Halo’s Real Life Warthog: Weta build, they smash – OXCGN Exclusive

How Weta built a real-life Warthog

(Just so Bungie & Microsoft reps could smash things with it…)

Grant's twitterby XboxOZ360

©2009 Grant Smythe

Halo ODSTWhen we were at the recent Halo ODST Media Event held on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, I met up with Tim Launder, the General Manager for WetaNZ on board a water taxi travelling Sydney’s beautiful harbour.

Update: • Our ‘huge’ multi-faceted Halo Reach Review.

Update: • Halo Reach Release Article Bungie’s Last Big Stand.

Tim was over here to present the glorious Weta Workshop’s Halo Warthog which they built for the proposed Halo Movie, which sadly got put on hold after making the movie shorts [trailers].

Tim was hand-delivering the hand-crafted Cortana figurine which was to be displayed at the event, alongside several other Halo Collectible figurines and a brand new item, the Halo Ring, as well as do a presentation for WetaNZ regarding the Halo Warthog of course.

NB: You will see some discount codes on the various Halo gear currently in stock from WetaNZ which are valid until 18th September 2009 worldwide. Check out their other collectibles (Hellgate-London etc) and weapons as well.

• Halo Full Combat Trailer Extended

Yes, they DID smash through that wall in The ‘Hog – no CGI

halo helmets oxcgnAlso on hand was Alex Faulkner who was the “designated driver” of the Warthog for the event from Weta; they didn’t want any repeats of the Frank O’Conner incident at the Weta Workshops happening again on foreign soil.

I had some interesting conversation with both Alex and Tim, and grabbed some video during daylight hours which shows the versatility of the Halo Warthog and had the chance to get taken around the parking lot on Cockatoo Island prior to the event kicking off later that evening.

OXCGN has created a nice relationship with WetaNZ, and here we have an exclusive look into how the Warthog was constructed through an interview with Weta Workshop Senior Engineer Peter Osbourne who was brought in especially for the Warthog’s construction.

OXCGN and Weta have also created a special offer for all OXCGN readers worldwide. If you purchase some of the Halo figurines and collectibles, simply use the code included and you will get a nice 12% off the Recommended Retail Cost [RRP] of the item.

So make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the codes with the various figurines shown here today. They will have more in stock soon, so make sure you let them know you’ve come from OXCGN when ordering goods.

Weta Workshop’s Halo Warthog’s construction.

Discussion via email with Peter Osborne – Weta Workshops

warthog oxcgn #3

1) Grant Smythe – OXCGN: One of the biggest questions many ask is just how long did it take to build the real life ‘hog’ from first conception to the final turn-key.

We know from Tim Launder that it took approx 6 weeks, but does that include the design as well as the construction?

Halo Warthog #6Peter Osborne – Weta-NZ Workshops: Well, six weeks build time was from a rolling drivable chassis. We had started the Warthog prior to getting a full green light on the movie, so a lot of design had been done prior.

When the movie was put on hold we opted to finish the chassis to the point of driving it around.  At that point it had 2 seats, brake pedal, gas pedal, no floor, walls or seat belts- hairy to drive, but fun, you ended up with cramp in your legs because you had to hold your leg in space to work the pedals.

Halo shorts came on the scene, the body work was rejigged to a new look which required a chassis chop and mod.  The front half of the rolling chassis was laser scanned and then 3D  modeled for the body work design to begin.

We had a chassis and roll cage being built/finished at one end of the building, and the body work getting milled and molded at the other.  When the two met in the middle the fit was perfect.

There was very minor trimming to get the body to fit.

2) GS: The design must have been demanding, given that it had to meet certain standards set down when being commissioned. What were these commission requirements, and just how strict were they?

Halo Warthog oxcgn #8PO: Well in true movie fashion the brief alters as you go along, the director and others get a bright idea and say “could it do this”, and we say “no worries”, go to our respective corners and figure out what we need to change to make it happen.

Basically the brief is to make it go reliably and drop off 20 foot banks, hence it is solid.

3) GS: Having driven in the hog, and found it extremely agile, and now seeing it in the Halo clip, it’s obvious that the final drive can be changed to suit various conditions. Are the gears for the trailer different to the ones fitted normally to gain higher speed. Could you give us some idea of top speeds and of course, BHP and torque revs etc.?

halo Mark VI Helmet oxcgnPO: Motor-wise is it is a Nissan 4.2 litre diesel, with a stock auto bolted up to it.  We have ended up putting it in low range permanently due to tire size and performance needs.

After testing on-site we discovered that a N/A Nissan is not the fastest thing on 4 wheels, especially when a lot heavier than stock, so we made the call to fit a turbo kit to it.

This helps in performance; as for the BHP search the web for Nissan Patrol turbo kit and you should find the numbers:)

“`GS: We’re not all only gameheads. Many gamers do love their cars and how they are built; having come from a vehicle construction background myself, I love seeing how things go together.

4) GS: Did you have to meet any New Zealand vehicle standards in order to be able to use it, and what sort of registration, if any, does it have? Do you need that for demonstration purposes and the like?

PO: Nope on standards or rego requirements.  Main thing all the way through was safety. It can be driven on the road but only carefully and at slow speed.

As it is so wide and the vision is not good from the drivers seat, it would be really easy to clip a parked car or building as the Bungie guys discovered…

5) GS: Can you explain just how the different steering settings work, what combinations are available, and how would you use these for different situations?

Halo Warthog oxcgn #6PO: The steering has three modes:

two wheel steer -car like handling,

4 wheel steer, can go on to a road and do a U turn in the width of a standard road, inner turning circle would be in the order of about 5 feet,

and crab mode, where one can drive sideways, works really well with plenty of room to correct or catch the maneuver, failure to do so can result in flattened goal posts, as the NZ Microsoft rep discovered:)

We have set the system up where when you change modes. The steering has to be in a set place, ie to go from 2 wheel steer to 4 wheel steer, the front steering has to go to a straight ahead position before the rear will engage. Likewise going from 4 to 2 then the rear has to be straight before it will disengage.

6) GS: The Nissan engine required the addition of a turbo, so was this part of a complete engine overhaul, or simply a factory option. For engine longevity it would need a blueprint and balance – wouldn’t it? Especially given the extra torque supplied by the turbo?

Flood Layered oxcgnPO: The turbo kit we used bolted to the Nissan engine with little modification. The main issue was the bonnet [hood] does not come off the front so access to the motor required us to cut an access panel through the wheel arch to access the manifolds, a bit a of a challenge I can tell you.

The performance requirements did not require the engine to be in race spec. The warthog project started just before I did with Weta; personally I would have preferred a V8, would sound a whole lot better……

7) GS: The chassis is very simple, yet obviously extremely sturdy. What factors were taken into consideration when designing and constructing it, it doesn’t seem to have a great deal of gussetting, so obviously it’s extremely heavy walled box channel!?

EVA Helmet oxcgnPO: Correct on the Box, it is solid.  It also acts as a air tank for the air suspension. We made it solid for dropping off things, the top framing of the vehicle is actually a functional roll cage. Although there would be no give and it would be a very hard roll.

There are full harness belts we fit for stunt driving as required.

8) GS: The drivetrain must be substantial, can you run through that for us please, as much detail as you can would be welcomed.

PO: The drive train is Nissan Patrol; diffs, we got hold of 2 front diffs and cut the arms off and made them about 300 mm wider, we then had to make custom axles to take up the difference.

The rear diff was cut flipped and widened to give us the 4ws, we also braced the under side of the diff and swivel housing to prevent them bending when they jump it.

9) GS: The body looks great, many think it is glass or carbon, but it looks to be alloy, is that correct, and if so/not, what was the shell made of and how?

Halo Warthog oxcgn #10PO: Actually both. The body was milled out of polystyrene and then glassed over the top. The poly was then carved out by hand to give a hollow shell, the shell was then covered with Ali [alloy] to give the armoured look, and then trimmed with a urethane spray to give texture, then painted up and then aged back to give a used look.

10) GS: What is the hairiest thing you’ve encountered in the ‘hog’ so far while testing or using it? Did it actually crash through the wall in the trailer, or was that done by ‘other means’ – as you don’t have stunt hogs – or do you?

Halo Warthog oxcgn #9PO: The hairiest thing, would have to be the first day it moved: Richard Taylor wanted to be the first to drive it, so we fired it up, checked the brakes in the workshop and moved it outside.

RT promptly leaps into it and roars down the road- not what we intended, we wanted a few laps of the car park to make sure nothing fell off. When you have a team working on a vehicle like this you have to assume it is all bolted together, it was, but you never know…..

As for the wall- that was a surprise to us.  About 1.5 weeks out from the shoot, we made spare screens and fitted a lexan panel inside the screen in case anything came through, and as the actors were wearing helmets, they were keen.

As you see in the shorts [movie short trailers], it went through and everything and everyone survived.

11) GS: I noticed that the little “Red Ring Of Death” is visible on the dash near the screen: whose great idea was that and did Microsoft know or show any objections once it was done, or are they still unaware of it hehehe?

PO: Well that was an ‘oops’- it was pointed out over a year later that the red ring means Xbox dead.  If MS knew, they never said anything, but after this maybe they will.

12) GS: In the trailer, the hog is dropped from the “ship” which is obviously a crane with the ship superimposed over it. What heights has it been dropped from, and has it suffered any problems from that? The design would have had to be very rigid, yet flexible enough not to crack it . . .an excellent feat in itself actually.

PO: Ain’t CG wonderful.

13) GS: Overall, would you do it again, and how many crew actually worked on the hog, (their names could be supplied if you like to be included in the article).

Halo Warthog oxcgn #7PO: Every now and then, it is talked about building more for paying punters. We would love to build some, the look would be the same/similar, but the machine underneath would be radically different.

We would have to go for certification etc. to comply with safety rules etc, and that jacks the price up. But if any one’s wallet has loads of zeros with numbers at the front, drop us a line….

The team working on the vehicle would number approx 20 crew: we had designers, 3D modelers, boat builders, Engineers, Miniatures crew, painters, fibreglass crew, props builders, to name them would be to miss a few and I would face their wrath:)

14) GS: Can you tell us what the craziest thing has been when showing the hog off to press or film PR people . . or simply using it? Not the scariest, just the craziest.

CQB Helmet oxcgnPO: Well we do have a large indoor area called The Studio, and I cannot either confirm or deny we where doing donuts in The Studio…….

15) GS: In District 9, the vehicles look amazing. Was the huge 6-8 wheel monster built by Weta Workshops and was it constructed from an existing chassis or vehicle, or scratch built to suit?

PO: We built the Hilux’s and various other bits but unfortunately not the 6-8 wheel monsters.

16) GS: There’s obviously a lot of love that goes into this work, satisfaction and pride as well. How does it feel now that the warthog’s finished, yet unable to be used as intended (as far as we know at the moment anyway) in the film?

Halo ring oxcgn
For 12% off use this code – OXCGNMCRING (all caps)

PO: When Halo [film] went on hold it was a interesting period- luckily my skill were recognized and I was kept on as crew. The satisfaction of seeing a vehicle I help to build on a small screen or big screen is absolutely brilliant……

17) GS: Testing it out in the mud-pits must have been fun, and it looks the part, obviously a great day for all those that got a chance to hightail it through there.

Where was that by the way and how did it come about? Part of a testing, or something to simply get all dirty?

warthog oxcgn #4PO: The testing was a lot of fun; the cleaning of it took a while.

When we got back with vehicle there was a few who disapproved of the state of the vehicle and a comment was made “you were to take it easy”.

I mean there was mud dripping off the fluffy-dice after all.  However the client came in and saw the footage and was absolutely blown away, so all was forgiven.

I later brought photos in of my Vehicle rolling down a hill with the comment “this is not taking it easy” I think they now understand me……

18) GS: So in closing, what would you like to let the readers know about your work at Weta? How long have you been there, the work you cover, and any further details you might like to share.

As I know for me, when I was building cars (I had a custom body and paint shop in Sydney in the 70’s – yes, I’m ‘that old’ . . ) I loved seeing them finished and then looking forward to the next project. What’s in store that you might be able to share with us? Will there be more vehicles coming off the Weta production line?

Arbiter oxcgnPO: Well, been here three years next month. Time flies in this job. I am now the Senior Engineer and look after a team of about 2 others with it changing as the work alters.

Working in a movie-based industry is certainly interesting. We do try to break laws of physics occasionally, there can be very tight deadline with budgets to match.

You do not know what is coming up any time or anywhere. I have worked on vehicles, weapons, tanks, aircraft, gas guns to name a few- you have to be very broadly skilled.

cortana oxcgn
For 12% off – use this code OXCGNCORTANA (all caps)

I can, in the space of a week, do machining, design, electrics, hydraulics, pneumatics, animation, electronics, welding all forms, fabrication, cnc plasma cutting- you name it, I probably do it.

As for upcoming projects, there a few on the horizon which I cannot mention of course: just keep a eye out in the credits for Weta engineering……

GS: Thanks for your time mate, and ideally, if we’re ever in the land of The Long White Cloud, we’ll drop in and say hi . . .

NB: You will see some discount codes on the various Halo gear currently in stock from WetaNZ which are valid until 18th September 2009 worldwide. Check out their other collectibles (Hellgate-London etc) and weapons as well.
©2009 Grant Smythe

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Co-owner and EIC of oxcgn.com

13 thoughts on “Halo’s Real Life Warthog: Weta build, they smash – OXCGN Exclusive”

  1. You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like
    you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe.
    Always follow your heart.


  2. This iss a topic that’s close to my heart… Best wishes!
    Exactly where are your coontact details though?


  3. I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and coverage!
    Keeep up the good works guys I’ve included you guys to


  4. My main problem is how to rig up the four wheel steering system. I’ve had several ideas including a double rack & pinion system, single power steering pump with split hydrolic lines and a shut off, and two pumps one with a manual clutch in the pully. Any input as to how it was really done would be great. Also, is there a computer system in use in this one? Two more questions: 1) What are the measurements on the frame (not the roll cage), and 2) what is the size of the rectangular tubing used?


    1. The best place to get your answers would be at Weta directly mate. Pop into their forums and ask there, as they would gladly share what details they can re the construction of the Warthog.

      There is no computer system running the unit as such, most of the dash is nonfunctional of course, as it is a movie vehicle, not a road,ready vehicle which is to be used as one would expect . . .It can and is driven on the road of course in NZ, and was driven on the road here in NSW (Australia) . . . as it met all the basic requirements for registration.

      The steering is unique, and is a power-assist rack-n-pinion based system. Which can be switched from normal front wheel steer, rear wheel steer, both front and rear wheel steer, to sideways steer, to enable the crab-like steering it does. Which I might add, felt rather strange being in when it was enabled. They simply stop,, enable the hydralic engagements system, and the steering system is changed all from the drivers seat.

      It has a decent top speed on the highway, but, like many off-road vehicles, it gets rather noisy and ruff at full pelt on the ‘flat-tops’.

      I ‘think’ the chassis is something like 3″x2″ box steel, but don’t hold me to that. Again, ask the guys at Weta . . . .

      Hope that helps a little?



  5. Just like brooklyn, me and my friends are going to make a halo warthog, but we need more information on how to build it. Would you mind helping us out and telling us what is needed to make one? how did you guys get the chassis and body to look so good? thats one of our main problems right now. thx


  6. hey,
    me and my friends are thinking of building a warthog so do u mind helping me find what i need to build one… trust me and my friends are very experianced..
    thanks so much,
    p.s. sorry theres no caps my shift key isnt working


    1. Every item on the Warthog was scratch-built, with the exception of the motor, which is a Nissan 3 ltr Diesel with a turbo added later. Everything else is hand built using adapted components from other sources, the steering and suspension is unique and can be changed from inside the ‘hog using hydrolics from RWD, AWD, 4WD, 2 heel steer, 4 wheel steer, 4 wheel crab steer.

      The gun alone cost $NZ25,000 to make so best of luck, as the one shown here is a replacement made here in Australia, as the original (which cost the $25k) was not allowed to be brought into the country due to Customs Laws. It’s a pale comparison to the real thing sitting in NZ waiting to be put back on when the ‘hog went home. The structure of the ‘hog was so solid, that in the movie clip, where you see it break through a concrete barrier, was actually done, he only addition they added for that scene was a plexiglass cover for the windscreen and sides opening, so as to protect the actors in the clip. What you see it doing in that movie clip, is Real-Life, not film CGI make believe . . . So I wish you well.


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