Trooping the Cooler: ex Military vehicles – Still want that SUV?

Cars Culture

Little can beat an ex-military vehicle for the ultimate in family transport cool. Fully road-registered and surplus to requirements, ex-armed forces transport might just be perfect for nipping into town, taking the kids to school, or popping to the supermarket

The current appetite for Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) is seemingly insatiable, with families gorging themselves on a never-ending dish of pseudo-off-roaders. Primed for battle with other combatant armies of parents and children all ready to shoot down enemies for that scarce parking space in inner city war zones, the SUV is arguably the perfect troop transport. Or is it? There is another, even tougher, way.

Perhaps not the first modes of transport to come to mind when it comes to ferrying people and their belongings around securely, ex-military vehicles offer both more extreme protection and a bona fide ‘throw anything at it’ guarantee, as well as being a cooler way of taking the kids to their after-school clubs. What 10 year-old wouldn’t want to turn up to their karate lesson in an M3 amphibious rig, an ex-C Sqn Household Cavalry Regiment Scimitar armoured car, or even a Polish-Czech OT-64 SKOT 8×8?

Ex military scimitar

Okay, if those three or a Challenger 2 tank are a little bit too extreme – though think about the fun you’d have in the morning rush hour and there’d be no parking issues on the school run, especially in something nicknamed ‘Megatron’ – then how about an armoured Land Rover or Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen? The less pricey end of the ex-military vehicle market is awash with straight Land Rover Defenders of all sizes, either in a particularly fetching ‘Keswick Green’ or in full, off-the-scale-cool NATO camouflage.

Defender ex military

Fancy something a little more retro? No problem. 1940s Chevy G7113 tractor unit and trailer combos exude that WWII US cool, although armies of kids would be more of an issue here. Staying at the hip end of the scale, an ex-military Willys MB or Ford GPW Jeeps answer that wannabe army calling and has the honour or being the first four-wheel drive car to be built in six-figure numbers. And, they are much more authentic than the modern, largely style-based Wranglers, and even the earlier civilian ‘CJ’ Jeeps…

Willys MB

If the Willys Jeep is too obviously Stateside, perhaps a Volkswagen Type 82 Kübelwagen or Type 166 Schwimmwagen would float your boat? Based on the pre-Beetle KdF Wagen (the early name for a Beetle), the Kübelwagen’s origins are obvious, and with over 50,000 made during WWII, there’s a strong following in Volkswagen circles.

Ex military schwimmwagen VW

The fully-amphibious Schwimmwagen meanwhile has the honour of being the most-produced water-driving car in history, its flip-down engine-driven propeller arrangement an ingenious feature. There was even the Type 87 ‘Kommandeurwagen’, which was essentially a jacked-up, four-wheel drive military Beetle. Much cooler than the current faux-by-four Beetle Dune. The 1970s Type 181 ‘Thing’ also was also designed for the military first, but later fulfilled civilian desires.

More modern ex-military options include AM General’s Hummer H1, based on the M998 Humvee (the H2 and H3 variants are based on civilian vehicle platforms), as well as the South African Paramount Group’s Marauder, a 10-tonne, armoured personnel carrier or combat vehicle. Designed to offer 14kg TNT mine protection under each wheel, and true go-anywhere capability – Top Gear’s Richard Hammond infamously destroyed half of Johannesburg with one – the Marauder can carry up to 10 people. Ideal for those kids’ birthday party drop-offs. There’s also the Plasan Sandcat, a fifteen-strong army of armoured vehicles from Israel. With lightweight yet immensely strong construction, the Sandcat’s weight-saving principles make it the Lotus of the military vehicle world. Operational in five continents, true decommissioned numbers are hard to come by, but it’s surely just a matter of time.

Whether or not an ex-military is suitable for the daily grind – or an advisable SUV substitute – is up for negotiation. For those of not tough enough to go the whole camouflaged and netted hog, though, there are other options. If leather-lined luxury appeals, there’s always the Lamborghini LM002, provided you can find one. The ‘Rambo-Lambo’ has another bonus, too: it has no weapons to decommission…

military spec Lamborghini


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