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RUNNING CENTURIONS #3.
With the Centurion now running quite well, although the water pump did decide to start leaking so it was replaced I went down for a maintenance run. In the Industrial Estate was a Red Rooster Warehouse and the store there was kind enough to accept delivery of parts. They even assisted us with the forklift when it wasn't busy, delivering the new Final Drive and other heavy parts with it and as you would be no doubt aware this was greatly appreciated. The store manager and his 2 workers showed great interest in the vehicle. I checked with the company owning the Centurion if the next time I took it for a maintenance run, to invite the store workers for a ride as a show of appreciation. With that cleared (mostly for insurance reasons) I then approached the store foreman. I waited for their lunch break and Ross the foreman and Sandy the office girl walked down during their lunch break gladly accepting the offer. With Sandy all dressed up for office duties, in skirt and shirt she still was not going to miss the opportunity placed before her. I decided the best place for her was in the commanders hatch, Ross slotted into the Loader operators position. I then gave my strict safety instructions, ensured that all hatches were securely locked in the fully open position and 100% secure. I informed them that they must hang on at all times and relax and to think of their arms like springs so that their bodys rode easily with the vehicle and the shoulders and elbows pivoting to ensure that they were secure. With all that said and I assumed had sunk in, I headed down the hard standing perimeter track. Once in top gear I would cut the back corner, as in top gear 104 foot turning circle is not flash. So now at high speed we were now heading through the flat grassy plain and at the last minute there was a 6 foot verticle drop. They had been doing earth works the day before and changed the terrain with a flattened area for a new factory. There was absolutely NO way I was going to stop before the drop and I had to make a split second decision taking into consideration my passengers. I quickly let them know to brace themselves, they should have been able to see it better than me anyway, as I pushed the throttle as far as it would go, lined the vehicle up square, braced myself against the sticks and we were airborne, smooth as silk. The landing was the interesting part and the vehicle floated the back bogie touching down first with the smooth rocking motion forward and then back, pedal still to the floor until she evened out. Ok now it was time to ease off and come to a gentle stop and check on my passengers physically.
You guessed it, Sandy wasn't hanging on and looking out the rear of the vehicle and as it dropped, she did not come down with it. Ross had grabbed her skirt and pulled her back in. Her injuries consisted of a bruise to the hip, rather long and gravel rash type injury to one elbow. NOTE: If ever you are invited to ride in an armoured vehicle, LISTEN TO THE OPERATORS AND FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER!!!!
I said to Sandy, why were you not hanging on. Her reply was that it was so smooth as we were going down the road!! I replied, do you remember me saying it would be smooth until we got to the rough stuff. We continued the ride and Sandy was quite happy to now hang on. In light of the situation placed before me, it goes to show the fast thinking and quick reactions that are required by armoured vehicle drivers, not only in assessing the terrain, but also in considering the crew sitting in the turret who get a much worse ride due to the fact that they are sitting very high in the middle of the vehicle and the driver is sitting low in the front. The different crew positions is like riding in 3 different vehicles although you are in the one vehicle. A driver must be fully aware of this at all times. Especially with people that are not used to nor trained in armoured vehicles.
Needless to say, both enjoyed themselves immensley although Sandy felt a bit worse for wear the following few days. As far as the actual jump from 6 feet high, which you do not want to do in a Centurion too often as the suspension really is not built for that sort of abuse. I measured the track marks from the point of breaking contact with the ground and the 3 inch deep inpact point where the rear of the tracks hit the ground first and it was a bit under 16 feet in length. Quite a jump for that sort of vehicle. Being honest I got a real buzz from being airborne in a Cent but at the same time, knew the consequences of continually doing such a thing. I had the Company inform me of any future earth works so that I knew where to expect changes and would walk any changes first.
My thanks to Alex.
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