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RUNNING CENTURIONS #1.
With the Army selling the Centurion tank fleet and them being available to the general public, once again opportunities arose. Being a Serving Member of the Defence Force at the time, I had naturally, had my front teeth smashed in an armoured vehicle incident. Hit a donga and bit the hull. Ouch. Needless to say I was sent to a Civvy dentist in my area for me to be repaired.
A local company had purchased a Centurion and left the vehicle in the capable? hands of Geoff, the maintenance plumber. He was called to attend the company site on a Sunday and take delivery of the tank. He assumed that he had to put a fuel tank or something similar in the ground. He got one big surprise when he arrived to see a tracked monstrousity sitting on the back of a Heavy Haulage Low Loader!!! So the plumber was left in charge of this tank which the poor bloke knew absolutely nothing about so he did what he could. The first thing he did was to use some common sense and changed all the oils and gave it a damn good service for someone that had absolutely no idea!!! Good on you Geoff. He managed to teach himself to operate the vehicle as best he could work out. It was repainted, fittings inside had been removed and the external turret bins went to the tip as they got in the way. Theyt could have thrown them in one of the empty factories as this was an Industrial Estate Company who purchased land, built factories and then leased them out. The time came where eventually the poor Cent just would not start for Geoff.
Geoff went to visit the Dentist one day and was talking about his tank predicament. Having fixed my teeth some weeks before the Dentist knew my job and therefore handed Geoff my phone number. That evening I recieved a phone call from Geoff and arranged to meet him. I sought some help from another member of the regiment, Bill the Boggo.
On arrival we met Geoff and there was plenty of room to run the beast around and plenty of earth works to really have some fun. Before that could happen, the beast had to be made to run and then hopefully move under her own power. Fuel was low. Geoff went and grabbed some 25 litre drums. She had been outside in the open and thus as usual, the aircleaners had filled with water. She won't get air and will suck this whitre milky crap into the cylinders and you'll have hell getting it to start. With them cleaned, we looked at the oil. Yuk, milky mess. She had been sitting and the leather rings that seal the heads had obviously dried out so the oil was changed including filter. The coolant was topped up and a few plugs removed and cleaned just to get her fired up as Geoff had said he let it sit and idle at 650 RPM, a definate no no as it oils the plugs.
My ASM at the time was ex Vietnam and was an amazing mechanic. He knew when the M113A1's were coming in exactly what was wrong with them just by hearing them. Boy's get ready to do an arctic clutch, we've got another that's not changing into top. He was NEVER WRONG!! NOT ONCE in the 9 years that I was under his command. He was also a Centurion expert so if I needed help the ASM was the library as he could teach me more than any book, even though I had all the manuals. As he informed me, don't ever use the clutch to change gears as the manual says or you'll be doing clutches every week. He taught me how to stick change, the clutch is only for stopping and starting. O.K.
With the maintenance tasks done and a couple of days later with much cranking and the generator/auxillary engine running, constantly, cranking the main engine for a short time then rest, crank again and rest. I can honestly say that I have hand crank started a Centurion Tank with a crank handle as the batteries were dead. After a few hours of this she eventually got the fuel right through and fired up all but smokey. Holding the revs at about 2,000 rpm to help the plugs clear. We decided that a short run was in order. In second on flat concrete she didn't like it so bog cog was the go for a while until she cleared the crap off the plugs properly. The idea is to burn the crap off with heat and reasonably medium to high revs but keeping off the governors. After a lap of the area she began to loosen up. It was now late in the day. Geoff had organised fuel and I was introduced to the company's accountant and his secretary. This was the man paying the bills!!
After much discussion about the vehicle it was decided that it would be used and maintained as the company representatives felt that they had the people with the expertise to run, operate and maintain the vehicle. I was informed that athe company CEO had purchased the vehicle as a toy. It did attract attention to the site and their factories and as such, was used as a promotional gimmick. It worked. Eventually as the factories were built, there would be less and less area for running the vehicle and it would eventually have ended up as a gate guardian.
The fuel, tanks were topped up to full and the vehicle was driven once a week. The company was happy and we were happy and having fun plus being paid part time contractors. Our assesment of the vehicle was that the vehicle was very tired as it had done over 700 hours. We changed the engines at 650 hrs!! She was no doubt a very tired tank. It was decided that we would keep the old girl running for as long as possible rather than rebuild her as costs for that were very high. She still climbed the knife edges and improved her performance with each and every drive. She still climbed knife edges and very steep grades without any falter. She just used a bit of oil.
Geoff went around the site and placed star pickets and tape around his storm water drain covers etc so that we didn't run over them in the long grass and poor visibility. I had mentioned to the company reps that I would have gone and chosen a good one for them and as they said, they didn't know me at the time and really didn't know what they were looking at. It was sort of a case of, that one will do when they went and purchased the vehicle. needless to say they got what they paid for going for the cheaper unit.
Download the big pics by clicking on the small pics...
Download the big pics by clicking on the small pics...
My thanks to Alex.
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