Tank fans rejoice! You don't have to enlist to drive one
I've been all over the world and driven a huge amount of fun things from ice driving in the elps to offroading in the Namib Desert.
But today is something a little bit different.
I'm here in the fine state of Minnesota to drive a tank.
About 70 miles outside of Minneapolis is the town of Kasota, home to the aptly named Drive a Tank.
Anyone with an interest in having a go in some serious military hardware spanning almost the entire history of tanks.
But without the desire to actually enlist, Drive A Tank can give you the opportunity to drive, shoot and crush with some legendary metal.
And just to get this out of the way, some of these are tanks, some of these are self Propelled guns.
I get it tank nerds.
There is a difference.
And although I do know which is which for the sake of simplicity I'll just be calling them tanks as tanks is shorter than self propelled gun.
So that saves time which I have to do as I've spent so much time explaining why I've called them all tanks.
First up was the abbot.
16.5 tons of British metal powered by 240 break horsepower Rolls Royce engine.
These are all genuine ex military vehicles.
The weapons may have been decommission but they still look, sound, and crucially drive exactly how they should.
And after some instruction on how actually do it I was away.
Here we go.
[NOISE] So this may have as much horsepower.
As a sporty little MX-5 or something like that.
It weighs as much as a house.
So we're not looking at any 0-60 times here but it is effortlessly moving forward its massive weight.
And it's not difficult to drive.
Automatic transmission, one pedal and two handles is all it takes.
This is easier to drive than my Golf.
So yeah, water is no If you go for this thing, just keep going.
As long as you don't mind getting muddy, it doesn't mind getting muddy.
It takes sometime getting used to drive something using levers instead of a steering wheel but as soon as you find your feet, it's hard to get that smile off your face.
There is something pretty awesome about looking over your shoulder and seeing a canon protruding from your right.
I'm not going to lie.
With my first tank experience in the bag, the next challenge would be to learn to drive using a periscope, this time in an APC.
The controls would be the same but instead of my head sticking out of the vehicle I"d be tucked safely inside looking through a letter box size periscope.
To see where I was going.
Now completely sealed inside, I could start to appreciate how cramped and tight it is inside these kinds of vehicles.
Creature comforts are virtually zero, with a couple of minimal padded areas your only respite from the hard, bare metal.
Try to move a bigger vehicle, more accurately.
Now all of a sudden this track feels half as wide.
But I do feel twice as protected, I'm not expecting any enemy attacks out here in Mennesota, but if you are, my head is now sticking out.
Also really muddy.
Let's pick up some speed.
[NOISE] [LAUGH] All right.
It's a war machine.
When you drive outside of the confines of a battlefield for recreational purposes, they're actually a lot of fun.
No, I did not get wet.
Now, it was time to combine those experiences I'd had, and take it to the next level with this.
This World War II legend might not have been the largest piece of hardware on shore that day, but it certainly was the most iconic.
Arguably one of the most famous of its brethren, the profundity of this machine isn't lost on you as you climb on board.
Where everything else I'd driven that day had to have an automatic gear box The Sherman had the mother of all manual boxes.
One I had wrestled it into gear and pulled away it was hard to take in the fact I was driving a machine that 70 years prior had been tearing through Europe in droves, kicking **** and taking names.
Did I mention that all the weapons on these tanks have been decommissioned?
Well that's technically true, but the guys that drives the tank are pretty handy fellows, and they have completely rebuilt the cannon on the Sherman, and with it their own custom shell.
So if you're inclined you can actually shoot it and boy was I inclined.
The shells are made from a secret combination of ingredients that make quite an impact but none of the destructive damage.
Switching to the gunner's position in the tank gives a whole new prospective on the experience.
Driving around, hunting for targets, aligning your sites and then actually firing a giant cannon.
And watching the shell explode is a safe cloud powdered smoke.
I'm sure it wouldn't take much to convince you how fun it was.
Ready to fire.
Did I miss?
I must have.
Just a little high.
[LAUGH] After a full day of learning the amazing history of this incredible machines, and getting to actually experience what it feels like to control this metal monsters, I could have left a very happy camper.
However, there was one more machine I fancy to having a go with before I left.
Behold the behemoth that is the Chieftain.
The Sherman may have been iconic, but the Chieftain looks like it could eat it for breakfast.
And what do you do with a 25 foot long, 55 ton tank?
Well, you use it to crush a car.
Turns out, it's excellent at it.
Right, let's see what damage that did.
So now I can officially strike driving a tank off my bucket list and thanks to the guys here at drive a tank, not only have I driven an Abbott and fired shells from a Sherman at a moving target, I have managed to crush a Buick with a chieftain, something I definitely wasn't expecting to add to my list today.
And not only that,I gat a souvenir number plate and the keys to the ride.
Am entirely sure that's as useful as they think it's.
But still a fantastic day has been had and driving a tank,is an experience that I can whole heartedly recommend.
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