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Holiday thrill: Crush a car

10 April 2012, 14:51

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - A New Zealand company is offering frustrated drivers an opportunity to vent their road rage with a Centurion tank.

Tanks for Everything (TFE) in Christchurch has a fleet of eight tanks, armoured personnel carriers and Jeeps, the largest of which can easily crush a sedan.

Owner Jonathan Lahy-Neary said: "I think it maybe releases repressed frustration, to go and crush something with a tank. If you've had a bad day, it's a pretty good stress-reliever."


The pride of the operation is Maximus, a British Centurion battle tank, weighing 52 tonnes, powered by a V12 Rolls-Royce engine and which saw service with Australian forces in Vietnam in the early 1970's.

There's also a Soviet-era T-55, an incongruous sight in New Zealand's rolling green hills, which TFE's Matthew Sandland said was surprisingly easy to buy from an arms dealer in Hungary.

"The Iraqis had these, the Afghans had these," he said. "The dealers had more than 100 and they sell them as fully functional battle tanks. We had to pay to have the gun deactivated to bring it to New Zealand.  Basically, anybody could have bought a fully-functional war machine if they'd wanted to."

TFE is the latest artillery round in the battle for the adrenalin dollar in New Zealand's R19-billion adventure tourism industry. The island nation has marketed itself as a spiritual home for the white-knuckled traveller with rafting, bungee jumping, heli-skiing or "zorbing" - rolling downhill in an inflatable sphere resembling a giant hamster ball.

Neil Carr, an associate professor at Otago University's tourism school, said: "New Zealand is arguably the dominant adrenalin tourism destination. Part of this undoubtedly relates to the physical landscape of the country."

Lahy-Neary admits that when it comes to his tanks, "it tends to appeal to blokes more" - but customers range from teenagers to 80-year-olds celebrating birthdays.

Rugby All Blacks Piri Weepu and Conrad Smith, as well as visiting members of US rock band Smashing Pumpkins, have all had a drive.

Canadian tourist Michael Noel fulfilled a lifelong ambition by flattening one of Lahy-Neary's cars, sourced from local junkyards, in the Centurion, describing it as "quite an experience".

Noel said: "(It) took a little getting used to the gears and so on but, once you get used to it, it's an awesome ride."

Playing with what could be the ultimate boys' toy does not come cheap; a 15 minute drive costs the equivalent of about R3000 and an extra R2500 to crush a car.


Lahy-Neary, fascinated by tanks since he was a child in Britain, said importing the beasts into New Zealand was harder than buying them, with police and customs officials unsure how to deal with his request. "Everybody was a bit gob-smacked because they'd never been asked the question before."

Even though the tanks have been disarmed Lahy-Neary and his wife still needed firearms licences to import them, leading to some puzzled reactions from local hunters also sitting the licence test.

Lahy-Neary said: "There were a lot of rugged mountain men obviously going to head off into the bush to shoot things. My wife, who's about 1.5m tall, was sitting there and someone turned to her and asked 'What type of gun have you got?'

"When she told him "Oh, I've got a tank' he never said another word."


Tags cars

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