Monday, February 9, 2009

Some people collect stamps or coins, this guy collected tanks.

Jacques Littlefield shows off his tanks by crushing cars.

Driving the Panzer V Panther

Along with a small staff of mechanics at his ranch, Mr. Littlefield restored more than 200 pieces of military equipment, from self-propelled Soviet artillery to a British Rapier missile launcher to 65 tanks. The machines were displayed in a football-field-size garage at his private museum, which welcomed about 5,000 visitors annually.

Mr. Littlefield was born into wealth. His great-grandfather having founded the Utah Construction Co., which helped build the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams. His father oversaw a 1976 merger with General Electric Co. that made him a member of the Forbes 400 Richest People in America.

Mr. Littlefield grew up making models and loving technology. "My idea of a fun vacation was to look at factories -- a refrigerator factory in Louisville, a Cessna plant in Wichita," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007. At his ranch was a mile-long track of model railway maintained by local hobbyists, as well as a baroque-style pipe organ he commissioned based on European originals in an acoustically high-tech hall.

Mr. Littlefield's workshop helps illuminate differences in war strategy. The Germans favored big, complicated tanks in part because they could always transport them to a factory for repairs. The Americans, fighting on battlefields an ocean away from home, built smaller, easier-to-repair tanks from standardized parts. In 2001, Mr. Littlefield told Forbes it took four Sherman tanks to destroy a Panzer, and three might end up destroyed themselves.

In 1975, Mr. Littlefield acquired his first military vehicle, an American M3A1 scout car, rather like an armored Jeep

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