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Tank for sale. Driven only by a little old man while crushing cars.
June 3, 2014 12:22 PM   Subscribe

In all the discussion over gun collections, one subset is often overlooked - the few, the rare, the heavy armament collectors. With a television presence, they are beginning to get more notoriety - but among them all, one stood out - the eccentric Jacques Littlefield. He passed away in 2009, but his estate has now listed several of his tanks for sale. If you've got a cool 3 mil, you could pick up this fully restored Panzer tank. On a budget? Try this Sherman tank instead, for only $250,000.
posted by corb (46 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I should also note, while the tanks are the real cherry of the collection, you can also pick up an anti-aircraft half-track or an armored personnel carrier (APC).
posted by corb at 12:26 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Does Chipotle have a drive-thru?
posted by cacofonie at 12:29 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


my neighbors would be slightly apprehensive if they saw a tank parked in my south pasture, the only part visible from the road. "what's bruce gonna do with that?" heavy armor is not the most cost-effective way to maintain power in southern coastal oregon after the apocalypse.
posted by bruce at 12:29 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Actually, the Panzer IV Ausf. H says:
This vehicle is in need of a complete restoration inside and out. The exterior is missing numerous fittings and small hatches. The commander's cupola has been modified by the Syrian Army to mount a heavy anti-aircraft machine gun. Also added by the Syrians were brackets for radio antenna mounts. They are located on either side of the turret and on the right, rear side of the turret. The stowage bins on the right side fenders are non-standard and were apparently added by the Czechs prior to it be sold to Syria. The wheels, drive sprockets and tracks appear to be in serviceable condition. The interior is extensively rusted. All turret hatches are present. The original turret drive motor has been replaced with a hydraulic unit from a Sherman tank. Non-standard main gun ammunition racks are fitted inside the hull. A replica turret bin is included.
So it's in need of heavy restoration, not to mention removing and replacing a bunch of non-standard upgrades. Still pretty cool... (Someone call Ooarai Academy!)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:30 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Previously.
posted by mosk at 12:31 PM on June 3


Oh man, I wish I had all kinds of dough so I could get a frickin' tank and live out some Tank Girl dreams.
posted by beefetish at 12:32 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I want a Tiger II so bad I could cry.
posted by codswallop at 12:33 PM on June 3


Are there any restrictions to owning an armored vehicle in the US? Other than "no ordnance?" And various roadway weight/height limits. Does a tank count as a truck?

I mean, I can't imagine the police would just let you drive one down the New Jersey Turnpike. Or Manhattan's West Side Highway.
posted by zarq at 12:33 PM on June 3


So how long ago was the Syrian army actually operating a WWII-era tank? Are there still such things in service now? Mind blown. Upon RTFA - 1967. Still, I had no idea.
posted by jetsetsc at 12:37 PM on June 3


Does a tank count as a truck?

I'd imagine that ones from WWII could be registered as antique vehicles, which would get you out of most emissions / inspection rules (at least in most states).

Modern heavy tanks do terrible damage to certain types of asphalt roads (not entirely sure what the deal is, but down at Ft Knox you used to be able to tell roads that had tracked vehicles on them when they weren't supposed to be there, because they'd leave big divots), so you'd probably have to be careful where you drove it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:39 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


You can't take a heavy tracked vehicle onto normal roads because it will chew up the asphalt. That applies equally to tanks and bulldozers.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:39 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


For the US, it seems...it depends?
A tank in the U.S. can have operational guns, if the owner has a federal Destructive Device permit, and state laws don't prohibit it. The permit costs $200, and the applicant must swear he hasn't been a "fugitive from justice," "adjudicated mentally defective" or convicted of "a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence." A local law-enforcement official, usually a sheriff or police chief, has to sign off on the application.

Tanks generally aren't street-legal, so owners usually drive them off-road or on other private property. Some say local authorities sometimes make exceptions for parades, a quick test drive or a trip to the gas station.
In the UK, however, apparently adding rubber track is sufficient.
posted by corb at 12:41 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Oh man this is like that whole southern/rural trope of having four-wheelers and dirt bikes to play around with "out back", times a million.
posted by Sara C. at 12:44 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


That's so cool. Thanks for the info, everyone. :)

We should get one for Metafilter. Then, if Google goes after the site again we could unleash the Mod Team on The Googleplex
posted by zarq at 12:47 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


The last combat outing for the Pz IV, AFAIK, was the 1967 Six-Day War, when it faced Israeli Centurion tanks. By that time the Pz IV, even in updated form, didn't impress anyone.
posted by Harald74 at 12:50 PM on June 3


I went to his tank museum in early 2010. It was sort of amazing in its scope - 3 enormous hangars completely full of tanks and tank-related paraphernalia. The third building hadn't been completely organized yet, and with Littlefield's passing they weren't really expecting it to ever be. It was full of shelves and boxes of this and that.

The official guide and the unofficial guide (an elderly army veteran who had driven tanks in combat his youth, and had come on hundreds of tours at this tank museum over the years) were both passionate about this collection of tanks, as were most of the people on the tour -- mostly boys and men for whom tanks had been a "thing" they were into. Many people whose fathers or grandfathers had driven tanks (my husband fell into both of those categories, hence our visit).

The guides were clearly sad at Littlefield's still relatively-recent death. They were also not at all secret about their dislike of his wife, due to her dislike of, or at least complete non-interest in, the tanks. The tour had been free while Littlefield was alive, but his wife didn't want to fund it anymore, and so by the time we went admission was $20. They were also very skeptical that the museum would continue be around in the long term, but I think they were secretly hoping that there was some other eccentric billionaire out there with a love of tanks who would swoop in and make it all better. It looks like it lasted longer than they expected, which is nice.
posted by brainmouse at 12:51 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


Tanks, for the memories.
posted by gimonca at 12:55 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]


The tour had been free while Littlefield was alive, but his wife didn't want to fund it anymore, and so by the time we went admission was $20.

So this thread should be titled "Tanks for the memories," right?
posted by octobersurprise at 12:59 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


My father was quite upset with the collection being broken up. While we he was here last he was volunteering with them working on the tanks and he never had so much fun.
posted by Talez at 1:02 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I frequently drive by a small outdoor military plane exhibit and the beauty in the mechanics and engineering stand out to me. But then I remember what these are. These are tools designed to kill. That's it. Nothing more. Not something I can be proud of or desire.
posted by Big_B at 1:10 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


The history that Chocolate Pickle quoted is pretty much how I imagine everything in BattleTech.
posted by curious nu at 1:13 PM on June 3


So the Syrians were using Nazi tanks to fight Israel in 1967, over twenty years after WWII. That has to be a story in itself.
posted by tommasz at 1:19 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I wish I had all kinds of dough so I could get a frickin' tank and live out some Tank Girl dreams.

Be careful what you wish for.
posted by benzenedream at 1:27 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Big_B: They're not doing that anymore. It's like people practicing with longbows or swords. What was once a state of the art, deadly weapon, is now a hobby for people who have found themselves at the top of Maslow's hierarchy and want something to do.

There is also something aesthetically appealing about the raw functionalism of military vehicles; rarely in other contexts do you see such singularity of purpose and lack of adornment taken to such an extent; it's engineering taken to an extreme without the necessity of many of the civilian world's compromises. (It's not entirely the province of the military—early space vehicles also come to mind and are similarly catnip to a certain kind of person—but it's really common in military equipment.)


So the Syrians were using Nazi tanks to fight Israel in 1967, over twenty years after WWII.

There is a thread discussing them here. Apparently the Syrians got them by way of the French, who captured them from the Germans after the war; the French sold them to the Syrians to balance out arms sales to Israel. The Syrians also bought some from the Czechs and other places.

In that same vein, I have seen examples of German wartime Mauser 98k rifles with the Nazi proofmarks obliterated and restamped with Israeli proofs. In some cases you can see both; the eagle-with-swastika right next to the Hebrew proof. In the 40s the Israelis were not in a position to be especially picky, and they are admittedly good rifles, so it makes sense they took what they could get.

I have heard that "Israeli Mausers" were in inventory up through the 70s, so it is not implausible (although unlikely) that a Syrian in 1967 could have been driving a Nazi tank while getting shot at by an Israeli with a Nazi rifle.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:48 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


One of the first planes used by the Israeli Air Force was the Avia S-199, a Czech-built version of the Messerschmitt Me-109. In the early days of the nation of Israel, they had trouble procuring weapons and were often forced to take whatever they could get. That's probably a big reason they now manufacture so many of their own weapons.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:13 PM on June 3


For all our fascination with tank-versus-tank battles, that's not what tanks spend the majority of their time doing. Tanks were originally conceived as moving pillboxes, remember, and that's still what they spend the majority of their time doing: fighting against enemy infantry.

By the time of the Six Day War, even a Panzer IV was still good enough for that.

It was only with the development of effective modern guided infantry anti-tank missiles that tanks could no longer attack infantry with impunity. But older tanks still are in operation all over the world. The American M-60 is very popular on the used-tank market, for instance, and there are a lot of them in service to this day despite the fact that they first appeared in 1961.

And there are still a lot of situations where tanks can be used against infantry or the equivalent without fear of anti-tank missiles. They're really good for putting down riots among your own citizens, for example.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:32 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


So the Syrians were using Nazi tanks to fight Israel in 1967, over twenty years after WWII. That has to be a story in itself.
posted by tommasz at 4:19 PM on June 3 [2 favorites +] [!]


The Israelis were using (modified) American Sherman tanks up into the 80's!
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:38 PM on June 3


I have been to the MVTF, from the web site:

"Thank you for interest in the MVTF. We are sorry to inform you that as of mid-January 2014, all of our available reservations for 2014 have been filled. We are not accepting new reservation requests at this time. A portion of the collection will be sold at auction in July 2014. A small part of the collection will stay in Portola Valley and the remaining core of the collection will be moved to its new location at the Collings Foundation facility in Stow, Massachusetts sometime in late 2014. For more information on the auction and new location for the collection, please visit the Collings Foundation website: www.collingsfoundation.org."

They have a large collection of BAR's, rocket launchers (including Panzerfausts and Panzershrecks), an Israeli tank with a hole in it and much more. Because of the remoteness of Portola Valley, he was able to roll out the occasional used car and blow it up on the Fourth of July. The collection was truly amazing...too bad they're selling some of it off and moving the rest to the East Coast.

He bought a lot of tanks for about the cost of a used car, but the shipping is what really added up. I have a bunch of pics on my phone still...maybe I'll post them somewhere.
posted by Chuffy at 3:23 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


The Soviet T-34 (1940-1944 design) saw combat in the Bosnian war and is still in service in some countries.
posted by Flashman at 3:27 PM on June 3


We should get one for Metafilter.

I would help fund the shit out of that. We could get M1 Helmet images below our stars.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:50 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I was all thinking "how stupid" until I looked at the pictures and the introvert in me started saying "one of those looks like a great place to climb into for some quiet reading."

But I'd have to add a cat flap.
posted by Zed at 4:03 PM on June 3


One morning a few years back whilst living in England a bunch of tanks and half-tracks rolled down the street I lived on for a high street festival. It was startlingly loud and rackety. Like a bus falling apart as if every bolt had vanished rackety. Even with rubberized treads they gouged the street pretty badly.

It was a strange collection of blokes driving/owning them. Not the rich collectors you might envision in the United States but more like older chavvy and oddball types who have slightly larger sheds and wives who are happy to be free of them while they work on their tanks. They stood around like young hotrodders showing off their cars and seemed pretty disappointed, in that way that old men with weird interests often are, that they weren't more popular with the crowd.
posted by srboisvert at 4:13 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


The T-54/55 is still being used in the Syrian Civil War today. Of course they are probably much upgraded from the original spec.

Tanks are good against infantry in open terrain (so, yes, in the desert), but in difficult terrain or in urban warfare they are pretty vulnerable.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:01 PM on June 3


For all our fascination with tank-versus-tank battles, that's not what tanks spend the majority of their time doing.

I always wondered why the ubiquitous American M4 Shermans seemed so dinky and ineffective compared to the imposing German heavy tanks (wiki: "The British and Canadians called the Sherman the "Ronson" after the Ronson cigarette lighter which had the slogan "Lights up the first time, every time!"), until I realized that it was probably aircraft and specialized tank-killers that inflicted the most panzer casualties.

Falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, I learned that there were 1500 Canadian-built light tanks called the Valentine that made up the majority of British lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union. They were built, of all places, in Montreal in an old railway foundry that is now, of course, a liquor store and a Loblaws. God the internet is wonderful.
posted by cacofonie at 6:35 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I know someone that owns an ex-russian WW-2 era tank. Steve Matthews was the expert provided us on one of our teams Scrapheap Challenge builds (shown as Junkyard Wars in the US). Anyhow, as he lived in the UK, he couldn't have it until a hole at least 1/2 the bore diameter was made in all barrels as close as possible to the breach.

He did confirm that the addition of rubber blocks to the treads thick enough that none of the metal parts of the tread could touch the road surface, was sufficient to render it road legal, which was somewhat meaningless, as it was wide and heavy enough that a fair amount of the road network wasn't accessible.

What we found most interesting was the design. The original designers knew that a significant percentage of the people that were to manufacture, maintain, and operate the thing were conscripts from far corners of the country, people that would not have seen, never mind operated an internal combustion engine before arriving at the tank school. The engine was very open minded about what it would run on, in his opinion if it was sufficiently liquid to be able to be pumped without additional heat, and vaguely flammable, you could get it to run on it, if the engine was already warmed up. (it might take a little of the good stuff to get it started from cold)

The UK is fairly tolerant about what it allows on its roads. Our opponents for that episode owned a fully restored Foden steam "lorry" (truck). Again, with the simple addition of some rubber tread to the original steel wheels, and they get to drive it anywhere it will fit.
posted by rjnerd at 8:42 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I always wondered why the ubiquitous American M4 Shermans seemed so dinky and ineffective compared to the imposing German heavy tanks (wiki: "The British and Canadians called the Sherman the "Ronson" after the Ronson cigarette lighter which had the slogan "Lights up the first time, every time!"), until I realized that it was probably aircraft and specialized tank-killers that inflicted the most panzer casualties.

It's a bit more complicated than that; postwar operations research found that the most important deciding factor in winning a tank-vs-tank fight was spotting/shooting/hitting first, irrespective of gun size or armor thickness.

In fact, most WWII tanks of the same weight were roughly equivalent: the Pz IV, the Sherman, and the T-34, though they varied through the years. The Germans did additionally field heavier tanks, but how much that helped them is debatable. The Americans also fielded the Pershing, and had stuff on the drawing board.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:02 PM on June 3


In addition to the heavy tanks that Comrade_robot mentions, the Allies also developed tank destroyers that were specifically intended for tank-killing - basically, Shermans with larger guns like the Firefly, and sometimes also lighter turrets and armor like the M10.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:46 PM on June 3


But I'd have to add a cat flap.

Your cat's already covered.
posted by neckro23 at 9:59 PM on June 3


I can relate from personal experience that if you position yourself carefully in the driver's seat, you can take a dump while driving an M60A3 with the escape hatch (cat flap) removed.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:02 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


> Modern heavy tanks do terrible damage to certain types of asphalt roads

Roads near military bases were usually selectively reinforced to carry tanks, and the purpose of the Eisenhower Interstate system were also initially specced to tolerate massive tank movements to defend the country. I imagine that all the roads near Fulda in Germany are pretty damn well indestructible.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:18 PM on June 3


A couple generations from now, we'll all be coveting what's left of the kickass armored trucks that the Americans and Brits cooked up for Afghanistan and Iraq. By then, I'm sure our nations will have degenerated to the point that it's common to use IEDs to settle disputes with neighbors, and what not (why, back in my day...).

Won't you be glad you got ahold of that MRAP you've always wanted? (Also, popular SUVs will be cosmetic knock-offs of same.)
posted by Sunburnt at 11:36 PM on June 3


So the Syrians were using Nazi tanks to fight Israel in 1967, over twenty years after WWII. That has to be a story in itself.

Big deal. The Israelis themselves used Czech build Bf. 109s in the 1948 war.

Also, at least one of those panzer IV's was captured by the Israelis and put into service, now residing at their national armour museum.

And the Syrians were also using pre-WWII French tanks well into the fifties.

(Most of the Panzer IVs btw at the time of the 1967 war were used as static turrets on the Golan Heights and such, not as actual tanks.

Egyptians also had Panzer IVs and mated some of them with Soviet artillery to get a self propelled howitzer.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:55 AM on June 4


In addition to the heavy tanks that Comrade_robot mentions, the Allies also developed tank destroyers that were specifically intended for tank-killing - basically, Shermans with larger guns like the Firefly, and sometimes also lighter turrets and armor like the M10.

Actually, American doctrine, developed before they entered the war, was to use tanks against infantry and fortifications, with tank destroyers to counter the enemy's armour. That didn't work out terribly well.

The Sherman Firefly, basically a Sherman with a British 17 pounder gun, worked pretty well, finally having something that could punch through a Panther or Tiger. The problem with the Sherman though remained that it was such a tall tank with relatively thin armour, so easy to hit but cheap to make.

The Germans did additionally field heavier tanks, but how much that helped them is debatable.

Some people certainly have argued that if only the Germans had stuck to the pzkw IV, they would've been able to make and field much more tanks that weren't that much worse than the Panthers or Tigers and which could almost to the end of the war take on most Allied tanks; in the end it was quantity rather than quality what did them in.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:09 AM on June 4


The Soviet T-34 (1940-1944 design) saw combat in the Bosnian war and is still in service in some countries.

Heck, so did the M10 Wolverine of the same vintage.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:10 AM on June 4


The Germans had the same philosophy with regards to aircraft. They had a whole mess of different designs in production at the same time, and probably spent far too much on R&D.
posted by Harald74 at 5:06 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


Having a huge variety of different tanks leads to a huge logistics problem. The main reason the Americans standardized on the Sherman and stuck with it for most of the war was to simplify the supply problem. (By which I mean spare parts.) There were different versions of the Sherman, with different engines, but they were enough similar so that they could largely share the same logistics train. (That's also why the Americans standardized on a relatively small number of fighter plane and bomber models.)

It also makes it easier to manage and schedule manufacturing.

That wasn't true for the German tanks. The Panzer IV, Panther, Tiger, Tiger II, were really a lot different and couldn't share parts.

If you want to see something grotesque, check out the super-heavy Panzer VIII Maus, the biggest tracked war vehicle ever built. I suppose it seemed like a good idea when proposed, but it was too heavy to cross any bridge in Germany, of which there are a lot. So ultimately they only built one.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:33 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


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