Need A Thrill? Drive A Tank

If riding roller coasters and bumper cars no longer get your pulse racing this summer, Drive A Tank in Kasota, Minn., might be the amusement for you. They let customers drive military tanks through a 20-acre course, and for an extra fee, the chance to roll over and crush a car. All Things Considered host Robert Siegel talks with Drive A Tank owner Tony Borglum.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, an experience for people who feel a little unprotected when they're at the wheel of, say, a Hummer, drivers who just find the ride of a Ford F-150 SuperCrew, a little tinny.

Drive a tank, not on the open road, of course, but for a spin at Drive A Tank in Kasota, Minnesota, about 70 miles southwest of Minneapolis. For a little extra, you can even drive the tank over a car.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLES)

SIEGEL: Think a closed course for ATVs but with vehicles a lot bigger than an ATV.

Tony Borglum is the owner of Drive A Tank and joins us now. And tell us, Mr. Borglum, how did you come up with this idea?

TONY BORGLUM: Well, it was all kind of, like, all, I guess, good ideas stumbled upon by accident - it was a trip to England. I was interested in purchasing a military vehicle. And in the process, I came across a place that was doing something similar. And I kind of noticed that nobody was doing it in the United States. And it seemed like a great idea to bring back home.

SIEGEL: How many tanks do you own now?

BORGLUM: Right now, we've got about a dozen.

SIEGEL: And they're all British army tanks, I gather.

BORGLUM: Yes. That's correct. All of our armor is British.

SIEGEL: Because the U.S. Army, I gather, doesn't sell surplus tanks for...

BORGLUM: That is correct. Yeah, they don't sell. And there's some stuff floating around, but it's usually very, very expensive.

SIEGEL: Well, what do people do in the tanks, and how much does it cost?

BORGLUM: Well, typically, they have a lot of fun. They get a chance to obviously experience something that they'd probably never get to even see or touch, let alone take for a drive. They experience what it would be like to be a real tanker in a combat zone, and typically kind of figure out that that's not a job that they would prefer. They make it to crush vehicles, cars with the tanks...

SIEGEL: I gather that's a special crusher car package that you...

BORGLUM: Exactly. Yeah. That's an additional charge.

SIEGEL: I assume you have to pay for the piece of junk that you're crushing when you do this.

BORGLUM: Yeah. We got to buy the car, plus the wear and tear on the tank. The Chieftains that we use the car crush for, they cost about 1,000 bucks an hour to operate.

SIEGEL: How many gallons to the mile to these tanks get actually?

BORGLUM: Well, the Chieftain has a 480-gallon fuel capacity and a range of 300 miles. So we try not to think about the miles to the gallon so much as smiles to the mile.

SIEGEL: And you do not only offer but require, I gather, a kind of tank driver ed before somebody does this.

BORGLUM: Yeah. That's correct. And all of our customers have to go through our safety course. That's everything from how to drive, you know, where to stand, what to watch out for, those kinds of things.

SIEGEL: Now, in some armies, the tanks were built in such a way that to be a tank corpsman, it was best to be small to be able to fit inside the tank. I mean, how big can you be and fit comfortably inside one of these British army tanks?

(LAUGHTER)

BORGLUM: Well, to fit comfortably for an extended period of time, about 5 feet tall.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGLUM: But the way we operate, typically most of our driving is done with the periscopes. The hatches open with your head out. So, you know, I've had National Football League players here driving tanks, and they're pretty big guys. They're tall, pretty well-built, and we can get those guys in. So for a few hours of fun, we can squeeze just about anybody in there.

SIEGEL: Well, for the frugal recreational tanker, how much would a few hours set him or her back?

BORGLUM: Our baseline driving package, which is our 3 Star Lieutenant General's Package, involves driving one tank and test-firing one historic military machine gun in our indoor range, is $399.

SIEGEL: Well, then, you could also add the car crush...

BORGLUM: That's correct.

SIEGEL: That would add how much, do you think to...

BORGLUM: And that's an additional 549. And at that point, you get to drive another tank, which is a Chieftain main battle tank, likely our Mark 10.

SIEGEL: Right over the car, just crushing that...

(LAUGHTER)

BORGLUM: Yeah. That's right. Who (unintelligible) smash a car, let alone with a tank, you know? Minivans usually are the customer's favorites.

SIEGEL: So for a few hundred dollars - we're supposedly not in recession anymore, but these days are supposed to be part of a painfully slow recovery. Is this really a time when you can find people who are willing to spend that kind of money for, let's face it, the farthest from necessity we could possibly get?

BORGLUM: Yeah. You know, I've got to ask myself that some days too. But, you know, this is something that a lot of people have been wanting to do for their entire life. It's not uncommon for just somebody to spend a few hundred dollars on a cellphone or other things like that or something maybe that they're only going to have for a year or two or three or a few years. So it's a lot of money, but it's, you know, it's something you're going to keep for the rest of your life.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Borglum, thank you very much for telling us about your business, Drive A Tank.

BORGLUM: No problem. Thanks for having us on.

SIEGEL: Tony Borglum owns Drive A Tank in Kasota, Minnesota.

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