What do I need to drive a tank?

The other day I was stuck trying to find a parking space. I then remembered a Kenny Everett sketch from my childhood where Kenny solves the problem of parking by using a Sherman tank. You can see it here It got me wondering if you could actually drive a tank on British roads. Imagine my surprise when I found you can, and it is pretty easy to do so. While the Ministry of Defence will not sell you an armed working tank they are quite happy to flog off decommissioned ones they’ve got no use for. If you’re a little unsure then you can always have a “test drive”. Before that let me tell you what I found out about taking a tank on the road.

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First of all, they are thirsty. You ‘ll be a regular visitor to the local petrol station several times a day as tanks generally use up 1.6 gallons a fuel for every mile. We’re talking about a nice diesel engine here as well so the cost to the environment as you chug down the high street might get some peoples backs up. There is also the considerable noise and possibly fear that people may find. What surprised me the most was that you don’t actually need to have a tank driving licence. As long as the tank has its MOT and it’s not too heavy and wide (ruling out some of the real heavy-duty ones sadly) you can happily take it out on the road. You do need to have HGV licence. Fret not, we all have a provisional setting to drive a HGV on our standard licences so as long as you’ve got a HGV driver with you it’s all nice and legal. It’s unlikely you’ll break any speed limits. There is just the question of getting insurance but as a tank is more than likely to survive a collision surely that can’t be too difficult.  Tanks are so sturdy because of the sheets of metal used in production.  These days if you were to make a tank you would likely use an Electric Press Brakes machine at companies like to get precision and the right angles on the bends.

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The insurers might be concerned with the complete lack of vision you ‘ll have especially if you decide to drive it like in the war with the hatch down. The controls are not what you’ll be used to.  When you get in you’ll have 2 steering sticks. “Looks pretty simple”, I thought. If you move the stick on the right forward the tank turns to the right. If you push the left stick forward the tank turns to the left. So far so good. If you pull them both back the tank lurches into reverse. I did find myself looking for a rear-view mirror. I pushed them both away and off it went confidently forward. I then got positively confident and yanked one back and pushed the other forward. The tank then spun around for a while before I managed to pull it level. I then got out and decided that for road use a car was much better.

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