Military Review

Berliet T100: Hurricane in French


Berliet T100 at one of the many advertising demos. Source:

155 tons of French engineering

On October 2, 1957, at the Paris Motor Show, they presented the real giant Berliet T100, which for many years became the largest car in the world. The French skillfully took advantage of the non-standard dimensions and appearance of the car and did their best to promote the advertising campaign around the big guy.

Three-axle bonnet truck managed to visit, in addition to the Paris exhibition, the Geneva Motor Show, at shows in Helsinki, Grenoble, Avignon and even Casablanca. In many ways, this made the car the most famous among the whole range of Berliet.

It is noteworthy that such a massive vehicle had nothing to do either with military developments or with special equipment for extreme travel. Still, the French military couldn’t use a machine nearly five meters wide in a cramped European country. And four-wheel drive was not always needed. For example, look at the 8 Berliet TF (4x1968) tractor unit as part of the VTE road train, designed to transport missiles to underground launch mines. A typical highway truck designed exclusively for flat roads of the European continent. Therefore, the sand-colored Berliet T100 was not intended for the armies of NATO countries, but carried out the transport tasks of Shell oil fields on the African continent.

The very first Berliet T100 released. "Exposition" in Algeria. Source:

A little about the overall parameters and potential capabilities of this French man. The width in the sources is indicated different, so we will dwell on the range of 4800-4960 mm. The height also varies from 3980 to 5400 mm, but this is due to differences in the design of the four versions of the machine. More precisely, not even four executions, but four released copies. At the time of publication, the Berliet T100 was not only the largest truck in the world, but also perhaps the rarest - the company limited itself to only four assembled vehicles. Was it originally planned or the car failed at the box office, it is still reliably unknown. The company itself at one time merged with Renault. A modest reminder of the once legendary brand is only the repository of the Berliet Foundation in Le Montellier. It is there that the only truck left in France is now stored under serial number 2 - it was demonstrated last year in Paris on Retromobile.

Berliet T100: Hurricane in French

French missile tractor Berliet TF. Source:

Berliet TF in the French Museum. Source:

In order for such a machine to be able to move, and even carry fifty tons of cargo (according to other sources, no more than 40 tons) of cargo, it needs a serious power unit. The French did not have a suitable engine in the 50s, they had to buy an American Cummins V12 diesel engine with a working volume of 28 liters, with two turbochargers and an initial capacity of 600 liters. with. The first giant even bore the name - Berliet T100-600. By the way, there was another motor, but it had nothing to do with the transmission, but it serviced the brake system, power steering and was responsible for recharging the batteries. The role of the auxiliary power unit was played by the native French Panhard Dyna with a working volume of 850 cm3.

All these engines were powered from two 950-liter tanks, and the control fuel consumption was quite comparable with tank - 90 liters per 100 km. The main habitat of the Berliet T100 was still sandy expanses, where when loaded, the diesel consumed more than 240 liters per 100 km. By the way, to this expense you can safely add a few tens of liters of Berliet Gazelle diesel fuel, which was to relentlessly follow its monstrous master. This "squire" was carrying a spare tire, a huge jack and other tools.

Instances No. 1 and No. 2 in detail. Source:

The French, apparently, did not particularly think about the economic efficiency of their own creation - nevertheless, the oil company acted as the customer. Perhaps the most economically efficient was the third built specimen with a tipper body. The front-wheel drive was taken from the car, instead of an automatic reverse (four gears forward and the same backward) Clark transmissions put the mechanics and brought the total weight to 155 tons with a load capacity of 80 tons. Such a Berliet T100, more like a mining dump truck, had the status of a prototype and did not survive to this day - in 1978 it was recycled for scrap. He never had time to visit Africa, he only worked a little on road construction in his homeland and served for some time as an outlandish attraction.

"The greatest car in the world"

After numerous promotions and shows to the general public, as well as potential buyers, the first two cars released in the fall of 1958 went for testing in French Saint-Priest. Engineers, among other things, experimented with dual wheels on the rear axles, but the patency indicators were unsatisfactory. In addition, they did not decide where to put another giant spare tire (2,2 meters high), which was inevitable in the case of the new configuration. One "page" in the form of Berliet Gazelle would obviously not be enough. It is worth mentioning separately that the French were unable to realize in their, as they called it, “the greatest car in the world,” a centralized swap system. It is quite possible that this would save engineers from the need to install such large wheels with a specific pressure on the ground of not more than a kilogram per square centimeter. Recall that at about the same time in the USSR mass production of the much more massive ZIL-157, equipped with tire inflation in the basic version, went into mass production. The wheels at the Berliet T100 were really impressive. Each such tonne product was originally manufactured by Goodyear, and later Michelin developed the unique Special Sable of low pressure and about a meter wide.

Promotional Photos Berliet T100. Source:

After testing in Saint-Priest, the understanding came that the truck lacked a 600-horsepower diesel engine. At the head plant in Monplaisir, the engine was modernized, with the help of a change in the gas distribution mechanism, the power was immediately increased to 700 liters. with. Now the colossus could accelerate to 34 km / h, which was very dangerous for others. The fact is that the driver, because of the giant hood, practically did not see anything for several meters in front of the radiator grill. The hefty pins with lanterns in the wings helped to somehow feel the dimensions, but the mechanical siren with a heartbreaking voice became the main means of saving unlucky pedestrians and small ungulates. And of course, the most powerful head lighting created such a bright luminous flux that the Berliet T100 at night was probably visible from the satellite. By the way, the satellite shows the second surviving giant, number 1, installed as a monument in Algerian Hassi Messaoud, almost in the middle of the desert under the open sky.

Berliet T100 No. 3 as a dump truck. Source:

Stillborn Berliet T100Tulsa. Source:

The dry African climate turned out to be an excellent preservative for the French giant, and the car invariably attracts a few tourists with its dimensions. This instance came to Algeria at the very end of the 50s and until 1962, together with machine number 2, worked at drilling rigs of French oil companies. An onboard truck could take on a 20-ton pump along with a 35-ton winch and successfully stormed the sand dunes with a 26% rise. I must say that the sands were truly quick-moving: where the loaded Berliet passed, a man went knee-deep in the sand. But in 1962, Algeria declared independence, and two cars became the property of the new owner of Sonatrach. The French could not get Africa out of the first truck released and with great difficulty they took out the second copy in malfunctioning only in the early 70's. It was he who scared the French smoky exhaust at a retrotechnics exhibition last year.

The only Berliet T100 capable of moving independently now. Source:

When it became clear that there was nothing more to do on the African market, Berliet engineers offered the giant a new bonnetless layout. The car got its own name Tulsa and clearly aimed at the overseas market. Berliet Tulsa was to become a huge tractor and plow its boundless expanses of the USA with its 100-ton carcass. The road would obviously not have survived such a car, so the French suggested that the Tulsa road train would only have to indicate a point on the map and the car would get to it along the shortest path. For example, across the prairie of North America. Naturally, such a craving for gigantism overseas was not appreciated, and the French disposed of the truck for scrap.

Tests Source:

Most interestingly, the Berliet T100 concept was flawed from the very beginning. A simple scaling (or hypertrophy) of the classic truck concept might have been successful on the African continent, but not in the developed Western world. While the Soviet Union developed the most technically sophisticated missile and tank carriers of the MAZ brand (the notorious Hurricane among them), France frankly stomped on the spot. Actually, this was one of the reasons why very few people know about Berliet now. Nobody needs the “Greatest Car in the World” ...
The Berliet T100 arrives at the French Retromobile Show, 2019.

Museum walk T100

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  1. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins April 3 2020 06: 37
    What a "tadpole" ... Thanks for the article. Never heard of this truck, although the lineup of auto data from books is familiar.
    1. Bar1
      Bar1 April 3 2020 10: 02
      Our MZKT and Belaz are better.
      1. The leader of the Redskins
        The leader of the Redskins April 3 2020 10: 03
        They later appeared))
        1. Serg koma
          Serg koma April 6 2020 17: 04
          Quote: Leader of the Redskins
          They later appeared))

          But for YAG, hardly anyone will "keep up"
          YAG-12 - first in the USSR and one of the first in the world four-axle off-road trucks with a wheel formula of 8 × 8. Vehicle created in 1932 at the Yaroslavl Automobile Plant
          MAZ-529 - 1956. MAZ-535 - 1958. MAZ-537 in 1963 appeared in Kurgan, not much behind in time from Berlet, and variously more than four were produced laughing
          And WE have something to be proud of!
  2. Ham
    Ham April 3 2020 07: 31
    completely useless from an economic point of view
    1. Zaurbek
      Zaurbek April 3 2020 09: 50
      Why? A dump truck ... MAZ produced something similar for us, then 2x and 3x horsemen were renamed to Belaz. Now this role is played by articulated vehicles and 8x8 and 10x10 mineong dump trucks based on production vehicles. The diesel engine is also 500-700 hp.
      1. Ham
        Ham April 4 2020 18: 10
        Well, how many mining trucks have been released on the basis of this model?
        this car was conceived as a simple multi-tonnage truck! "mining dump truck" is a special technique!
        and then it turned out that the mass of the car is so high that it can not withstand the road ...
        1. Zaurbek
          Zaurbek April 4 2020 20: 55
          On the other hand, it was not a "feat" for the French industry ... they did it, did not go, go further ... not for public money.
          1. Ham
            Ham April 5 2020 11: 41
            off and on

            well, that is - the car turned out to be completely useless from an economic point of view?)))
            1. Zaurbek
              Zaurbek April 5 2020 16: 00
              We do not know .... this is not a planned economy. The situation has changed and yes, it has become irrelevant ..... Volga -Saber, also brought to the Russian Federation, began to release, the crisis of 2008 and became irrelevant ..
              1. Ham
                Ham April 6 2020 07: 10
                how is it: "we don't know?" we very much even know - the cars did not go into the series, although they were heavily advertised and pushed ... and in different versions! and not one went;)
                where does the "planned economy" if the "invisible hand of the market", having estimated all the pros and cons, left this car only as a monument of design thought ...
                you need to look at things wider;) and even an orangutan can put cons
                1. Zaurbek
                  Zaurbek April 6 2020 10: 18
                  I don’t put the minuses .... but we know from the height of the past years ... and we don’t know whether these developments in other products were commercialized.
                  1. Ham
                    Ham April 6 2020 11: 21
                    We're not talking about "other products" but for this particular unit!
                    1. Zaurbek
                      Zaurbek April 6 2020 11: 57
                      Specific yes
            2. Serg koma
              Serg koma April 6 2020 17: 11
              Quote: Ham
              that is - the car turned out completely useless from the point of view of the economy?)))

              Quite right - only four (and different) copies were released. It would be beneficial, it would hardly be limited to such a party. This is not "Buran" and "Shuttle" that would be produced in a limited batch, piece by piece. Here is a special. trailers for one-time transportation are produced.
    2. Serg koma
      Serg koma April 6 2020 17: 06
      Quote: Ham
      completely useless from an economic point of view

      And why is it minus? What ECONOMIC advantages can opponents provide?
  3. Alf
    Alf April 3 2020 08: 34
    Classic constructor trap. We think how to do it, then we do it, then we think what to do with it.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim April 3 2020 13: 00
      Classic constructor trap. We think how to do it, then we do it, then we think what to do with it.
      Commentary - a classic case - haste in evaluations leads to errors in conclusions.
  4. Almaty1982
    Almaty1982 April 3 2020 08: 36
    From it you can make a decent jihad mobile
  5. Free wind
    Free wind April 3 2020 09: 29
    Wow, what a colossus. Wheels probably made by special order. The steering is more or less neatly done. The cabin is very nice for those years, it’s probably hot, the diesel will heat up, so the heat will be in the heat themselves. The brakes most likely work from the main hydraulic system without any amplifiers, it simply opens the hydraulic system tap with the pedal, we started using it only about ten years ago, on GS-14 graders, otherwise it was very dreary with the brakes. Somehow I guessed what kind of thing on the wings with red ends, these are the same sound signals, such a blow, the Bedouins, along with the camels, fell dead. It is interesting to see them with a lever-type shock absorber on the middle bridge, or it is a travel stop, there are still shock absorbers. About tire inflation, do not think that this is a panacea, especially since they knew where this beast would ride. And imagine what kind of compressor is needed. About the escort car, of course this is a joke. No one will be carried with a spare wheel from the rear. In principle, an interesting car, maybe ahead of its time. Something similar to the MAZ-530 was done at the MAZ in our USSR, it wasn’t so huge, but it was also very big, it's about stomping on the spot. And now the open spaces of the north are everywhere quite successfully mastering no less monstrous machines. I’m talking about hinges, numerous CATs, Volvos, etc. .. The carrying capacity of these dump trucks is already approaching 60 tons. On the Yamal Peninsula there are not a small number of them, everyone is happy without swapping, everyone doesn’t get sick or cough. drinks
    1. Undecim
      Undecim April 3 2020 22: 36
      The cabin is very nice for those years, probably hot, the diesel will heat up, so the heat will be in the heat themselves
      The car was equipped with air conditioning, a kitchen, a refrigerator and a tank for drinking water, taking into account the peculiarities of operation.
  6. Undecim
    Undecim April 3 2020 10: 53
    Quote: Alf
    Classic constructor trap. We think how to do it, then we do it, then we think what to do with it.

    In fact, everything happened exactly the opposite.
    All instances of the Berliet T100 were designed and built for specific tasks.
    The first two specimens were built specifically for the transportation of exploration equipment in the sandy deserts (ergahs) of the Sahara, where the height of the sand dunes reaches 120 meters.
    The "desert" topic for the company was not new. Before that, in 1956, the Saharan Automobile Company, a transport company specializing in cargo transportation in the Sahara, ordered a truck specifically for the desert.
    The result was a Berliet GBO15 6x6 transporting 60 tons off-road or towing a trailer weighing 90 tons.

    In two years, 1958-1960, the company produced 45 such trucks.
    It is only logical that exploration company Compagnie Générale turned to Berliet to create a special vehicle for transporting its equipment in desert conditions. More than two, they simply did not need. Cars successfully performed their functions until Algeria gained independence, along with which, for many years, exploration work in the Sahara ceased.
    The third instance in the 6x4 dump truck version was commissioned by a uranium mine in Bessin-sur-Hartamp.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim April 3 2020 11: 28

      The fourth instance was also built for a specific task - to participate in the world exhibition of oil production equipment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the "oil capital of the world", the center of American oil production. The actions are absolutely logical - having lost a sales market in Algeria, the company is looking for a new one. But not always successful, as in this case.
      1. Undecim
        Undecim April 3 2020 11: 37
        In the 1970s, the Belgian company MOL Trucks of Hooglede bought the technical documentation for Berliet's developments and, based on them, began to produce its own original MOL model range, consisting of medium and large 4X4, 6X6 and 8X8 trucks and tractors.
        1. Orkraider
          Orkraider April 3 2020 14: 49
          Thank. The continuation of the article directly happened.
          1. Undecim
            Undecim April 3 2020 14: 53
            Berliet is one of the first European automotive companies with a rather interesting history, which is quite drawn to the article.
        2. timokhin-aa
          timokhin-aa April 7 2020 20: 41
          What is most interesting - the world is still full of such technology and is produced and used.
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  9. Vladimir_2U
    Vladimir_2U April 3 2020 16: 44
    And of course, the most powerful head lighting created such a bright light flux that the Berliet T100 was probably visible at night from the satellite

    And with the natural. laughing
  10. Saxahorse
    Saxahorse April 3 2020 21: 21
    The truck is certainly impressive in size. Although the author is right, the engineering problem was solved primitively, in the forehead. Just, without thinking, scaled a regular truck. It turned out grandiose but clearly ineffective.

    And the article was very interesting. Thanks to the author!
  11. nikvic46
    nikvic46 April 4 2020 07: 08
    Each product largely depends on the literacy of the customer. What was ordered, then conscientiously done.