Some people enjoy swimming with dolphins or snorkeling on their vacations. Others go skiing or strap into amusement park rides. Some, though, may consider these activities too tame, ordinary. These are the types of people who might instead be interesting in, say, driving a tank over old sedans, for example.
“Drive a Tank,” a company in Kasota, Minn., lets these types of thrill seekers try their hand at the military version of monster-truck driving.
With only a quick briefing on tank controls and operations — no previous tank driving experience necessary — newbie tank drivers can take the treads for a spin. According to the company’s website, the tanks are unarmed — so no target practice. (Note: If you are interested in target practice, they have a historic machine gun that, depending on the package you sign up for.)
Watch this AP report with footage and tank-driver commentary of the experience:
“To have that much weight on just two brake handles, it’s awesome,” said Jacob Ostling, 19, after the tank rolled over a car and rained glass around his head. The car “was like a tin can,” he said.
You may also notice that the tanks are from Europe. The company states that unlike America, which didn’t release its “armor” to the public, some European countries have done so and “Drive a Tank” is putting them to good use.
“Wars and skirmishes took place in Europe, and out of need for farm equipment and transport vehicles [...] Due to availability, the fact that England has been an ally through the years, and price of their vehicles; our armor is British,” the company website states.
Owner Tony Borglum, a construction and heavy equipment contractor, opened the tank park three years ago after seeing similar attractions during a visit to England. He said he knew it would fit nicely into American culture – a more visceral version of what millions of guys are doing in video games anyway.
He began buying up old Cold War-era surplus and now has 11 armored vehicles available for use on a 20-acre site near this town 50 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Customers spend hours churning up and down a hilly, wooded course, getting a firsthand sense of what armored warfare might be like.
“It’s not as glorious as it looks like on TV,” said Borglum, a short-haired 25-year-old who wore camouflage pants, a tan polo shirt and boots at the session.
But it satisfies the curiosity of those who have watched tanks in war movies.
“It was very realistic,” agreed Brad Walker, of Amboy, Ind., who brought his 21-year-old son, Nick, for an outing before the young man got married. “It kind of gives you an idea exactly how hard that job is.” Nick Walker, who squeezed his 5-foot-11, 230-pound frame into the cramped compartment, added, “It’s not a big person’s job.”
There are various packages at differing price points, but to give you an idea, crunching cars could cost you up to $750 whereas a more simple drive through a wooded area will cost about $400. If you’re really a high roller, $3,500 will let you drive a tank through a trailer home. Even if you’re not interested in driving though, of if you’re bringing your friends along, you can also just take a ride in the tank for $45.
Borglum said his tank park wasn’t the first in the United States but he knows of no others still operating. Event coordinator Kessa Baedke said more than 600 packages have been sold this year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.