It’s Draco, an expedition-class AWD motorhome that Shahn Torontow built so his wife, V. Ross Johnson, could still travel the wilderness after the former wildlife photographer became wheelchair dependent.
A pilot, wildlife photographer, and world traveler, she became wheelchair bound due to chronic Lyme disease.
A gift of love for his wife, Torontow began with an Oshkosh M1000 ARFF (Airport Fire Rescue) built in 1979 and then spent thousands of hours crafting an extraordinary vehicle that offers complete luxury almost anywhere, reports gizmag.
Named Draco after the star constellation and the mythical last dragon, the Oshkosh-based luxury bohemoth has been lavished with the finest so he could withstand deserts, mountains, mud, hurricanes, and blizzards while caring for his wife.
We were missing travel, so I embarked on building a 4WD motorhome to take us to remote areas of Canada and United States for photography expeditions as a distraction from her debilitating illness, Torontow told gizmag.
Torontow bought it as a cab and chassis after the airport decommissioned it. Then a complete overhaul began. The engine was unframed, the tranny rebuilt and both differentials had new gears put in, the suspension got a total off-frame rebuild, and air and dual shocks were added so we could keep the stock ride height and wheel and tire size of 445/65R22.5 (45 inches tall, 12 inches wide tires).
The chassis is a diesel pusher Caterpillar 3406A turbo with an engine producing 335 horse power and 1000-foot-pounds of torque at 1400 rpm. The transmission is a four speed Allison 740HT automatic and there’s full time four wheel drive with air locking differentials and one-to-one transfer case.
Draco has air brakes and power steering, automatic air shutters, and fan on the radiator and PTO off the transmission for the hydraulic outriggers and the 20,000-pound winch with 300 feet of cable.
Extras for recovery include two 46,000-pound straps and two protective tree straps, four shackles, and three snatch blocks as well as a pair of studded chains for the rear wheels at 90 pounds per chain.
The military-grade vehicle incorporates a number of special items including a misting shower with seven nozzles, sauna, auxiliary heat systems and heat gain/loss protective window shutters, CCD surveillance system, GPS with voice prompting, broad band satellite links for computer communications, and an elevator.
Since Draco was completed in July 2002 it has travelled 50,000 miles of varying terrain, and became one of the many celebrity visitors at innovation and experimental technology get-togethers such as the EAA (Experimental Air Association) show in Wisconsin, the Oshkosh Truck Corporation facility, mud drag competitions, the DARPA Grand Challenge, wild cat and bird sanctuaries and desert, mountain, and snow country, reports gizmag.
Draco has seen it all.
With the outriggers down we have waited out two borderline hurricanes and a blizzard that blew over tractor trailers, says Torontow.
The vehicle took 3000 man-hours to build. Everything had to be right If Torontow was going to take his wife into remote areas.
The water system alone caters for three different zones—fresh water for drinking and everything else, grey water from the sinks and shower, and black water.
The black-water system is double macerated to 1/16-inch particle and can be disposed of through a pressurized fifty foot hose or the exhaust system while driving.
Draco is an amazing example of how one person can construct a purpose-built bohemoth inside 18 months and have it measure-up to the most mission-critical of tasks—to provide a comfortable mobile home for his wife.
Draco offers the ultimate in comfort in wilderness regions. And there’s only ONE!
Our four simple rules:
No Interstates, no amusement parks, no five-star accommodations, and no franchise food
(two words which do not belong in the same sentence!)
—Loren Eyrich, editor/publisher Two-Lane Roads