In a country regarded as the adrenaline-pumped home of adventure sports, one New Zealand company is offering frustrated drivers the chance to squash a car with a Centurion tank.
Tanks for Everything in Christchurch has a fleet of eight tanks, armoured personnel carriers and Jeeps, the largest of which can easily crush a family sedan pancake-flat in a crescendo of squealing metal and shattering glass.
“I think it maybe releases repressed frustration, to go and crush something with a tank,” owner Jonathan Lahy-Neary said.
“If you‘ve had a bad day, it’s a pretty good stress reliever.”
The pride of the operation is Maximus, a British-made Centurion battle tank, weighing 52 tonnes and powered by a V-12 Rolls Royce engine, which saw service with Australian forces in Vietnam in the early 1970s.
There‘s also a Soviet-era T-55, an incongruous sight in New Zealand’s rolling green hills, which Tanks or Everything‘s Matthew Sandland said was surprisingly easy to purchase from an arms dealer in Hungary.
“The Iraqis had these, the Afghans had these,” he said. “The dealers had over 100 and they sell them as fully functional battle tanks. We had to pay to have the gun deactivated to bring it to New Zealand.
”So basically anyone could have bought themselves a fully-functional battle tank if they wanted to.“
It is the latest artillery round in the battle for the adrenaline dollar in New Zealand’s NZ$3 billion ($2.5 billion) adventure tourism industry.
The island nation has marketed itself as a spiritual home for the white-knuckled traveller with rafting, bungee jumping, heli-skiing or ”zorbing“ -- rolling downhill in an inflatable sphere resembling a giant hamster ball.
”New Zealand is arguably the dominant adrenaline tourism destination,“ said Neil Carr, associate professor of Otago University‘s tourism school.
”Part of this undoubtedly relates to the physical landscape of the country“ along with savvy marketing, he noted.
Lahy-Neary admits that when it comes to his tanks, ”it tends to appeal to blokes more,“ but said customers range from teenagers to 80-year-olds celebrating their birthdays.
Rugby All Blacks Piri Weepu and Conrad Smith, as well as visiting members of U.S. rock band Smashing Pumpkins have all had a drive.
Canadian tourist Michael Noel fulfilled a lifelong ambition by flattening one of Lahy-Neary’s cars, sourced from local junkyards, in the Centurion, describing it as ”quite an experience“.
”(It) took a little getting used to the gears and so on, but once you get used to it, it‘s an awesome ride,“ he said. Playing with what could be the ultimate boys’ toy does not come cheap, with a 15 minute drive costing NZ$450 ($365) and an extra NZ$395 to crush a car.
Lahy-Neary, who has been fascinated with tanks since he was a child in Britain, said importing the beasts into New Zealand was harder than purchasing them, with police and customs officials unsure how to deal with his request.
”Everyone was a bit gob-smacked because they‘d never been asked the question before,“ he said, detailing the mountain of paperwork he had to negotiate to obtain the necessary licences and permits.
Even though the tanks had been disarmed, Lahy-Neary and his wife still had to get firearms licences to import them, leading to some puzzled reactions from local hunters also sitting the licence test.
”There were a lot of rugged looking mountain men who were obviously going to head off into the bush and shoot things,“ he said.
”My wife, who’s about 157 centimetres, was sat there and someone turned to her and asked ‘what type of gun have you got?’When she told him “oh, I‘ve got a tank’ he went quiet and never said another word.” (AFP)