T A N K S C A R R I E R S A R M O U R E D   C A R S

"Vehicle Specifics - What you need to know if you are a potential owner."

So you think you might want to buy a ......? In this section is a collection of my and other collectors' comments regarding different vehicles that someone might find for sale. Should anyone reading what is here wish to supply comment or ammend comments about a particular military vehicle then please send me an email.

FV-4201 Chieftain - Main Battle Tank.

Ver 4

Blimey, you must be a masochist!

Plus's - Chieftains are an impressively big tank.

Negatives - Where do I start?
- Fuel consumption - horrendous. Somewhere around 3/8 mile per gallon.

- Engine, often referred to by one of my English friends as 'a lump of dross'. The REME crews were tickled pink when they received the Chieftains to find out that the quick change engine set-up only took 1 1/2 hours compared to the 12 hours for a Centurion. Then they discovered that the Chieftain engine needed to come out A LOT MORE OFTEN. So much more that it got a bad reputation for unreliability. There is a fable, even amongst English armour types that the Pom's have still to design a decent tank engine - after 70 years of making them!

- Weight, too bloody much, to shift it you will need a heavy low loader plus escort vehicles because it is over width.

- If you only want a garden ornament then once in position it will gradually sink into anything but the hardest of ground. So be prepared to have to construct concrete pads for the full length of the tracks and of adequate thickness.

- If you are going to operate the vehicle then I suggest you price spare parts before buying it and find out if there is any available (don't believe the "we can get anything you want from England" story as there could be export prohibitions on Tank parts in force now - this I cannot confirm) and just what prices. It is not unknown for something like a Centurion spark plug to cost $10 sitting on the shelf in England - then add the exorbitant HM Mail postage costs.

- There are 2 types of engineering principles, the German/English way and the sensible way. Having worked on English gear I can tell you that they excel in making, over-complicated, technically - adventurous, mechanical nightmares. The bloke that designed the Matilda gear box is said to have had a mental breakdown in the process.

- The Chieftain comes with a gun barrel thermal sleeve that is full of asbestos, but needs to be removed if the vehicle is outside for very long or gets washed as it absorbs water which rusts the barrel. The further I can stay away from that stuff the better.

- I know of one dealer out here who purchased 2 very low time Chieftains and has been trying to sell them ever since. To my knowledge he still has both of them. Perhaps that is a good indicator of there desirability.

- If you want to road the vehicle I doubt you will be allowed to, they are somewhere around 10' wide which means that they probably don't meet registration restrictions (normally 8') besides, you would need one that has good rubber block track, because of the damage to the road surface if the rubber was worn down or missing.

Personally, I would look for something a bit smaller and with more reliable habits.

Another opinion.

Doug has asked me to insert my two penny worth on the Chieftain FV 4201.

Doing some research with my friendly mil media supplier and scrap man the Chieftain is as I thought very iffy in the engine and transmission, they're basically not up to the job.

Chieftain is 51.6 tons, 24.5' long (hull), 11.5' wide and 9.25' wide, there are spares here at a price, my friend has just scrapped an engine as its been cluttering the yard for ages.  There is a gear box available and cheap at UKú1500 .  A set of track pads will be some UKú2000 and I dread to think what track costs with shipping.

Any surplus tank would be up to the latest standard but may have a lot of engine hours already expended, however, in domestic service the lump is probably very long-lived and in any event the complete engine, cooling and ancillaries package is readily removable, there are any number of them in the yards here. For mil use it was handy that the complete pack came out easily and could be ground run as they were going in and out like fiddlers elbows.

Really nice Chieftains go here for about ú8K, which is something like US$13K, no one wants one as they are a bit of a handful.

I remember doing the electrical tests on the gearbox foot controller when I worked at Marconi many years ago, what an abortion that was; if the rest of the TN -12 Merritt-Wilson electro-hydraulic box is like the foot controller its a recipe for disaster.

The transmissions suffered with brake failures as the disc brakes were continually covered with a mist of OM 13 hydraulic oil, the army trick was to de-grease these with a halon fire extinguisher daily.

Chieftain was 9 traumatic years in development and they never really sorted out the dross masquerading as a L60 opposed piston two-stroke multi-fuel diesel; the best that could be done was to make the whole pack removable in 20 mins or so as it was very often needed. The design was foisted onto British Leyland who pronounced it rubbish as is and a long programme of modification followed. It is a very good tank save the engine and transmission which was designed by the Royal Ordnance Factory. Excellent guns they can design and make but they are not adept at the automotive parts.
The Mk 1 was quickly replaced by the Mk 2 and that by the Mk 3 all with "improvements" and making the Mk 3 virtually a re-design. I recall questions in Parliament at the time about the poor Chieftain record and the UK failure to meet NATO requirements with it, they quietly did it again with a power-pack and called it Challenger.

The basic hull and gun was quite acceptable but the automotive bits are poor - in military terms, that's not to say it wouldn't give good service in a domestic role but will be well used before disposal and they tend not to get the military level of punctilious servicing in private hands.

Its a very large bit of very heavy kit and a mechanical nightmare as tanks generally are, under-powered for the mil with a fragile, on the limit, engine and transmission, you need to be exceedingly brave to take one on and ensure a competent and keen mechanical crew of helpers are readily available, a spares source and shipping agent contact here in the UK would be a good idea too.

If you really want one and its a give-away then I suppose why not, but there again. . . . . . . . . .

Certainly you don't hear any horror stories about the privately owned ones and those operated for corporate and public entertainment, the Beltring ride-on Chieftain gets hacked about continuously all day and doesn't seem to break although you need to be aware that tracks and sprockets are always short lived,compared to wheeled vehicles, on MBTs any way.

If I had the storage and transport facilities I'd have a Chieftain like a shot, the road legal Scorpion is much more expensive because of what it is.

All the best,


From Eric, a former Scorpion crewman:
There used to be an annual NATO gunnery cup , cant remember what it was called (Canada Cup ?). I think the British Army stopped competing when we got Chieftain, maybe because of the slower "Rate Of Fire" with a bagged charge or maybe we thought we would break down on the moving shoot as early chieftains were unreliable?

I heard of one Chieftain that got 5 powerpacks in 2 weeks on exercise, the fitters stopped waiting for the radio call and started to follow it about after the first couple of replacements, kind of like vultures I guess! In the end they were flying new engines in by helicopter........


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