Tractors for the Memories (March 8, 2022)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Well folks, it looks like like 100% of people are eager for some tractor content... which I assume is representative of all 200 million Twitter users! Let's talk Wing Commander's tractors... and other deck vehicles!

First of all: what's a tractor? We aren't talking about farming here but instead the specialized vehicles carried aboard aircraft carriers that help with deck operations: towing aircraft and munitions, fighting fires, clearing wreckage, etc. Here are some real ones:

Our very first utility tractor is seen driving around in the original Wing Commander pulling a cart of missiles. It shows up during takeoff and landing:

The game stores this little guy as two separate sprites which allows it to be 'driven' heading either left or right!

Wing Commander II has a 3D rendered yellow trailer which appears in the Concordia Flight Deck and Repair Deck establishing shots. Multiple tractors really gives you a real sense of the size of the flight deck on a Confederation dreadnaught!

Quick aside: I really enjoyed this article from someone who has made models of different aircraft carrier tractors throughout history while I was reading up for this. It's a nice overview (and neat that the original ones were just Jeeps).

Wing Commander III features a nice yellow tractor on the TCS Victory flight deck set. It's visible during takeoff scenes and whenever a shuttle comes or goes.

You also get to see it in flight! The 'fly through bays' in the PC and Mac versions include landed fighters, containers and... a tractor with the Victory's CV designation on it! The object is flush with the wall because the number is mirrored on the other side.

Moving on to Wing Commander IV... hey, asset reuse! The Lexington's hangar has the Victory's tractor but reversed so it kind of looks like '0A' instead of '40'... or maybe Confed equiped the ship with Blair's beloved wartime yellow truck.

But wait! As we move to the Intrepid for the rest of the game we find...

They DID build a more detailed tractor model for the Lexington's flight deck virtual set. It shows up only ever so briefly!

Of course, these little support vehicles aren't exclusively used on aircraft carriers. You've seen them at commercial airports, too. So it stands to reason...

... that they'd show up in Privateer, too! This one appears in the ship dealer's components screen... and luckily we have the original 3D models for the Privateer environments so we can see it up close!

A variant drives by in the Perry and mining base screens. It lacks the arm but pulling a little cart!

Then there's the mysterious story of the fuel truck. Compare this pre-release screenshot to one from the actual game. There was originally a truck sitting on the flight line at Oxford and they removed it for some reason?!

Luckily for history, the mesh for the lost truck has been found hiding in the 3D scene files recovered from Origin... it had been quietly closed off in the garage from the screenshot!

Now the wags are saying 'that truck isn't canon, it was never published!' and so I would encourage you to look closely at the back of the box!

Wing Commander Academy's first episode offers us this cool fuel truck. This is on the flight line at the Terran Confederation Space Force flight school at Sirius:

The third episode introduces us to an orange crash truck aboard the Tiger's Claw and then the same design continues to appear through the rest of the series!

Finally, the 1999 Wing Commander movie had several real trucks! The production wanted to rent a single truck that could be modified into an unmanned firefighting vehicle but in one of those typical movie making scenarios ended up having to rent several to get the one they wanted.

The most visible (and the one that appears in the storyboards) is this firefighting truck:

A scene showing the truck using its foam to put out a fire in the aftermath of the depth charge attack was shot but not included in the final film. Tiny press images:

(Aside: it reminds me of GI Joe's unnaturally sturdy APC)

The unwanted second truck rental became a fueling truck which is never seen in one piece. But you see it drive by Maniac while he's running for Rosie and you see the other end of it in a couple of shots.

Oh, of course, Rosie: the most famous shipboard vehicle in the movie must be the all-CG "deckdozer" (per the novel) which pushes Rosie's Rapier... uh... (checks physics)... off edge of the flight deck.

That's it for tractors, so now we will move on to scissor lifts! Just kidding, I only found those on the Lexington in Wing Commander IV and the Tiger Claw in the movie:

That's it for tonight's vehicles! If you want this to continue we can look at CIVILIAN VEHICLES tomorrow. Vote here to decide:

Original update published on March 8, 2022
Very detailed and humorous analysis - did you just go off memory or review all the movie footage to find all these instances?

I find the removal of the trucks from the Oxford landing pad rather odd too - the only reasonable explanation I could come up with was that it might get in the way of the Galaxy as that is the largest player ship. However, I would not see that as a reason to remove/hide the one in the garage.

Or perhaps the trucks were only added specifically for the advertising shot and never added to the scene for the final game for whatever reason.

Regarding cars, the first one that comes to mind for me is the flying car that features prominently in the street-level concourse for New Detroit, and perhaps the wheeled ground vehicles in the New Constantinople concourse too.
This was originally a Twitter thread that Chris turned into a new post, that's why the tone is a little different. I should do a full article with more details, though!

With regards to the truck, I have two guesses:
- Someone saw it in a review and decided it didn't look futuristic enough.
- It was originally an animation (garage door opens and truck drives out or similar) and was cut during the disk space optimization process.
- It was originally an animation (garage door opens and truck drives out or similar) and was cut during the disk space optimization process.
This sounds plausible. I forgot that the original game was on floppy disk - I only ever had the speech edition on CD-ROM.
I love how in wing1, the trailer shows missiles are 4 m long more or less. good for context!
The Tiger's Claw is crammed with huge missiles: