“When someone gives you access to a tank, don’t pass it up.” Type that into the “Reminders” section of your phone. Freiburger and Finnegan knew it when they made Episode 17 of Roadkill. And I knew it when a conversation with Jeff Dahlin about Bullet Proof Diesel’s tank somehow reached the point where I had the chance to fly to Arizona to crush some stuff with it. Like any sane person, I not only jumped at the chance, I also started plotting what I would flatten with Bullet Proof’s Chieftain Main Battle Tank. Idea #1: A pizza for Roadkill Kitchen.
“Wait, Roadkill Kitchen? Like a cooking show?”
Yes. Like a cooking show. Sort of.
I hatched the idea while making a pizza at home from a cheap pizza-crust mix. Everybody loves cooking shows. Studios love them because they’re cheap and easy to make. You just steal someone’s recipe and film it; most recipes are more or less public domain. So why not use a 65-ton tank to make a Roadkill-esque cooking show? “That’s the stupidest idea you’ve ever had,” I said to myself, followed instantly by “Perfect. Let’s do it.”
I saw only one big problem: Cooking shows select hosts with heaps of charisma. I’m reliably told my awkwardness is my most defining characteristic. As a result, I find myself in no danger of being hired by the Food Network, or for that matter, anyone.
Since none of this idea made any real sense, though, why not press on? I enlisted Jeff Dahlin’s help in making the video and he elevated the quality from “Camcorder Bigfoot film replica” to “1998 Straight-to-Video.”
I’ll admit to being an amateur-at-best videographer and a worse editor so the “final product” lacks a bit of polish, but what pilot episode doesn’t? [This is probably a good point to note that this isn’t an official The Enthusiast Network production or really even a pitch for one. So don’t expect any of Roadkill’s fantastic production value; this is meant to be fun.]
The only review I’ve gotten so far came from Roadkill editor Elana Scherr. I will share it in its entirety: “I laughed and also you guys are such dorks it’s incredible!” I’m pretty sure I brought Jeff—a super-rad dude—down to my level. However, I’ll take that review for the laugh! Hopefully, you find it as funny as she did.
About the tank
This Chieftain, as you might have guessed, is the exact same tank that Freiburger and Finnegan broke while crushing a Toyota Prius in Episode 17 of Roadkill. In fact, the Bullet Proof Diesel employees all raised an eyebrow any time the word “Roadkill” was mentioned. Recovering and repairing the tank after that episode shoot was a fairly extensive operation, it turns out. Whoops.
Anyway, the Chieftain Main Battle tank was one of the mainstays of British armored units during the Cold War’s second half. With substantial armor and an imposing 120-millimeter cannon, it would have formed the backbone of a ground war on the continent. The weight descriptions fall between 55 and 65 tons, depending on who you ask, but a safe assumption is “a lot more than 100,000 pounds.” That’s about as much as a ranch house, through which the Chieftain would happily drive with ease at its top speed of about 30 miles per hour.
Believe it or not, the Chieftain’s engine is a two-stroke engine, though it’s a bit different from your ordinary lawnmower powerplant. Instead, a Leyland L60 opposed-piston multifuel engine powers the tank. We couldn’t get a good look at it because the engine is buried deep in the chassis, but the L60 is a six-cylinder, 12-piston engine. That means two crankshafts and two pistons per cylinder. It’s a fairly unique design that creates the awesome exhaust note you’ll hear in the videos. Here’s an animation of an earlier German opposed-piston engine used in World War II airplanes if you need a good visual.
A four-person crew would have managed the Chieftain in battle: driver, gunner, loader, and commander. Bullet Proof has restrictions about who drives the tank—the whole “capability of running amok unhindered” thing will do that—so Bullet Proof’s Delwin Wamsley (above) did the crushing for us. After exhausting our “To Pulverize” pile, however, Wamsley let me crawl around the tank.
For the size of the tank, the interior remains rather cramped; thick armor accounts for much of the tank’s dimensions. By the time we crawled inside late in the afternoon, the temperature had climbed to considerably higher than the ambient 100 degrees. Crews would have operated with some air conditioning, but you can only cool a narrow space with four bodies and an engine underneath so much.
The driver sits at the very front, ahead of the turret (and not really visible here) with a narrow field of view. Behind the driving position, the gunner sits to the right of the gun with the commander’s position further behind and above. The loader’s position opposes the gunner and commander. The engine and generator sit behind the turret. Gaining any kind of engine access required reversing the turret entirely so we skipped that bit and trusted that the L60 engine was there.
Bullet Proof bought the tank a few years ago when business had started picking up for their, well, bullet-proof EGR replacement parts. The succeses of that EGR replacement spawned a burgeoning company that has expanded to other diesel-tuning elements. However, they rightly thought the tank would be both a conversation piece and a potential marketing tool.
Things to crush
The entire idea for Bullet Proof’s series of videos with the tank arose from simply putting the tank away for the weekend. During the week, the company pulls it out of the holding yard and parks it on display. On Fridays, the tanks goes back in the yard. Former HOT ROD Magazine publisher Jeff Dahlin recently moved to Arizona to work for Bullet Proof and he simply asked if they could use those Fridays to crush things that Bullet Proof cofounder Ken Neal hated for a series of videos.
We shared those here and through a conversation with Dahlin, we eventually came to the conclusion that I should hang around to crush things on a Friday. The plan originally included pulling as much stuff from CraigsList’s “FREE” section as we could. However, the FREE “sellers” were as flaky as you’d expect so we ultimately settled on the Roadkill Kitchen idea with a couple of runs to local thrift stores to pick over the assorted cheap fodder. This thrift-store cat was probably right to look worried.
In among the cooking-show filming, we managed to crush everything else in our thrift-store collection. While we didn’t get do rehash any Prius pulverization, Bullet Proof certainly remembers that day, busted tank and all, with fondness.
You can watch just the tank-smash video below without any of that cooking show pretense. In the meantime, Bullet Proof has continued its weekly tradition of crushing things every Friday. You can find all those videos right here on their YouTube Channel. Be sure to check out the gallery below for more images from our Day With the Tank.