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Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 8:05am

An Afternoon At ... Tank Town USA

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, how about driving a 31 thousand pound tank? Maybe even crushing a car with that tank? It’s possible at Tank Town USA on Appalachian Highway in Morganton.

GPB's Ellen Reinhardt and David Zelski visited Tank Town as part of an occasional series we’re calling “An Afternoon At …” about things to do on a Georgia afternoon.

To get to Tank Town, you drive down a four lane highway with the beautiful foothills of the Appalachian mountains all around you. You can’t miss the giant sign that says Tank Town USA. It’s next to five acres of what can only be described as a mud pit. It’s littered with several old Army trucks and four imposing military tanks.

Owner Todd Liebross learned over the Internet that you can buy decommissioned 1965 troop carriers from England. He opened Tank Town in April.“In my real career I sail in the Merchant Marines. So I sail on these big cargo ships as an engineer.”
He says “So over the last three years I’ve been working and putting away money to get this thing rolling.”

Do you have to get a special permit for a tank? Liebross says no." These don’t have weapons and even those that do have the weapons on them, the US government requires you to demil them, so they’re completely inoperable. So because of that, once you come into the country, you clear customs they look at it like it’s a bulldozer or anything else.”

How hard is it to drive one? Liebross says " it’s comparable to an old-style bulldozer or like a Bobcat, like a skid-steer. It’s just two handles that you’re pulling back and forth, basically to brake. Then there’s one big gas pedal. And its automatic transmission.”

Sammy Ensley, Leibross’s brother-in-law, comes out if someone wants a videotape of their experience. He says it’s 50 bucks to drive the tank, but it costs more to crush the car. “I believe the going rate now is 499, $499 to crush a car, and then you get to run over it until it’s basically as flat as it’s going to get. How long does that take? Ten minutes.

Sara Flowe, Liebross’ sister is getting ready to crush a small, red Hyndai Elantra. She climbs up a step ladder leaning against the green and black camouflaged tank. Once she’s settled herself into the driver’s seat, she’s perched about six feet off the ground.

Flowe was nervous about driving the tank, but she says it was a wonderful experience.
“It was amazing! I think it was honestly the best thing I’ve ever done truthfully. I feel like I just got off a roller coaster. You know that feeling like you’re sort of shaky but so excited that it just happened? " She says" We were so high in the air! But you’re in a tank, so… " She says you can feel the car underneath you as the tank rolls over it. "You can feel it crushing. You can hear it crunching, you can feel it. He keeps telling you to accelerate, so I kept doing that. And then you just fall. It’s just crazy.”

This is not your everyday cruise around the park. But while the 31 thousand pound tank is pretty intimidating to look at, Todd Liebross says anyone can drive one. “I’ve had 15 year olds that have driven basically one time. You know maybe the day before they came out they just got their license. Up to mid 80’s, and everyone’s been able to drive. So it’s pretty simple.”