Anyway, me and Himself went to Tank Mania (http://www.tankmania.co.uk/ ) last Sunday and had the most brilliant day! Our friends had also bought a spectator ticket for Himself ... but he didn't spectate - he came in all the vehicles as a passenger.
The package was to drive 4 vehicles and then, at the end of the day, crush a car! The vehicles I got to drive were - from left to right, an Abbot self-propelled gun tank, a 432 Armoured Personnel Carrier, a 4 tonne Bedford MJ 4x4 truck and a lightweight Land Rover.
I had really fancied driving the BV206 hagglund Amphibious Personnel carrier but some heartless swine had tried to nick it from the farm where all the vehicles are stored but, in their failed attempt to steal it, they had wrecked all the electrics and it was away being repaired.
The drivers were split into small groups of 3 or 4 to one instructor, all of whom are ex-army driver/mechanics. We were lucky enough to get John (aka George Dawes!) who was excellent! We were told to wear 'old clothes and stout boots or shoes'. They supplied the overalls (one size doesn't quite fit all ......I've never worn something with the crotch round my knees and the hems turned up 6 times before!) and what appeared to be 2nd World War German helmets!
Our team for the day:
I was designated as the first driver - were the lads being polite or just scared?!!!
First up was the Armoured Personnel Carrier - a sweet little vehicle, steered by 2 levers which controlled the brakes on the tracks. Push both levers forward and the brakes are off, pull both levers back to put the brakes on. Turn corners by heaving back mightily with both hands on the lever at the side you wish to turn to - dead easy!
I quickly got the hang of the steering, but because the vehicles are all quite old (30+ years) and a bit clunky, it needed a LOT of brute force and shouting of "come ON" to turn corners - or was that just me?!
The course was well thought out, with some tight corners, steep ups and downs and long straight bits to put your foot down .... not that I did any speeding you understand :D !!!
Next up was the ligtweight Landy. These are designed to be put on pallets and parachuted in to the ground troops in hostile areas. This baby was a hoot to drive as it's considerably smaller and nippier than the Land Rover 110 Defender that I normally drive. I've done lots of general off-road driving and competitions, so I just had fun hurtling this round the course.
The whole day was a family affair. Ian organises it - he's the ex-army waller. Les (dad) does the 'meet-and-greet' and takes all the photos and Debbie (mum) cooks all the spendiferous food we had for lunch - and afternoon tea when we'd finished (how jolly British!) and Ian's brother drove us all back to the field where we'd parked the cars out of harm's way.
After lunch things got really interesting as I got to drive the Bedford. It drove just like a big Land Rover and I had no problems in knowing where all the corners of it were and what route to steer. Himself may possibly be a little bit biased, but he reckoned that I was by far and away the best and smoothest driver of the Landy and the Bedford! (bless him!)
I LOVED driving the Bedford ....but Himself is not yet convinced by my need to park one on our drive!!!
Being a passenger was fun, but driving it was much more fun! (control freak - moi?!)
Himself had a very relaxed day :)
They saved the best till last and I finally got my hands on the Abbot!
Only one minor problem with the Abbot. You see that metal sticky-up bit immediately in front of me? Well, being a short-arse, I couldn't see over it! I did a very good impression of a meerkat as I tried to stretch my spine to give me an extra inch or four.
Going uphill gave a very nice view of blue sky ...and NOTHING else, mind you, I couldn't see a great deal more going downhill either!
In the army they train the drivers blindfolded so that they learn to trust the tank commander and follow his instructions ....... I'd have been fine blindfolded!
Err .........Ooops! :D
The instructors, drivers and spectators at the end of a hot, dusty, day!