The ideal doomsday bug-out vehicle needs to be powerful, agile and bulletproof. It ought to tote a family of four along with their food, water, support gear and hound halfway across the country without resupply. It should be comfortable but still look really, really scary.
Gus Johnson lived out of a Humvee for weeks on end as a Marine machine gunner in Iraq and Afghanistan. Johnson and his team normally custom-build hot rods and rock crawlers. When he set out to craft the ultimate end-of-the-world bug-out truck, the result was simply epic.
WHO NEEDS ONE OF THESE?
One minute it was all social media, Google Maps, Uber, and Yelp. The next, everything was dark. Cell phones and TVs wouldn’t work, and the power was out. The Lexus was deader than Hitler’s soul. Thankfully, it was a Saturday, and the kids were home. School is eight miles away. That would have been bad.
The first few hours were kind of novel. Then the sun went down. They could see flames in the direction of the city and heard sporadic gunshots. The faint sound of a woman’s screams wafted in with the breeze. That was it. They had to leave.
He had been a systems engineer for a big defense firm before hanging out his own shingle. Now his modest company gave him the resources to indulge his vaguely paranoid streak. His wife tolerated it so long as she had her trinkets, too.
His wife’s parents lived on 200 acres of heaven three states away. A creek burbled through the place. His father-in-law was a compulsive gardener with a hobby-sized flock of chickens. That was the extent of the plan. Make it to Grandma’s and then fret about the details.
They loaded the vehicle quietly. They had rehearsed this before. He slipped behind the wheel, closed his eyes, and prayed.
The big 5.9-liter Cummins diesel turned over and caught just like always, and everybody sighed collectively. The man lifted the garage door manually. He pulled the massive truck out into the street, driving by the glow of the parking lights and FLIR.
They carefully navigated roads littered with abandoned cars, discarded cell phones, and the occasional corpse. It was 800 miles to the farm. With a range of nearly twice that, fifty gallons of potable water, and enough hardware to shoot their way out of a crisis, they nosed west, thankful to be alive.
PARANOID? NOT REALLY…
A nuclear detonation in the ionosphere would do it. A massive solar flare is all but a statistical certainty. Earth is typically subject to a catastrophic coronal mass ejection roughly once a century. The Carrington Event in 1859 overloaded telegraph wires and set paper messages alight.
And then there’s just plain old natural disasters or people behaving badly. The list of situations under which you might have to bug out is unsettlingly long. Enter the Personal Survival Vehicle (PSV) from Lucky Gunner Garage.
The mission statement is to take a family of four plus a dog 1,500 miles without refueling. The vehicle has to be bulletproof and capable of fording bodies of water more than 6 feet deep. The truck needs a full 34 inches of ground clearance.
This vehicle must be watertight and capable of withstanding an electromagnetic pulse. It should also be able to break most posted speed limits and allow the owning family to live out of it in relative comfort for a week or more. It also needs to look just super cool.
That’s a pretty tall order. However, I’ve met Gus. He likes a good challenge. Hence the Lucky Gunner PSV was born.
PERTINENT PARTICULARS—THE MUSCLE
Lots of folks adapt existing vehicles for high-threat environments. Johnson and his crew started with a clean sheet. The basic chassis is about the size of a Humvee but a bit longer. On the Lucky Gunner PSV, everything everywhere is massively overbuilt.
The frame sports a triangulated four-link suspension. The 2.5-ton Rockwell Detroit locker axles are the same kit that the military uses on their Deuce-and-a-Half trucks. The 46-inch run-flat tires are the same rubber Uncle Sam uses on his MRAP vehicles. Each tire will support 14,000 pounds The snout of the beast sprouts a 16,000-pound Warn winch.
The Lucky Gunner PSV includes Wilwood disc brakes both front and rear. The wheels are oriented both well forward and well back. This feature draws from customized rock climbers and allows the truck to scale near-vertical slopes. Get close enough for the rubber to grip, and the truck becomes a monkey. That requires a lot of power. The power plant is a 5.9-liter twelve-valve Cummins diesel. This simple multi-fuel engine will run on most anything flammable. Snorkels connect the air intake and exhausts for deep-water fording. Additionally, the truck is built like a giant Faraday cage to harden the electronics against EMP.
The crew compartment and mechanical components are shielded with 3/16-inch AR500 ballistic steel. Critical spots like doors and other vital areas sport twice that. 2.25-inch Level 8 ballistic glass from Patriot Armor comprises the windshield and windows. All the glass is rated to stop at least five rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition. The whole vehicle is lined with a Linex anti-spall coating.
Inside the Lucky Gunner PSV are reclining bucket seats both front and rear with seatbelts for four human occupants. Taking a cue from his time manning a belt-fed machine gun in combat, each seat has its own access hatch up top. This allows for quick egress in an emergency, even in unusual attitudes. It also allows the vehicle’s occupants to stand in the seat should they need to interact with the world or fire weapons.
The truck has FLIR (forward-looking infrared) cameras forward, aft, and on its sides. The FLIR feeds a pair of 14-inch monitors set in the dash, one for the driver and the other for whoever is riding shotgun. The vehicle includes a heavy-duty air conditioning and heating system and is coated on the inside with a full two inches of high performance insulation. There is a touchscreen system in the cockpit that controls the radio, onboard navigation system, and CB.
There is room on the outside for extra fuel and space on the inside for 50 gallons of potable water. Water purification systems are built in the Lucky Gunner PSV so you can utilize any available bilge to keep your family hydrated on the move. A built-in water heater lets you have a hot shower. There is ample interior storage space. There are also flush-mounted power ports all over the exterior to drive camp lights, radios, or whatever else you might want to power up when you’re powered down.
TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL
As if that weren’t enough, the Lucky Gunner PSV can also include an optional remotely operated turret system. This appendage is managed via a standard PlayStation 4 controller from within the vehicle. If you struggle to operate the thing, just ask your 12-year-old to show you how.
The turret can accommodate a remote camera system or a pair of AR-15 rifles. Outfit that brace of black guns with Beta C-Mags, and you’re ready for any reasonable threat along with most of the unreasonable sorts. All targeting and fire controls can be managed while under armor.
The turret system telescopes so you can set the truck in defilade behind cover and recon the countryside without exposing anything pink and soft. Whether you stick with the camera or opt for the firepower, this remotely operated turret system offers some serious survival tech. The system allows you to identify and address the threat before it actually becomes threatening.
Johnson and I have both lived out of a Humvee in a desert for weeks on end. I personally vowed to find a new job that never made me do that again. By contrast, Johnson took his hard-earned tactical knowledge and applied it to creating the world’s most capable go-anywhere survival vehicle. Starting from scratch, he built the tactical truck he would have wanted when he was serving downrange.
Harder than a Humvee yet still plenty sweet, the Lucky Gunner PSV is like a bulletproof wall-climbing limousine. This monster will keep you and yours fed, watered, safe, and clean while it literally traverses half the country on a single tank of fuel. When the world goes crazy, the PSV just rolls right over it.
Now here’s the bad news. Making one of these awesome new vehicles yours will set you back a cool quarter-million bucks. Armored luxury rock crawlers that will chug comfortably through a nuclear strike do not come cheap. However, $250,000 is not the scary figure it once was. I cannot afford one, but I know people who could.
This testosterone-soaked leviathan offers literally unprecedented peace of mind in the face of Lord Knows What. Think of it like end-of-the-world life insurance you can drive. It will also catapult its new owner to the coveted position of coolest dad in the pickup line at school. It’s tough to put a dollar value on that.
- Overall length: 194 inches
- Width: 87 1/2 inches
- Height: 88 inches (without roof rack and accessories and with 46-inch tires)
- Wheelbase: 144 inches (with 46-inch tires)
- Weight: 12,500 pounds (wet)
- Fuel Capacity: Two 40-gallon fuel cells
- Top speed: 75 mph
- Approach angles, front and rear: Near vertical
- Engine: 5.9 L 6BT Cummins 12 valve
- Horsepower: 215 at 2,500 rpm
- Torque: 440 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
Lucky Gunner Garage
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the September, 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide.