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What It's Like To Drive A Tank

Part of the beautiful insanity that makes up modern America is the fact that anyone with a metabolism and some cash to throw around can get inside a genuine, no-joke tank and go on a glorious rampage of curated destruction. It’s fun and cathartic, and the magnification of your physical effect on the world is like an intoxicant. No wonder Godzilla did what he did: it feels good.


Normally, Jason Drives episodes involve me cramming into the tiniest, underpowerediest, flimsiest hunks of wheeled offal possible. This time I’m in for massive, brutal, raw power.

I think the most surprising thing I found is that driving a tank isn’t particularly difficult, at least from a basic control standpoint. Once you get it in your head that you’re turning by either moving or braking tracks on either side, yanking those two sticks becomes pretty natural.


You still have a foot throttle, and you still shift (I drove the Sherman tank around a bit, and it had the usual H-pattern shifter; the ones that made it into the video were, surprisingly, automatics) but there’s no brake pedal (pull back on the sticks to brake). That’s about it, for the basics.

Illustration for article titled What Its Like To Drive A Tank

The Abbott self-propelled gun was by far the fastest and most fun to drive. This thing is the Miata of the big-ass machines I drove. And, like a Miata with very rusty floorboards, the drivers’ compartment floor is full of holes, so every time I went splashing through mudholes, my ass got completely mud-soaked. I’m just letting you know in case you try tanking yourself: bring a change of pants.

Of course, driving all those tons of metal around is very, very different than normal driving, and these tanks are not exactly what you’d call comfortable. The interiors seem to be built with a willful contempt for the soft, puncturable nature of human bodies, full of sharp metal edges and hard chunks of head-bashing steel.


At one point when I was in the Armored Personnel Carrier that I drove through the mobile home, part of the hatch bonked my head when it was closing. It was no fun. I can only imagine that people who actually have to work and fight in these things must have to deal with that sort of shit all the time.

It’s probably best to just watch the episode. I had a blast doing this one. If you have the means, by all means, head on out and give it a try yourself. I think he even has a service where he’ll send your crazed manifesto to popular media outlets so that when you steal one of the tanks and go on a rampage, everything will be set.


Good day at the office.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

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You’d think it would earn more respect, but driving these things is a pretty tankless job.