Land yacht (automobile)

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A land yacht is an informal category of large automobiles.[1][2][3] While full-size cars are manufactured worldwide to this day, the term is most often used in reference to cars built in North America between 1960 and 1976.[4] Distinguished from both limousines and truck-based vehicles (vans and SUVs), land yachts are among the largest mass-produced cars ever manufactured.

Alongside full-size and luxury four-door sedans, the land yacht term was applicable to multiple body styles, including two-door notchback sedans, personal luxury coupes, convertibles, and station wagons.[5][6]

American cars[edit]

The term "land yacht" began to appear in the late 1950s, as full-size luxury cars began to grow in size independently from mainstream nameplates.[7] Initially descriptive of the high level of comfort features and soft ride, land yachts were designed "for the open road where living room-comfortable seats made the front seat seem like a plush couch with a windshield and steering wheel in front of it."[7] Following the fuel crises of the 1970s, the land yacht term had negative connotations, primarily referencing the poor handling (as a consequence of the soft ride), unwieldy size, and vague steering.[7]

During the 1960s and 1970s, land yachts of various types were produced by nearly all American automobile manufacturers; the largest were offered by Cadillac, Lincoln, Imperial and Buick.[8] During the 1970s, many examples were denoted by a "Brougham" trim level (in North America, Buick and Lincoln were the sole American nameplates not to offer one).

Following the oil crises of the 1970s and 1980s, many American-produced cars underwent downsizing, coinciding with a shift by consumers away from glamour alone towards quality, feature content, and fuel economy. In 1991 and 1992, respectively, General Motors and Ford would introduce redesigned full-size cars for the last time. After the 1996 model year, General Motors phased out production of the Buick Roadmaster, Chevrolet Caprice and Cadillac Fleetwood[9] (with the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car outlasting them by 15 years).

Excluding limousines, the longest American-produced production sedan is the 1973 Imperial LeBaron, at 235.3 in (5,977 mm) long. The longest-wheelbase car ever produced in North America, at 133.0 in (3,378 mm) long, is the 1971-1976 Cadillac Sixty Special. At 5,712 pounds, the heaviest American-produced car (excluding trucks and SUVs) is the 1967 Lincoln Continental convertible. As of 2019 production, these remain the largest vehicles ever produced by American-market manufacturers.

European cars[edit]

1969 Mercedes-Benz 600
2015 Rolls-Royce Phantom

Outside of North America, the term "land yacht" sees little use on locally produced cars, largely due to differing consumer demands. Past and present, several flagship models from Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce have placed ride comfort as a primary design objective; dimensions are comparable to the largest American sedans produced.

In contrast to its LWB counterpart, the Mercedes-Benz 600 SWB was developed to be driven by its owner; it was produced nearly exclusively as a four-door sedan. The 1963-1981 600 SWB has a length of up to 218.1 in (5,540 mm) and a curb weight of 5,456 lb (2,475 kg).[10]

In more recent times, the Rolls-Royce Phantom VII (and the currently produced Phantom VIII successor) were built by Rolls-Royce as flagship sedans, breaking from the previous Phantom model line of limousines bodied by coachbuilders. The standard-wheelbase Phantom VII is 226.9 in (5,760 mm) long with a curb weight of 5,644 lb (2,560 kg). Following the 2002-2012 Maybach 57 and 62, Mercedes-Benz revived the nameplate as its Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand in 2015. The Mercedes-Maybach S650 is 7.8 inches longer than its Mercedes-Benz S-Class counterpart, with the S650 having a length of 214.7 in (5.45 m), weighing 5,037 lb (2,285 kg).[11]

Airstream RV trailers[edit]

Airstream three-axle travel trailer

Airstream, an American manufacturer of RV trailers (caravans), used Land Yacht as the name of its flagship model line of trailers.[12][13][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burkhart, Bryan; Hunt, David (2000). Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9780811824712.
  2. ^ "Definition of Land Yacht". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  3. ^ Dirven, René (2003). Metaphor and metonymy in comparison and contrast. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 504. ISBN 9783110173741. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  4. ^ Quinteros, Luis (10 October 2010). "Ten Great Land Yachts". Jalopnik. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  5. ^ Stone, Matt (19 August 2013). "American Dreamboats". Hagerty Classic Cars. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  6. ^ French, Laura (25 April 2008). "The Station Wagon: Though mostly gone, these noble land yachts had rich history". StarTribune. Minneapolis. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Sutherland, Jim (4 February 2012). "Why Every Car Guy Needs To Pilot A Giant Old School Land Yacht Barge". Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  8. ^ Kunz, Bruce (25 August 2014). "The Imperial Crown was Chrysler's top-of-the-line land yacht". Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  9. ^ Krebs, Michelle (19 May 1996). "Buick Roadmaster; A Land Yacht Sails Into the Sunset". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  10. ^ "Detailed specs review of 1981 Mercedes-Benz 600 offered until June 1981 for Europe North America worldwide". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Detailed specs review of 2019 Mercedes-Maybach S 650 model for Europe". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  12. ^ Burkhart, Bryan; Hunt, David (2000). Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9780811824712.
  13. ^ Bleier, Evan. "Airstream's Last Land Yachts Are Sailing Away Into the Sunset". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  14. ^ Cox, Tara (2013). Airstream: The Silver RV. Shire Publications. ISBN 9780747814054. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Land Yacht". Airstream. Retrieved 27 May 2015.