This past Saturday saw another great Club Sportiva excursion, this time to eyeball a vast assemblage of exotic military hardware, some very extremely unique, most pretty rare and surprising enough, individually and as a whole, not all that valuable. Our visit was to the Jacques Littlefield’s Tank Collection in Portola Valley. The collection is housed in a four huge, modern warehouse buildings in the midst of a large private estate. Attendance at the collection is for groups by appointment only and on this day was guided by an very knowledgeable and loquacious tank collection board member by the name of Mike Green.
So it was an extremely interesting day, with some 35 plus club members and their guests attending; curious but not one of us arrived in a Jeep. The four hour tour began with a visit to the restoration shop. In some ways this was the most fascinating aspect, with the one of Mr. Littlefield’s newest tank technicians, Jason, giving us the inside scoop on what it takes to refurbish a tank. Actually it’s pretty simple, money and lots of it. Oh and time, plenty of that (going on 5 years for the Panther Tank in the photo on the right – more on all the world’s surviving Panthers here). And a lot of really big heavy duty tools.
The Panther tank is a story unto itself, having been recovered from the depths of a Polish river where it had lain for 50 plus years after becoming stuck while trying to ford at night. As part of the restoration, the gun turret had to be completely reconstructed as it was blown apart by explosives as the fleeing Germans did not want to leave anything of use to the advancing Russians. The pic at the right shows how thick the frontal plate is on the reconstructed turret.
The collection itself is amazing in its breadth and quite interesting, with many specialized vehicles on display in addition to tanks, including half-tracks (even a half-track motorcycle), recovery tanks, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and plenty of ex-Soviet weaponry, such as a mobile radar array and the accompanying Scud missile launcher. virtually all of the vehicles run, and most have all the details in place – radio sets, blankets, small arms, first aid kits.
As our guide pointed out, the value of the buildings and property far exceeds the contents. It seems that tanks are not all that desirable as collectibles as one might believe – I think it’s something to do with size, weight and portability along with a poor resale market. The 70 ton (or is tonne?) British Chieftain, built a couple of decades ago for some one million pounds, was purchased for a mere $500. The trouble with tank collecting is transporting your collections; is it cost of $10K to get the Chieftain here ten years ago from Britain.
Many thanks to Member Liaison Andrew Welker for organizing this special trip, I know everyone found it very fascinating and fodder for many stories this past week. And one thing to note if you ever get the opportunity to go – dress warm, there’s no need to keep the tanks warm in the warehouses.
See more pictures of the Jacques Littlefield Tank Collection at these links: