Rolligon: The Vehicle That Makes Running Over Yourself Fun

The image above appeared on the December 1957 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. It shows a woman being run over by a mammoth truck, apparently enjoying herself and completely unharmed. That’s because the weight of the vehicle is distributed over a large service, exerting much less pressure than conventional tires. The tires on the vehicle — the 7-ton Chevrolet-manufactured Albee Rolligon — were designed for use in traversing the soft ground of a desert or the tundra. The tires are filled with very low-pressure air — as low as 5 PSI — which is substantially less than the normal 30-35 PSI pumped into the typical automobile tire. The Rolligon tires were advertised as having “about the same sensation as a vigorous massage.” The Rolligon was invented by William Albee, a teacher living in Bering Strait, Alaska. Once, on a fishing trip, he watched a group of Eskimos hoist a heavy wooden boat using bags of inflated airtight sealskin, which they rolled under the boat. Albee returned to California and began working on a modern adaptation of the Eskimo bags. The final creation was the 7-ton Albee Rolligon. Unfortunately, he and his company ran into financial problems and his concept was never turned into a successful business. Today the Rolligon trademark is owned by the Texas-based National Oilwell Varco (NOV), the world’s leading supplier of equipment used in oil and gas drilling. NOV still manufactures Rolligon-equipped vehicles, which play a huge part in the maintaining of oil fields in Prudhoe Bay in Alaska’s North Slope.