asserted.”

“Now, if it was anyone else apart from Rick Dobbertin making these wild claims, you’d think he’d been over-indulging in various recreational substances. Not the case. In the US, this quiet, dry-humored, but deadly serious 41-year-old is King of the Hot-Rod scene.”

“For a decade or so, Rick’s handbuilt show cars have been scooping the country’s top Hot-Rod awards. Now he’s transferred those car-building skills to designing and welding together this 11-metre long, 3-metre high, 9,000 kg amphibian…”

 

For Every Moat – There’s A Catapult or a Surface Orbiter

CAR AND DRIVER MAGAZINE – DECEMBER 1997

John Phillips – Feature Editor

“At last, the vehicle I most urgently crave, the Dobbertin Surface Orbiter, and who among us wouldn’t? Yates called it Captain Nemo’s Corvette.”

“Before running out of cash, it racked up 27,300 land miles and 3,000 ocean miles between December 1993 and June 1996.

Better still, the DSO logged the first-ever amphibious transit of the Panama Canal.”

The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter

MONSTER GARAGE'S HOW TO BUILD DAMN NEAR ANYTHING
Tom Beers - Creator of Monster G
arage

“Then there’s Rick Dobbertin’s Surface Orbiter. That one will stand the test of time–it’s pure, fantastic engineering. It’s like a spaceship: gleaming, polished aluminum and chrome, just a behemoth. It not only looks fabulous, but it’s totally functional. Dobbertin took the concept of transportation to a whole new level. He built that to drive.

A lot of people build these cars to show, or to show off; Dobbertin built that car to go.

He drove it down the road, he drove it in the Panama Canal, he drove it in the ocean.

That is magnificent. That’s a journey.

That guy is like an Argonaut.”

The Dobbertin Surface Orbiter

MONSTER GARAGE'S HOW TO BUILD DAMN NEAR ANYTHING
Tom Beers - Creator of Monster Garage

Three of the self-taught fabricators in this book have taken the “fabricate damn near anything” concept to a level that boggles the mind. Although their stories might be categorized more as “see what you can do” rather than “see how you can do it,” they are perfect examples of what can be accomplished when you refuse to believe that it can’t be done.

The first, Rick Dobbertin, turned his dream of building an oceangoing amphibious vehicle into reality when he drove/sailed his converted milk tank to South America via the Caribbean Island chain. Now if that isn’t a monster, what is? He also is currently in the final stages of his newest amphibious vehicle, the HydroCar.”

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