Numbers reveal the hard, objective truths about a vehicle, defining its parameters and positioning it relative to its competition. When the U.S. Navy offered Motor Trend the special opportunity to ride aboard a Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, we said yes, then hit the books.
Commissioned in 1989, the USS Abraham Lincoln dimensions are usually given in football fields (more than three end to end) and acreage (4.5-acre deck surface). Breaking it down to more familiar terms, Abe stretches 1092 feet bumper to bumper, has a 206-foot height, boasts a 97,000-ton curb weight, and carries a $4.5 billion retail price. Simply put, this is the world's largest vehicle and the planet's most powerful warship, so we just had to enlist for a first-drive impression.
We would be traveling with reps from Chevrolet and a Navy Auto Source, who were onboard to boost morale by giving away a Chevy Tracker to the sailors returning home from the Middle East. This collective of land-loving car guys enjoyed a farewell dinner the night before departing from the San Diego naval base. The merriment was tempered with generous warnings about motion sickness, foot fungus, massive 300-bed bunk rooms, and other sea hazards likely to catch newbies unaware. We were now mentally prepared for the worst, expecting hardened sailors to scowl like weathered pirates at the fresh-faced landlubbers as we endured untold hardships.
What we found the next morning was a gracious crew, from ensign to admiral, that made us at home on their floating airbase. It didn't hurt that most planes had been off loaded, along with a couple thousand troops, after a 10-month tour. The ship was traveling light and spirits were high. Beyond the media stowaways, the Abraham Lincoln was hosting a Tiger Cruise program over a long weekend, allowing personnel to share the Navy experience with family members.
MT Radio Host Alan Taylor and I had come direct from the Chicago auto show, bringing a week's worth of luggage, laptops, and A/V gear with us. Photographer David Newhardt was similarly laden with a camera bag large enough to sneak ordinance off the ship. Although a couple young sailors provided bell services, negotiating the narrow hallways with the frequent stepovers and ascending the steep stairways proved a challenge. It's very hard to imagine trying to carry parts or tools through the ship in a hurry during conflict.
We had been assigned to officer's quarters that typically house fighter jocks, with accommodations for six. For the three Motor Trenders, it seemed downright luxurious compared to what we were expecting. (The previous evening's scare tactics had worked!)