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Tank Games

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I came across the the following video of the day clip on the online Russia! Maganzine.

The clip shows a number of brightly painted tanks taking part in a mechanized paramilitary biathlon. At first glance I thought all the tanks were upgraded T-72s or T-90s, but then I found them called out as T-72B(M)s in the Modern AFV Discussion Group on Missing-Lynx. I have since found that there is a wiki site on the Tank Biathlon and a RIA Novosti news story that also call the vehicles out as T-72Bs. The tank colors corespond to the nationality of the crews, yellow tanks - Belarus, red tanks - Russia, blue tanks - Kazakhstan and green tanks - Armenia. You can follow the clip back to the you-tube source, MeanwhileRussia, for more details of the event which occured on the Alabino proving grounds about 60 km southwest of Moscow from August 11th to the 17th. I found the results of the this year's Tank Biathlon in a "The Bug Pit" post on the ste. First prize went to the Russians, with Kazakhstan second, Belarus third and Armenia a distant fourth.

Efforts are being made to expand the Russian Tank Biathlon to include crews from Germany and Italy in 2014. The Russians have stated that the US has been invited in 2014, but when NPR tried to confirm the invite they received no response from the US Department of Defense.

There is a ton of coverage of this event on the web and a simple google search will turn up a number of hits but most web pieces just cover the same ground over and over again. Examples include the BBC has coverage of the Tank Biathlon that an includes a video clip of the event and the clips and photos found on the RT and Business Insider websites. These types of tank games are nothing new, but on a lazy Sunday afternoon they can pass for a good distraction.


Review: Cinema Retro "Movie Classics" Special Edition Kelly's Heroes

Recently Cinema Retro released a limited edition 80 page magazine tribute to the 1970 film "Kelly's Heroes" that includes a large number of unpublished photos from the production of the film and vintage interviews of all the key cast and crew members. If you're looking for a nuts and bolts coverage of the prop vehicles used in the production you will be disappointed. There is only a short paragraph on the JNA T-34 Tigers built for the 1969 film "The Battle of Neretava" that were leased by MGM in the summer and fall of 1969 for "Kelly's Heroes." There is even less hardware coverage of Oddball's (Donald Sutherland) M4 Sherman platoon or the half-tracks of Big Joe's (Telly Savalas) recon group. Photos of these and other props are included, but the reason to buy this tribute issue is because it's the best source I have found on the history of the film and the cast of legendary Hollywood characters that made it.This is Cinema Retro's third tribute to a Clint Eastwood film, and as with earlier editions for "Where Eagles Dare" and the Sergio Leone/Eastwood Dollars trilogy, Eastwood looms large in the telling of the behind the scenes conflicts, back stories and the plot lines of "Kelly's Heroes." It's a short tribute, but a well woven fan history that attempts to cover all the bases, going as far as to tell the story of infamous post production editing by MGM head Jim Aubrey and almost schizophrenic marketing campaign to audiences. The best effort possible is made to capture as much information as possible on the 20 minutes of deleted scenes. However, what I enjoyed most was Cinema Retro inclusion of then and now photos and descriptions of the locations in former Yugoslavia used in the film to stand in for 1944 France. You can find the town of Vižinada, Croatia on Google maps which was used to represent the Lorraine town of Clarmont (spelled incorrectly as Claremont in the film) in the final battle and the bank heist scenes. A great deal has changed since 1969, but with help of Cinema Retro you can pick out the main square and the former location of the bank. The bank was built for the film, but burned down in a fire caused by unknown origins in early November 1969 and was one of the events that spurred the end of production film work.

View Larger Map

I highly recommend this Cinema Retro special edition magazine on "Kelly's Heroes" and picked up my copy through, but you can also pick up a copy direct through the Cinema Retro website.


A Russian Tiger on the Snow

It's old news at this point, but I feel compelled to write something about the excellent engineering and fabrication work of a Russian firm that has built a Tiger I replica for a new WW2 film by Karen Shakhnazarov based on a book by Ilya Boyashov. The Russian firm that built the Tiger I has posted on the Achtung Panzer Form and the post is a good starting point for anyone interested in this beast. The following are some youtube clips fo the vehicle: 


"War Horse" Mark IV Replica Tank Finds a New Home

The Mark IV replica tank from the film "War Horse" has been purchased by Tank Museum at Bovington, UK. The following is a youtube clip from the Tank Museum which provides some background on the replica and the Museum's plans for it. The clip also has some great footage of the vehicle being put through it's paces on Bovington's track.

Update: There is also link on the Tank Museum site for this replica, and need to give a Hat Tip to the Landships forum.


Rise of a Chinese Master Tank Prop Builder? 

I have been tied up with other things for some time and my thoughts have been a million miles away from film prop tanks. But yesterday I am came across a post on Missing-Lynx that caught my attention and brought me back to blogging.

The Missing-Lynx thread includes a link to an online China Daily article about a master craftsman named Wu Zhiyong from Sichuan province who has built a number of high quality full scale aircraft and tank replicas. Could it be that the "Pacific" Japanese Type 95 replicas were product's of Zhiyong's workshops at Yingming Model Development Company Ltd.? The article states that at least three of Zhiyong's creations, two Japanese Type 95s and a M4 Sherman have been used in film productions. According to the China Daily piece all three props where built for a Chinese TV series called "My Chief and My Regiment" and the Type 95s were also used in the Chinese film the "City of Life and Death." I have yet to see clips or images from either film production, but maybe the puzzle of the origins of the "Pacific" Type 95s has been solved? If so, then I think we will being seeing more of Wu Zhiyong excellent handy work soon. 

As a side note, a Vickers 6-ton may also have been built by Wu Zhiyong's workshop for "City of Life and Death."

Hate Tip: to Tone Engelsen on Missing-Lynx who posted the link to the China Daily piece.


Replica Renault FT Tanks in Poland - Film Props for "The Battle of Warsaw 1920"

Earlier this summer a number of photos of a newly built Renault FT replica surfaced on the Polish website The Polish text description that accompanied the pictures stated that the vehicle was the first of two FT replicas built for a new film directed by Jerzy Hoffman entitled "Bitwa warszawska 1920" (The Battle of Warsaw 1920). Last week one of the FTs was put up for auction on Several of clips of these well built prop vehicles can already be found on youtube even though the movie has yet to released on the big screen. The following the clip was one of two included as link in the ebay auction.

Hat Tip to Markus for posting the link to ebay auction on the Axis History Forum and to user "Profil" on the Landships WW1 Forum for posting the link!



Panzer 88 - New Horror Film on the Ostfront 

"Hell Boy" writer Peter Briggs is writing and directing a new horror film project called "Panzer 88." The film, which is said to have started production this Summer, is set on the Eastern Front in October 1944 with much of the action centered on the tribulations of a German Tiger II tank crew confronted with a monster of "Lord of Rings" proporations. Gary Kurtz of "Star Wars" and "American Graffiti" fame is the producer so the project is more than just a low budget direct to video/SyFy Channel monster flick. has an interview with Peter in which many interesting tid-bits are revealed about the project. But there are no real clues in the interview regarding how the project is going to depict a Tiger II tank, replica/VISMOD or static prop interiors with VFX? Peter Brigs is promising cutting edge tank battles like nothing seen yet on film, but I guess we will have to wait for the movie to come out to see if it lives up to the promise.

See here for the interview with Peter Brigs & some project concept art work.



Test Driving a New Vismod Panther in Poland 

On July 17th a new Panther tank replica showed up at a WW2 reenactment in Poland. The vehicle is based on a surplus WTZ-1 chassis and is fitted out to represent a Panther Ausf. A. The following YouTube clip surfaced yesterday of the new Panther on a muddy test drive.

Photos of the vehicle being built can be found here

Hat Tip to user Olhau on the Achtung Panzer Forum for first posting links to the photos of the vehicle on a English language DG.


Building a New Mark IV in Lincoln

A group of tank enthusiasts in Lincoln, England called the 'Friends of the Lincoln Tank' are building a full scale replica of a World War I British Mark IV tank. The City of Lincoln played a prominent role in the conception, development and manufacture of Britain's tank force in WW1. The group is lead by historian and author Richard Pullen who has written a book about the William Foster & Co. and Lincoln's role in the genesis of the tank.

Under the news tab of the group's web page there are images of a wooden prototype of a Mark IV sponson. However, based on text from the site it looks like the group wants to build an all steel replica if they can raise the funds. This would be different than most of the existing WW1 tank replicas which tend to have steel frames with plywood and resin 'armoured' bodies. It's very interesting and most ambitious project...

Hat Tip to Simon King who posted a link about the project on


A Hurricane Remembered - The Battle for Normandy

Today is the 66th anniversary of Allied landings in Normandy. The following are two U.S. Army Signal Corp. photos of a Company H, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division M4 Sherman named "Hurricane." The first shows "Hurricane" being loaded into an LST in preparation for invasion of Normandy. The second photo dated August 17, 1944 shows "Hurricane" having it's engine replaced in a French field.

"Hurricane" landed on Utah beach on D+1. The vehicle and it's crew survived nine weeks of fierce combat to see the break out of the Norman Bocage and the destruction of the German forces in Normandy.


The Tank Museum Short - Little Willie - The world's first tank. 

The Tank Museum at Bovington, UK has started to release short films and posting the shorts on their Youtube channel. The following clip has museum historian David Fletcher describing the technical innovations behind and history of Britain's first tank.


History of a Southampton Bound StuG 

In March I published a short post about a German World War II Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.G in College Station, TX. It turns out that this same vehicle was spotted this week at the Port of Galveston being loaded on ship bound for Southampton, UK. A member (username: Madboat) of the Achtung Panzer! Forum posted photos and a short video clip on Youtube of the StuG being loaded on the ship. Credit: "Madboat" Achtung Panzer! ForumAt the time of my original post, I knew very little about the history of this specific assault gun and I was only interested in posting two nice Youtube clips and an a link to a photo album. The vehicle had been used in Midwest 2nd Panzer Division reenacting events but that was the extent of my knowledge. After reading the responses in the Achtung Panzer! Forum thread and doing a little digging of my own there were more questions than answers about the history of this StuG. The vehicle is claimed to be a Normandy veteran, captured in the battles in the area around Caen in June/July 1944. It could also still be on the books as Canadian government property despite having been sold at least twice to private individuals.

Controversy and legal matters aside, it would be interesting to know the wartime history of this vehicle. The first question is when and where was this StuG III Ausf.G built? Based on Peter Müller & Wolfgang Zimmermann's second volume on the Sturmgeschütz III I believe it is possible to identify this vehicle as having be built by the Mühlenbau und Industrie A.-G. (Miag) in Braunschweig, Germany  between November 1943 - January 1944. The detailed text and photos in Müller & Zimmermann's book compared with the Port of Galveston photos and Chris De Haven's Austin Armor Builders Society photos allows the identification of the vehicle's manufacturer and the three month period of when the vehicle was built.

The following are a few sections from Peter Müller & Wolfgang Zimmermann's Sturmgeschütz III Vol.2 that apply. It should be noted that the book includes excellent photos which clearly illustrate each text description.

27. Engine air outlet (Rear hull characteristics)

In the rear wallof the hull, below, 5 segments with 3 concial head bolts per upright separation panels. Alkett 09.42 - 07.44, Miag 02.42-04.44. [pg.52]

29. Exhaust mufflers (Rear hull characteristics)

2 exhaust mufflers below the engine air outlet, transverse, with two cutouts each on the bottom side, Alkett, 03.44-End. Miag, 12.43-End. [pg.54]

35. Drive sprocket hubs (Running gear characteristics)

Sprocket hub with central thread for attaching the hub cap plugged, Miag 11.43-01.44 [pg.58]

37. b) Return rollers (Running gear characteristics)

3 all-steel return rollers (310 x 40) Miag, 11.43-End [pg.61]

41. Tracks (Running gear characteristics)

40 cm, 6 chevrons, double side bar, hollow but non-perforated guide horn, 12.43-End [pg.64]

49. Muzzle brakes StuK and StuH (Main armament characteristics)

Acorn muzzle brake, 2 chamber, blast faces enlarged (front and rear oval) Alket, 05.43-07.44; Miag, 04.43-07.44 [pg.71]

58. Track guard support brackets (Track guard characteristics)

1st and 4th are tubular support brackets, reinforced with sheet steel triangle, 1 angled sheet steel support bracket in the middle section and at the end of the superstructure, Miag, 03.43-End [pg.82]

A number of other sections in the book apply to this vehicle, but together the sections referenced above and photos that go with them support the claim that this is a Miag vehicle built between Nov-43 and Jan-44. They also show that this vehicle was not a pieced together from the wrecks of a number of vehicles build by different manufacturers at different times. Not knowing the vehicle's Fahrgestell number makes it difficult to determine the exact month of manufacturing, but narrowing the possible dates to a three month window is a start.

The history between when the vehicle left Miag up to this past week on as it was loaded onto a ship to Southampton is still a bit murky, but If you are interested read the Achtung Panzer! Forum thread in full. I will keep digging.


Tankfest 2010 is almost here...

I don't know if the Tank Musuem's Tiger I will be running around the track this year, but even if the Tiger is only on static display Tankfest 2010 should be a great show on the 26th and 27th of June.



The Pacific Japanese Type 95 Comparison

I don't know how long the following clip will stay up on YouTube, but here is the Pacific Episode 6 Peleliu Airfield scene with the charging Japanese Type 95 tanks.

As a comparison the following film clip shows the evaulation of a captured Type 95 light tank by the Americans during WW2.


James Garner's Tank on the Block

The M4A3 Sherman tank that James Garner drove in the 1984 movie "Tank" was on the auction block last week on ebay motors. If you never saw "Tank", you only need to see the first 30 minutes of the film where James Garner levels a small town Georgia jail, raids a prison farm to save his son, and crushes a police car road block with a M4A3 Sherman to pretty much understand the movie's greatness.

The starting price of the ebay motors auction was $450,000 US, and the auction ended unsuccessfully with no bids. The following are three YouTube clips showing the vehicle as it is today running through it's paces at it's current home in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

The following is are some text excerpts from the ebay motors auction with more informarion about the vehicle. 

Genuine Ford Motor Co. 1942 M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank that starred with James Garner in his 1984 Feature Film "TANK" with C. Thomas Howell and Shirley Jones.  This tank has been in several other films as well and has been in the same private collection for the last 40 years. It is one of the very, very few Sherman Tanks in private ownership in the U.S. and in unique in it condition as well. It runs exceptionally well and is mechanically sound. The interior is amazingly complete and in original condition; unrestored!  The original M3 75mm cannon is deactivated...

...It weighs 66,700lbs., 19ft. Long, 8ft., 6inches Wide and 9ft. Tall. It has its original Ford GAA 1100CID V-8 engine with 500HP with a 100 mile range and 30MPH Top Speed. It was Rebuilt at Rock Island Arsenal in 1952 and has its Radio, Driver's Hood, Periscopes, Gunner Telescope, Compass and includes Manual for Parts, Operation and Service. Also included are the three Replica Machine Guns, two 1919A4s, and M2HB, all are not able to fire in any way.
In addition, from the film, "TANK", an Original Script, Poster, and many behind the scenes photos are included. The interior also has autographs of James Garner and C. Thomas Howell...

Tank located in Crawfordsville, Indiana
Contact us with any questions: 513 465-0000  Serious Buyers Only.



Tough Customers - "The Pacific"

Framegrabs from the HBO series the "The Pacific" have emerged on in various web discussion groups, see here, here and here for good examples from the old guard at the AFV News Discussion Board. I have covered the M4 Sherman used in the series in a previous post, but at this point I don't have any information on the Japanese Type 95 replicas or the LVTs used in the filming. As usual, speculation and controversy abounds regarding the props used in "The Pacific." Anyone wanting to follow along can read through various threads on the forum of the The Pacific Fansite. I have not seen any the episodes yet, and so I don't want to dive into the debates about the turret of the Grant based M4 Sherman VISMOD not reflecting a late model M4A2, the color of green used on the vehicles or whether the movement of the Japanese tanks charging across the airfield in the Peleilu episodes looked too CGI-ish. But I doubt the Globe theater had patrons heckling Shakespeare about Henry V using the wrong kind of sword. I don't want to elevate anyone on the Dreamworks team to the level of Shakespeare, but if "The Pacific" falls short of the mark, it will not be because of the quality of the work done by the prop or visual effects group. If "Pacific" fails it will be because people watched all 10 episodes and they still can't remember the main character's names.


A Quick Review of "A New A7V Tank" by Maxwell Hundleby

 My copy of Maxwell Hundleby's self-published book documenting the construction of Bob Grundy's A7V replica arrived a week ago, but work has kept me from writing anything about it until now. After shopping around on, ebay, and a few other UK book seller sites, I ended up purchasing my copy through Aviation Book Everything went well with the transaction and the book arrived in my mail box the day the Icelandic volcano shut down all the transatlantic flights from the UK. I can't help but wonder if I should just take the slow boat shipping option for my book European book purchases for at least the next few months...anyway back to the quick review.

Hundleby's book is roughly 6" x 8" (20.6cm x 14.8cm) and it's only 46 pages long. If you are a AFV modeler or someone only interested in the history of German WW1 panzers, you will likely just pick up a copy of Hundleby & Rainer Strasheim's new Tankograd history of the A7V. Good reviews of the Tankograd book can be found here and here and the Tankograd book does include some information about Grundy's and other A7V replicas. "A New A7V Tank" is a nuts and bolts booklet detailing the three year effort to merge two Ford County Crawlers into a single functional automotive chassis with a cosmetically actuate A7V body. Hundleby is frank about the design compromises that had to be made by Grundy's team to build a vehicle that is clearly intended for future film work. A good deal of engineering went into the effort and this is reflected in Hundleby's text and photo captions. While I would have liked to have seen more photos detailing how the two tractors where merged together, the 23 pages of in-progress construction photos was well worth the £8.00 price of the book for me. The photos clearly show the sequence of fabrication and they provide ample support for Hundleby's text. The single page text history and 10 page photo coverage of the operational life and fate of the real 504 Schnuck is just icing on the cake. If you have any questions about the book feel free to post a comment. I will try to reply in a timely manner.


The Magyar Panther...continued

New images and video of the Hungarian T-54/55 esratz Panther are available. The pictures have been posted in a thread on the WWII Axis Reenactment Forum of The following youtube videos show the vehicle moving under it's own power. The first video shows the vehicle with only primer applied and the second shows the vehicle after the addition of simulated zimmerit coating, a new three color camouflage paint scheme and tactical markings.



A New A7V Tank

Rumors last summer had Maxwell Hundleby working on a new book on the A7V tank, an update of his hard to find and highly valued 1990 work with Rainer Strasheim on German tanks in World War I.  Whether this rumor is true or not, Max Hundleby has recently published a new book covering the construction of the A7V tank replica that showed up this past summer at Tankfest 2009.

The 46 page soft bound book entitled "A New A7V Tank" can be purchased for £8.00 + £2.00 p&p directly, by contacting the author at:

Max Hundleby, 7 Pine Grove, Chorley, Lancs, PR6 7BW.

I have also seen copies for sale on, and from several other UK book merchants. I have purchased a copy this week and when it arrives I will write a short review and hopefully correct any mistakes in my initial post dealing with this vehicle.


Texas StuG Round-up 

Having been slack for long time, the following is a quick post to try to get back into the spirit.

The following are two short but good YouTube videos of a German Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.G taking part in a US WW2 reenactment. The StuG III was one of the most common German AFVs in the battles in Italy, Northwest Europe and the Eastern front between 1943-45. Apart from a few former Finish Army vehicles used in several Finish war movies, the StuGs seen in modern Western films are VISMODs based on surplus British FV432 chassis.

At the time of the video clips where made, this StuG was being used in reenactment battles by the Midwest based 2nd Panzer Division group, hence the trident emblem on the front of the vehicle. I don't know if the vehicle is currently associated to a unit or the name of the individual that currently owns the vehicle. I would have no further information about this vintage assult gun where it not for a recent thread on the AFV News forum. It turns out that this StuG III passed through Brent Mullin's shop in College Station, Texas. At a open house of Mullin's place in April 2009, Chris De Haven took a number of excellent photos of the vehicle and allowed the Austin Armor Builders Society to post them on their website. Having just purchased Peter Müller & Wolfgang Zimmermann second volume on the Sturmgeschütz III it will be interesting to see how many of the original details remain on this vehicle.