Car enthusiasts like to comment on how vehicles just keep getting bigger with each generation. American pickups and SUVs are so big that they’re about as large as tanks were in World War II.
(Editor’s note: This blog was in the works before Motherboard published its blog on the matter on Friday — honest! — we both read the same viral tweet from user Andy Arthur. But read Motherboard’s blog too! It’s really good!)
It’s no secret that Americans love their giant, roomy vehicles. Our nation’s best-selling vehicles are chunky pickup trucks followed up closely by crossovers. How big have cars gotten? Andy Arthur, graphic designer and illustrator in Edinburgh, noticed that modern European vehicles are right there in size with World War II tanks.
It’s a weird comparison, as passenger vehicles and tanks are completely different types of vehicle serving completely different roles.
In 1940, after much of the world was plunged into WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to help keep the Allies in the fight using American industry. Roosevelt called it the Arsenal of Democracy. Automakers, used to designing stylish cars for American drivers, were now building everything from helmets and aircraft to tanks.
One of those tanks, the M4 Sherman medium tank, was built in the tens of thousands for a variety of purposes and has some impressive specs even today.
It absolutely obliterates the scales at 30 tons when prepped for battle and can hustle that weight around at up to about 30 mph.
Meanwhile, your everyday Ford F-150 is roughly two and a half tons. That F-150 is also significantly faster than a tank, as taking an M4 Sherman on your daily commute would likely cause a bit of a traffic jam.
Modern trucks and SUVs aren’t nearly as heavy as old tanks, but they are getting pretty close in size. I made a graph of the dimensions of popular truck and SUV models for sale in the U.S. against the dimensions of WWII medium tanks, not including their main gun. Amusingly, the numbers are pretty close:
Just for fun, I threw in some smaller vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Smart Forfour and the M22 Locust light tank.
Update 4:05 p.m. EDT: It will be worthwhile to point out how much trucks have grown over the years. We’ll use the Ford F-Series as an example and going back about 50 years.
The length of a fifth-generation F-Series F-100 measured in from 15 feet to about 18 feet. Meanwhile, a new F-150 can be had as short as 18 feet and as long as 20 feet. Similarly, new trucks sit a few inches higher than their old-school counterparts. So while trucks have gotten bulkier looks, with higher beds to reach in, the growth isn’t as bad as you’d think.
Amusingly, modern tanks dwarf America’s behemoth passenger vehicles. The M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank comes in at five feet longer and nearly six feet wider than an F-150. Enthusiasts and reviewers alike can be heard describing trucks and SUVs as being like tanks. As it turns out, in terms of size, they aren’t that far off!