Easily the best part of modern warfare is getting to use all the cool hardware the military spends our tax dollars on. For sheer rock-and-roll fun in the sun, nothing beats the crazy vehicles made for a war zone. Military vehicles have to survive and operate in all kinds of uncomfortable and weird places. They have to be able to do all kinds of specialized tasks. Such design requirements make for some pretty gnarly civilian vehicles after the war is over. Play your cards right, and you might even be able to drive one of these babies home to your formerly quiet residential neighborhood.
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Let’s start sane – the Jeep Wrangler JK has been modified into a fake military staff car for drivers who want all of the comfort and fuel economy of a military vehicle, mixed with the $40,000 price tag of a new SUV. The staff car concept is still pretty rough, but at least this open-sided rambler comes with an axe mounted under the driver’s compartment. You know, in case a situation develops on the 405 expressway that requires an axe.
Taking it up a notch, what could be better than an up-armored Humvee with bulletproof windows and what is arguably a racist name? The Renault Sherpa doesn’t really live up to its name since steep grades are definitely out of the question with this 8,000-pound vehicle, but it does have thick armor on all sides and costs a solid $275,000. Now imagine the look on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face when you park this thing next to his little H3 at the next A-list party you're invited to in Hollywood.
Were you reading about the crazy and expensive Hummer up there and thinking: "I like it, but it’s: A) too expensive, and B) not insane enough for a lunatic like me to drive in populated areas?" The GAZ Tigr, pride of the Russian infantry, might be for you. At $110,000 a pop, these armored minivans have a 5.9-liter engine with 6-speed manual transmissions, all-leather interior appointments, and swivel-mounted gun turrets on the roof in case there’s traffic.
Mercedes has made all sorts of premium cars over the years, but even the S-class falls short when you need to roll over a line of parked vehicles and start terminating things with extreme prejudice. That’s where the three-axle G63 comes in. For just a whisper less than $525,000, you can roll this six-wheeled V8 from its base in the Austrian Tyrol and down into your town, where it will almost certainly not fit in the drive-thru.
The Mercedes G63 was kind of a goof; the sort of military vehicle you buy for an army that doesn’t fight wars. The Paramount Marauder, meanwhile, was built in South Africa, sold to Abu Dhabi, and was clearly designed by and for murderers. This blocky monster has bomb-resistant mesh mounted over its armored slab windows, some amphibious capability on the sealed underside and run-flat tires for when the war starts.
At $25,000 this beast is a steal. The “LRV” stands for light reconnaissance vehicle, which is just what you’d expect for a stretch dune buggy with front- and top-situated machine gun mounts, tubular steel frame and two spare tires that double as flash-bang shields on the sides. One thing to watch out for – most versions of the Supacat have flares, and smoke grenade launchers mounted to the front bumper, which could make your next fender bender awkward when the Highway Patrol shows up.
In the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Army left a lot of old Humvees in the desert, because shipping them home would have cost more than they were worth. To replace them, the Army plans to spend $450,000 on each of several thousand new Oshkosh ATVs. These are somehow less practical than the 152 hp Humvees they’re replacing, physically resemble a camel with a stuffy nose, and come in at almost 50 times the price, though civilians are only allowed to own the cheap $250,000 version.
The United States produced almost 50,000 Sherman tanks at 11 facilities between 1942 and 1946, which means there were bound to be a bunch of them still rolling around today. A fully restored Sherman was recently auctioned off on eBay for $550,000 – .90 caliber Howitzer main tragically disabled – and apparently, it was delivered to the buyer with no problems from Johnny Law. You can find these for sale here and there, and they run on normal diesel fuel like a truck, and if you pick your son up from football practice in it, he’ll love you enough to put you in a good nursing home someday.
You know that German half-track that Charles Bronson shot a bunch of Nazis from in The Dirty Dozen? You can have one of your own for $624,000, plus tax, license, import fees, and optional mental health evaluation. The Germans manufactured over 15,000 of these diesel-powered half-wheeled/half-tread vehicles, and their build quality is good enough that there are still a few hundred of them on civilian markets around the world.
During WWII, the Dodge company mass produced a truck version of the Willys Jeep that came in either 4- or 6-wheel drive and had a delightfully random 4-speed manual transmission the driver could play with when the road got boring. About half of the trucks the U.S. Army used between 1942 and 1960 were Willys, and today you can find them in all sorts of conditions and prices. A fully restored and museum-quality WWII edition can run you over $300,000, while the half-dead old workhorses with a million miles on them can be found with a $5,000 reserve price on eBay Motors.
Imagine you own a Volkswagen Beetle that got bullied at the beach one time, so it got on steroids and hit the gym to learn how to fight. The Volvo TP21 has the curved upper shell of a KdF Wagen, but it’s mounted on a high suspension and uses a 3.7-liter inline-6 that was first designed in 1938 for the taxicab version of the model. This light troop carrier has been in use by the Swedish army since the 1950s, and you can have one for around $25,000 today.
If you’ve got a little acreage behind your house and there’s $30,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you’re one online auction away from tearing up Kermit’s little swamp with this British APC. Relatively lightly armored, even by British standards, the Stormer was always meant to be a fairly fast off-roader for fighting the Russkies across Europe. That war hasn’t happened, but imagine the look on the faces of those neighbor kids down by your pond when one of these comes crashing through the underbrush to shoo them away.
After the war machines on this list, the Gator might be a bit of a letdown, but not every soldier can be Audie Murphy. The M-Gator is a militarized golf cart that a tractor factory built for short-range resupply and casualty evacuation. It looks exactly like that description makes it sound, it goes 20 mph flat out, and you can have one with an 854 cc four-cycle diesel engine for quite a lot of money.
After the collapse of various bad guy regimes around the world, quite a few MAZ-543 SCUD launchers were floating around for sale. The pride of early-60s Soviet engineers, the MAZ-543 is 40 feet long, weighs 18 tons and delivers over 540 hp. The bad news is that it’s hard to park. The good news is that it can make its own parking spaces if necessary.
The main battle tank of the British Army in the 60s and 70s, the Chieftain comes with a standard 110mm main gun and two 7.62mm machine guns, one mounted coaxially with the canon and the other in a turret. If you plan to pick up a Chieftain, budget some extra time for the drive home, since these go a maximum of 30 mph on flat roads, which they destroy, and 19 mph over rough terrain, which they can also destroy. Decommissioned Chieftains cost around $65,000, in case you’re interested, though we imagine you’d eventually make that money back from all the traffic tickets you wind up not getting when your single vehicle outguns the entire police force that’s chasing you.