What It Was Like Accidentally Crashing A Tank Into A Full-Grown Tree

Torchdrives Tank

Sometimes I think I take for granted that genuine madness is still possible in this world. And I don’t mean the bad, somber sort of madness. I mean the more lighthearted kind — something that’s a mix of improbability and unexpectedness, a kind of unhinged, loose-feeling freedom that comes from the realization that if you want to, you can do things that feel like they skirt the edges of reality. Things like driving a real, genuine, massive, full-sized battle tank over a car. You can do that! I know this, because I did it. I also accidentally drove over a tree, but you probably don’t want to do that.

Actually, if we’re really keeping track, I did this about six years ago, before I had to get glasses to read with and when my beard was a little more rich, pigment-wise. But if you have a pulse, you don’t say no to driving a tank just because you’ve done it before; like all really satisfying things, you seize that opportunity and grab onto it, like a cat grabbing a dangling hot dog, and you enjoy there mothertrusting fuck out of it. Which I did.

Yes, thanks to our pal Tony over at the (I assume) world-famous Drive A Tank, I got to spend another full day driving these massive machines, and this time we dig into some other interesting aspects, like the etymology of the word tank.

You can –no, you better – watch it right here, right now:

Wanton, sensless destruction of cars and trees and etymology? What more could you want?

Tanks really are strange devices. They’re machines of destruction, of course, and as such they’re incredibly rugged, but they also have alarmingly short lifespans during wartime and historically needed to be built as cheaply and quickly as possible, so there are all sorts of cost and time-saving qualities they have. They’re a strange mix of the best way possible and good enough, in various parts and ways.

They’re also such raw expressions of force and power that they almost feel like a natural disaster you can direct and (mostly) control. When I screwed up and misjudged just how wide the Polish T-55 tank I was driving was and took out a full-grown tree, I could barely feel it.

Tank Oops

The tank just felled the tree and kept going, and the sensation of guiding that much unstoppable mass is strange and heady and exhilarating and a bit alarming.


When you direct that kind of force – in this case via a British Chieftain MK10 tank– over a Saturn SC2 then it becomes something really fun, because everything you’re doing violates all of the rules of real life, and yet here you are, seeing how well those dent-resistant plastic panels hold up to 55+ tons of British steel.

Those panels actually hold up better than you may have guessed! The car was crushed like a waffle-stomped shower turd, but the fenders looked surprisingly good afterwards. I mean, you know, given the context.

One of my favorite things about this visit, though, is much more mundane. I finally got to touch and see in person a device I’ve been fascinated by for years: a Boiling Vessel, or, in non-military jargon, an in-tank tea kettle.

Yes, during WWII, the British lost enough tank crews because they were outside their tanks, brewing tea, that they realized there needed to be an in-tank solution to this terribly British problem, and so the cubical and highly space-efficient boiling vessel was born.


Honestly, getting to actually see and touch this strangely charming unlikely artifact of war was a highlight of this experience.

Look, driving tanks is fun. Forget all of the context and implications of what tanks are and do and just appreciate them a massive, strange machines. If you get a chance to go to Drive A Tank and try this out for yourself, I absolutely think you should, because there’s really nothing quite like it. And, of course, doing so in this context beats the crap out of having to drive a tank in the context of war, which I’m told is, you know, hell.

If you do it, just remember: that T-55 is really, really wide. Don’t run over a tree like I did.

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32 Responses

  1. I had a great laugh hearing about this in the podcast just days ago! I’m only now catching up with the podcast; for various reasons I’m not a huge fan of podcasts, but yours has become my company for the commute these last few weeks. Awesome job.

    I can’t stop thinking about how you inadvertently ended up making a great case for composite body panels. I don’t understand how they haven’t become the norm decades ago.

  2. I recently bought a medium sized bulldozer and I completely understand what you mean about the sensation of “guiding” an unstoppable mass! It’s a great feeling, but controlling something that will crush you, your dog and your truck without missing a beat is a little unsettling. That said, before long the mind adapts to this new reality, and all of a sudden, trees are not obstacles, trees are traction!

      1. I saw that, too, on multiple articles!

        There are YouTube bots that do the same thing with well-liked comments, attempting to piggyback off their popularity. But here I think the idea is because, for example, Autonecromancer’s comment has already been approved by the system, any subsequent comment with that same text body will automatically get signed off on.

        Not sure if that approach is actually fooling the censor, or if the bot would have been able to post anyway, but it’s interesting to watch them evolve.

        1. all this talk of bulldozers reminds me of an 80s Australian movie I loved as a kid called “Buddies.” It’s about gem miners, but the really, really important part of the movie is near the end which features a massive battle between two bloody great dozers. https://youtu.be/P4GnlSX2ubA unfortunately the whole scene doesn’t appear to be on youtube (maybe the film is) but here’s the trailer which does at least have a couple of shots of the fight.

  3. The owners of this place came close to building it right next to my wife’s relatives’ house. They originally planned on putting in a gun range as well, but didn’t think through which direction the range was facing, which was towards the relatives’ house. It was tied up in court for a couple years before the owners decided to build where they are instead. Does look fun though.

    1. So, you know how the metal shower drain cover has holes in it kinda like the dimple pattern on a waffle? Now imagine the turd is syrup and your foot is a common household hydraulic syrup press meant to ensure that maple syrup really gets into all the crevices of a waffle.

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  5. I recently bought a medium sized bulldozer and I completely understand what you mean about the sensation of “guiding” an unstoppable mass! It’s a great feeling, but controlling something that will crush you, your dog and your truck without missing a beat is a little unsettling. That said, before long the mind adapts to this new reality, and all of a sudden, trees are not obstacles, trees are traction!
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  6. I got to drive a tank (well, APC) a few years ago, although instead of actually getting to thrash the thing at all, I instead drove it slowly up a Welsh lane, with about 20cm of clearance on either side.
    Not very exciting, but given how it would have taken the merest twitch of either of my hands to send all fifteen tons straight through the hedge/fence/trees on either side without any effort, I did feel quite proud of myself for not cocking it up.
    (I checked, and upgrading a UK driving license to allow you drive tanks on public roads is pretty simple and cheap. Assuming you already have a tank of course.)

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if other countries’ tanks have something like a Boiling Vessel for heating up MREs.

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