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What Is a Land Yacht?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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A land yacht is a large automobile commonly manufactured in the United States (US) from 1950 to 1980. Given the title land yacht for the type of ride and driving characteristics exhibited by the large vehicles, these long and wide automobiles appeared to float down the road when cruising at highway speeds. Commonly given to large, four-door sedans, the land yacht moniker was also given to station wagons and some motor-homes in the 1970s. The large automobiles gave way to smaller, mid-sized vehicles in search of improved fuel mileage in response to the nationwide fuel shortages of the 1970s.

The lavishly appointed interiors of the large land yachts mimicked those of the luxurious, ocean-going vessels the vehicles are named after. Thick padding in the seats create a very comfortable cruising position from which the automobile is piloted. These vehicles are very long and wide, therefore, the bumps of the road are softened by the vehicle's suspension system, resulting in a smooth, boat-like ride. The vehicle appears to float down the road as the heavy land yacht uses extra heavy-duty suspension components to smooth the imperfections of the highway, thereby preventing bouncing. The steering in these large vehicles is often sloppy and unresponsive, giving a feel of a ship's rudder as there is a noticeable delay in response to steering input.

Although very comfortable, the land yacht typically used excessive amounts of fuel that made long, extended trips uncomfortable for the owner's pocketbook. In the height of the American land yacht production, the size of a vehicle's rear fins was often the greatest visual appeal and best selling point. The 1959 Cadillac holds the title of the largest rear fins ever produced on an American automobile, with the Cadillac fins measuring 6-fee-long (1.83m). Excessive chrome and vinyl tops were common options on the large vehicles.

As the automobile began to be downsized in the US, the motor-home began to take on the title of land yacht. The over-sized camper resembled a yacht, with its tall sides and ship-like overall appearance. Another factor that added to the nickname was the appearance of several motor-homes once parked in a campground. The large campers lined up side to side in the campground gave an appearance of yachts in a harbor, all lined up and tied to a dock. On-board bathrooms, kitchens and entertainment systems also added to the yacht-like title for the campers.

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