BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — An outback Australian invention has attracted the attention of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The MaxTrax, made of ultraviolet-light-stabilized, supertough, engineering-grade reinforced nylon, is a recovery system for bogged vehicles. The 4-foot-long device is a lifesaver in snow, sand or mud.
The Navy and Air Force have both expressed interest in MaxTrax and placed orders with owner and designer Brad McCarthy's small, Brisbane-based company, Gunshot Creek Pty. Ltd.
McCarthy said the devices, which come in a range of colors including desert tan, olive drab and camouflage, will be used at U.S. bases in Oman and Jordan, and in California and Nevada.
"We made a few pairs in 'camo' colors and sent them to the Navy Seals ... then we got an order out of nowhere,'' McCarthy said. "We are hoping to make further deals with the U.S. Armed Forces.''
MaxTrax, manufactured by Duromer Products Pty. Ltd. of Sydney, Australia, start at A$299 (US$275) a pair.
The lightweight system features large cleats that sink their teeth into the tire tread and the terrain under a stuck SUV/four-wheel-drive vehicle to prevent it from slipping back into snow, sand or mud. It makes recovery quick and easy, according to Duromer.
McCarthy said impromptu recovery objects, like wood or metal, are too slippery to gain traction, while jacking up a wheel is often dangerous and slow.
McCarthy devised the idea by accident a decade ago when he almost lost his bogged vehicle on a remote north Queensland beach to the incoming tide.
He and fellow Australian off-road motoring enthusiasts had previously used 8-foot-long, pierced aluminum planks — originally designed for temporary aircraft runways in muddy jungles in World War II and left behind by U.S. Armed Forces — but they did not always do the trick.
"They were pretty useless, in fact. They were too smooth and slippery when wet,'' he said.
"I thought there had to be a more efficient method. That's when I came up with the concept of MaxTrax.''
McCarthy said the system has won many devotees, including "weekend warriors" — those who enjoy off-road driving on days off — mining companies, search and rescue organizations, police and Australian defense forces.
MaxTrax is now selling in 35 countries including Russia, France, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, and there are four U.S. distributors, in California, Nevada and Arizona.
His said his company is now battling rivals in China who recreated MaxTrax at a cheaper price. McCarthy said Gunshot Creek Pty. Ltd. is still a small business, but expanding rapidly and he is keen to promote Australia as the "land of innovation."