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The Sensational Bubble-Topped 1954 Rhino on Film and Images

Elie Aghnides was a brilliant inventor-engineer, who was able to view an existing piece of equipment or design and built a better mouse trap. The idea behind the 1954 Rhino was born in 1940 while he was watching a bulldozer hard at work at Central Park in NYC.

Aghnides made his fortune on an aerator water faucet attachment that he invented, and patented. He thought that the crawler tractor wasted a large amount of power and went on to design a better solution. The vehicle was finally built 14-years later and incorporated the best features of not only the track but also that of the wheel.

  • The lead photo shows the Rhino scooting down the road, as it was capable of 45 m.p.h. “Life Magazine” photo by Jon Domins.

The 1954 Rhino 1

  • The front of the Rhino shows its domed shaped sectional metal wheels and gripping segments. For road use rubber treads where attached. Courtesy “Modern Mechanics.”

When finished this unorthodox machine was able to travel at up to 45 m.p.h. on the road. It was also fully capable of plowing through swamps, mud, snow, uneven terrain, wooded areas and even the water.

The 10,000-pound creation was powered by an 110 h.p. Ford industrial engine and a heavy-duty drivetrain. Due to a low center of gravity and its unique wheel design, it was very stable and would not tip over even at 75-degree angle. The hollow wheels acted as flotation devices and in water it was propelled by a steerable Kermath marine Hydrojet. The device’s nozzle can be seen at the center of the rear axle. One of the two experimental machines that were built has survived.

The original 1954 film footage on this video was taken at and near the Marmon-Herrington factory in Indianapolis, Indiana where the Rhino was built. View the intriguing presentation and witness the monster as it is being put through its paces on the road, rough terrain, woods, sand, mud and in the water.

The 1954 Rhino 2

  • This image of the rear of the Rhino from “Wheels and Tracks,” shows the rear tires and the nozzle below the rear axle for the Kermath marine Hydrojet that propelled it in water.

Rhino Patent 1

  • “Vehicle with Inclined Hemispherodal Wheels” – Patent filed June 19, 1953 and granted Nov. 5, 1957  shows a similar earlier design with close-mounted double rear wheels that pivoted in the center.

Rhino Patent 3

  •                         Nov. 5, 1957 patent drawing showing the “Inclined Hemispherodal Wheels”  

10 responses to “The Sensational Bubble-Topped 1954 Rhino on Film and Images

  1. Amazing and really cool. Wonder where it is now, would like to see it. The only issue I see is what appears to me to be an amazingly underpowered engine. I would imagine a diesel or just a larger unit would have been beneficial.

    • Closest I could get is that it was rescued by Eugene Pock of Zionville IN when the factory moved. He brought it to threshing meets every year. , His son Eugene Jr. was supposedly restoring it.

  2. Indiana Parks & Rec people must have loved this guy! Nice WWII-era tank helmet, too, just like the one Caracciola wore in 1946 at another Indianapolis location.

  3. There was some suspicious editing going in with this movie. I would like to see the raw footage. But yes, it is an interesting vehicle.

  4. Stone’s info is correct. Mr Pock’s company did the demolition of the old M/H factory years ago–and this vehicle was found in the building at that time. There was a second smaller similar vehicle powered by a motorcycle engine found also—but it was damaged and incomplete and scrapped. The Pocks bring the Rhino to the Portland IN gas and engine show every few years. They are always happy to talk about the machine to interested people.

    • Thanks, wasn’t sure which show it was brought to. The smaller vehicle was called the ‘Baby Rhino,’ I think Mr. Pock Jr. stated somewhere that he still had the wheels for it.

  5. Life Magazine photographer John Dominis probably was best known for his celebrity assignments and his wildlife work. His photos of critters such as John F. Kennedy or Steve McQueen are legendary. How appropriate that it was Dominis that the magazine assigned to shoot the Rhino. He did pretty well with cheetas and leopards at speed, too.

    I LOVE what you folks do week in and week out.

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