March 30, 2007 2:48 PM
They rumbled through Korea and Vietnam, battling the Cold War in the 1950s on behalf of the United States. Developed by Detroit Arsenal, the M-47 Patton Tank combined the turret from the problematic T-42 with the hull of the M-46. They were frequently deployed by NATO to global hotspots and even used as target practice in the 1970s once they had outlived their usefulness on the battlefield.
Another spot where one was put into action was in Southern California, at a place called the Big Dog Garage.
The heart of an M-47 tank, the AV-1790-5B engine, now beats out 800 horsepower, a number equal to five 350 Chevys, inside Jay Leno's legendary "tank car."
It started in 2003 when Randy Grubb showed up at Jay's garage with a show car he built with a friend named Mike Leeds. It was far from road legal and needed major work, but the one thing it did have going for it was its massive 2100-pound tank engine. Of course, Jay had to have it.
Enter Big Dog Garage guru Bernard Juchli. Since Jay didn't have a proper hot rod in his collection, Bernard rolled up his sleeves and went to work modifying the car into the futuristic road warrior it is today.
The first thing that needed to be done was replacing the car's Greyhound bus transmission. Working with engineers from Allison Transmissions, the Allison HD4060 6-speed transmission was selected and geared so the engine would rev at 800 to 900 rpms at around 80 mph. A new breaking system was installed to counteract the massive torque (not to mention a series of trusses to prevent the car from twisting apart), a new starter motor was added, and an entirely new electrical system created just to name a few highlights from the car's original transformation. The final touch was the addition of a Ki-Gas system used by many supercharged cars.
But the story doesn't end there. Recently, Jay brought in the legendary Gale Banks, known as the go-to guy if you want to turbocharge a vehicle, to soup up the tank car even more by adding twin turbos to the car's engine.
About the only problem that couldn't be solved was the cramped legroom, but who expects comfort when you're driving a tank?