The Ultimate Beach Drive

There must be literally thousands of companies in Queensland vying for the custom of tourists who flock to the state in their droves every year. But few of these operators would offer an eco-adventure as unique and exciting as that by 1770 Environmental Tours. During its 20-year history, this family-owned business has acquired an impressive array of industry accolades, including the Gold Award for Heritage and Cultural Tourism (2004, 2005), Central Queensland/Southern Reef Tourism Champion (2010) and the “Best Fun and Memorable Tour in Queensland” (2014). This enviable record has been achieved through hard work, friendly service and a pair of LARCs.

A LARC (acronym for Lighter, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo) is an amphibious vehicle developed by the US Army in the late 1950s. The V-models, used by the 1770 company, are the 5 ton version (V = 5, as in its weight) built in 1965. About 970 units were made and used by military forces of the US (in Vietnam), Australia, Argentina (in the Falklands), Portugal, The Philippines and Iceland. As may be gathered from this global distribution, the vessels are quite versatile and can operate just as well in the tropics as in arctic conditions. Five hundred of them were destroyed (scuttled by the US when departing Vietnam), 200 have been retained for use by reserve military forces and the rest are now privately owned and mostly used by tourism operators.

In popular culture, several LARC-Vs appeared in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (with Soviet markings) and featured in Modern Marvels on the History Channel. They have also starred in TV shows such as The Great Outdoors, Getaway and The Great South East.

Powered by an 8-cylinder Cummins V-903 diesel engine, producing 300 Bhp (225 Kw) at 26,000 rpm, these remarkable vehicles are as useful on land as they are at sea. They have a top land speed of about 50 kph with a range of 500 km (unloaded) and can climb a gradient of around 60% (most average 4WDs can only manage 45%). On the water, the LARC-V can muster about 8 knots (16 kph) with a range of 200 km, and its single screw propeller can drive it through a 3 metre swell. In the unlikely event that it capsizes, the vessel is self-righting (like a yacht), or so the Army claims.

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