An eccentric dad who splashed out £20,000 on a former British Army tank says he plans to use it as a taxi.
Strictly speaking Merlin Batchelor’s pride and joy is an FV 432 armoured personnel carrier, not an actual tank, but the 17-foot monster can take just as much damage as its more heavily-armed cousins – which is reflected in its incredibly low insurance premiums.
Merlin pays just £240 a year – about a third of what he shells out for his Honda Civic.
He’ll soon make that back if he gets approval to run the beast as a taxi.
Merlin says he plans to charge £600 an hour – and £200 for every hour afterwards – with room for up to nine passengers.
There’s all mod cons inside. As well as comfy upholstered seats Merlin, 38, has added a TV and stove.
He has been using the former military vehicle to do his weekly shop at Asda and to take his four daughters, aged one to 13, to their local park in Norwich, Norfolk.
Why did he buy it? ”I just wanted a tank", he says, adding: "I always wanted to build a castle one day and it seemed to go with the whole defensive theme.
"It was sitting in someone's field for about 40 years before I bought it."
There are a few downsides. The FV 432 travels about six miles for every gallon of fuel, so keeping its tank topped up isn’t cheap.
Merlin says: "Last week the petrol station attendant said it was the most entertaining thing he'd ever seen."
But that’s balanced by a very smooth ride once you’re rolling: "It's pretty good with potholes,” Merlin says. “It's like sitting in jelly”.
"My three youngest girls love it,” he added. “they want to go to school in it”.
"My eldest daughter was a fan up until I ordered it. Now she's at secondary school and thinking 'I don't want my friends to know.'"
And lots of other people seem to be interested in a ride, too: "First, I had neighbours, then friends asking, then friends of friends, and then people I didn't even know asking me can I take them to, mainly asking about proms," he told CBS News.
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At the moment Merlin's only licensed to carry passengers for weddings and funerals. The dad of four is hoping to get another permit to do more varied events such proms and birthday parties.
He bought his eye-catching ride online "as you do with everything these days," he says.
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Top speed is a shade over 30mph and the FV 432 can go for about 360 miles on a full tank of – very expensive – petrol.
Although largely phased out in favour of more modern vehicles such as the Warrior and the new CVR, some 500 FV 432s are still in service.
The decommissioned ones have largely found their way into film and TV props departments, and into the hands of enthusiasts – and would-be extreme cabbies – like Merlin.
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