There are only two privately owned SCUD missile launchers in North America. Both of them are nestled in the hills above Silicon Valley and you can own one for a cool $300,000. But if you've got the cash, over 100 other pieces of historic military machinery is going on sale next month, and this is your crib sheet.
Troll around military forums long enough and you'll come across the Littlefield Collection. Its benefactor, Jacques Littlefied, is spoken about with a hushed reverence. He became one of the most prolific collectors of military vehicles – particularly tanks – over the last few decades, and after succumbing to cancer at the startlingly young age of 59, his treasure trove is headed to auction. For war nerds with means, it's the chance of a lifetime.
Littlefield's collection spans WWI through the first Iraq war, covering everything from crudely cast Soviet turrets to brawny Shermans and everything in between. But he wasn't interested in the weapons of war so much as the evolution of the technology. And even that was surpassed by his obsessive attention to detail.
"His first purchase was an armored scouting vehicle," says William Boller, president and CEO of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation. "But something didn't look right. The bolts." Not content to run down to the hardware store, Littlefield found the specs of the originals, hired a fabricator to manufacture new ones, and even had the original company's logo stamped on the heads. That's just one simple example of Littlefield sweating the small stuff, but it extended to everything – sourcing original artillery or recreating cloth straps, the level of detail is beyond reproach.
But you can do that when your dad's business, the Utah Construction Company, is a monolith, sells to BHP, and you've got a $1.7 billion fortune to play with.
"He played the clueless billionaire card," say Rob Collings, the CEO of the Collings Foundation, where around 65 of Littlefield's most historic vehicles will be shipped across the country for the public to enjoy. "And he played it well."
One example: When a Nazi tank was discovered in a lake in Russia, Littlefield was one of the first in line. Fifty years of living with the fishes took its toll, but he saw the potential, had it shipped to his Portola Valley campus, and it underwent a full restoration. It's now worth around a half-million dollars.
As you'd expect, getting hundreds of death machines into the states isn't an easy task. Owners have to navigate a maze of government channels, be inspected, reinspected, hazardous materials removed, and deemed unfit to shoot stuff (technical term), which could involve anything from drilling a massive hole through the gun or concrete poured into strategic orifices. Sometimes it's not. Grease the right palms and you've got the ultimate weekend toy.
But they're not toys. And I spent the better part of a day running around the half-dozen buildings that house Littlefield's most prized possessions before hitting the block through Auctions America on July 11, and these are the pick of the litter, along with a few more affordable odds and ends that I desperately want to park in my own mini-arsenal.
- Estimate: $1,400,000 - 1,600,000
- Weight: 42 tons
- Engine: 8-cylinder Ford GAA, 450-hp
- Speed: 22 mph
There are only 7 or 8 Jumbo Shermans in existence, which is why this heavily modified Assault Tank is knocking on the $2 mil mark. Midway through the European invasion in WWII, the Army wanted knew it needed something beefier to go against the Germans. So the armor was boosted to 4 inches, the a new turret cast was made with 6-7 inches of plated steel, and a larger gun. And this one fought at a little skirmish called the Battle of the Bulge.
- Estimate: $2,400,000 - 2,600,000
- Weight: 27.6 tons
- Engine: 12-cylinder V-12 Maybach HL120TRM, 296-hp
- Speed: 26 mph
After battling in WWII, this Panzerkampfwagen went on a world tour. First it was Czechoslovakia, then Syria, then it was captured by the Israelis during the Six Day War in 1967. After that, it was an Israeli Army training vehicle before landing in the Israeli Armor museum and eventually found its way to the U.S. There are a maybe handful left in the world, as most were destroyed after WWII.
- Estimate: $300,000 - 500,000
- Weight: 20 tons
- Engine: 7-cylinder Continental W-670-9A, 250-hp
- Speed: 25 mph land, 7 mph water
The American's learned a lesson after D-Day when it came to water assaults. This LVT(A)-5 was modified by the USMC to add floating cells to the front and rear, along with a reworked underbody to storm beaches and provide better visibility and maneuverability for the driver. These saw action towards the end of WWII and up through the Korean War, and there only three are still around… maybe.
- Estimate: $900,000 - 1,200,000
- Weight: 12.7 tons
- Engine: 6-cylinder Maybach HL62 TUK, 140-hp
- Speed: 31 mph
This was the first thing I needed. It's a German half-track used to haul 11 troops and tow medium artillery up to 18,000 pounds. Unfortunately for the Germans, they never made enough of them, forcing many soldiers to head into combat on horseback. Littlefield put it through a massive restoration in the 90s and 2000s, and he was fond of taking it out for exhibitions regularly.
- Estimate: $300,000 - 350,000
- Weight: 41.9 tons
- Engine: 12-cylinder V-2lS diesel, 520-hp
- Speed: 23 mph
Yup, a SCUD. Specifically, the A variant that was designed in the 50s and 60s, and was originally designed to fire V-2 rockets. This one can shoot a nuclear warhead nearly 200 miles. And that's my bike in their, just for a frame of reference.
- Estimate: $400,000 - 500,000
- Weight: 54 tons
- Engine: 21.2-liter, 12-cylinder gas, 350-hp
- Speed: 12 mph
Land mine problem? Fixed. The Toad was built in the UK in the 50s to clear out unexploded mines, and this one – of 42 produced – was restored in 2008 by RR Services, It runs, drives, and spins at 150 RPM thanks to another Rolls-Royce Meteor engine, and has 12 smoke grenade launchers mounted up front to make it the ultimate rototiller.
- Estimate: $100,000 - 125,000
- Weight: 61.4 tons
- Engine: 29.3-liter V-12 gasoline, 825-hp
- Speed: 30 mph
How do you get troops across a river or gulch? You rip the turret off a tank, replace it with a massive, 15-ton a hydraulically-launched scissor bridge capable of handling over 60 tons of weight, and in less than three minutes, you're across.
- Estimate: $50,000 - 75,000
- Weight: 39.7 tons
- Engine: 12-cylinder A-426 diesel, 520-hp
- Speed: 21 mph
This was the first highly-mobile radar unit from the Soviets, designed as both a rangefinder and an early warning system. It would help target planes, then relay the information to the brace of anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down anything within its 12,000-meter range.
- Estimate: $150,000 - 175,000
- Weight: 50.7 tons
- Engine: 12-cyl. B-46 diesel 780-hp
- Speed: 31 mph
The weight, the engine, the origins… none of it matters. That cannon up top is 203 mm. That's eight freakin' inches. Why so large? Because that's the smallest nuclear warhead the Soviets had. Yes, this thing would shoot nukes. But while it had a range of 23 miles, the nukes could only go a little over 18 miles – not exactly out of harm's way – which is one of the reasons it didn't start WWIII.
Estimate: $5,000 - 10,000
Now let's get a little more down to earth. This Citroën could go from car to truck to half-track, and even got a pair of skis when blowing through the Alps. The suspension uses a Bogie (I had to look it up too) for modularity, letting troops swap in whatever suited the environment best.
- Estimate: $15,000 - 20,000
- Weight: 1.07 tons
- Engine: Willys MD F-head, 4-cylinder, 71-hp
- Speed: 66 mph
It's called the Military Utility Tactical Truck (MUTT), and it apparently took 10 years to design. However, the conversion was basically welding the rear end of another M151A2 to the rear, upgrading to a four-speed transmission, and redesigning the buckle-prone rear suspension. Efficiency!
- Estimate: $75,000 - 100,000
- Weight: 9.3 tons
- Engine: White 160AX, 6-cylinder 147-hp
- Speed: 45 mph
Another favorite, this anti-aircraft half-track comes complete with .50 caliber machine guns – four of them – and runs like a champ, regularly making pilgrimages to Bay Area military shows.
- Estimate: $5,000 - 10,000
- Engine: A042 Military Standard engine, 2-cylinder, 13.5-hp
- Speed: 25-mph
I saw this and made an offer. I don't want a pick-up, but carrying parts on my bike has become a hazardous chore. It's perfect. Take my money!
Because who doesn't need a radial diesel engine?
If a treaded tank isn't your thing and you're looking to speculate on something, the best bet is getting into armored personnel carriers. "These are going to be huge," says Rob Collings. They're easy to adapt to road use, don't take much finagling at the DMV, and are pure road going rawness. You've got dozens of choices and it's hard to pick just a handful, let alone one. There are Dragoons and Saracens and Ferrets and Panhards and Staghounds, and all have their appeal. I'll take two. And then go party with Aphex Twin.