Friday, January 26, 2018

Patton’s tank—a World War I-era Ford M1917—stands over 7-feet tall and 16-feet long. The 7-ton machine had very few original parts, and no blueprints.

Randy Becht, owner of Hoosier Restoration and Movie Props has been in the street rod business for many years, and throughout his career has restored military vehicles for museums and movie sets alike.

But his wife Janet had the idea of rebuilding Gen. George S. Patton’s tank.

Over the course of 18 months, Becht and his team made progress rebuilding the tank with very few original parts, and no blueprints.  “Most of the parts were built or recreated from pictures, but that’s what we pride ourselves on—building what was lost to history,” Becht said.

When it came time to build custom springs, however, progress came to a halt. That’s when Becht decided to try EATON Detroit Spring.

The importance of the spring setup was unexpected, according to Becht. Without the right rates and specs the tank would not sit right, nor would it wouldn’t function properly.

“What we started with was flawed,” he said. “EATON Detroit Spring came in and saved the day. They not only corrected 100-year- old flawed engineering, but improved it greatly.”

Patton’s WWI tank, it was dedicated on Nov. 2 and is now on permanent display at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, Indiana.

Here's what a similar one looked like originally, not the exact same one, but another WW1 single gun tank.

Damn, I have posted a lot of stuff when I can find this image on my own blog


  1. Looks to me like the picture you posted of an original tank looks much different than the repop they built for the museum. Different stages of development as they learned what worked and didn't?

    1. I forgot the reason I was posting the photos, and that was, when restoring the tank, they went to a spring company to make some new ones... and maybe that was part of a new design to upgrade the bogeys, or, replace the old leaf spring design with this coil spring and lever.
      Dang it. I got so caught up in the hunt for photos of this tank's present appearance, that I forgot what I was posting it for! thanks!

    2. Guy this build is a one for one of the M1917. Everything used in the build was designed from original parts. For the parts they didn't have the custom fabricated it. There are over 80 original parts in the tank including several of the tank treads. I help if the final stages of this build for my brother Randy and I am mighty proud at his accomplishment and abilities.

      Here's a link to his website and FB page:

      Randy is always up for a question or two.

    3. Great! I got my info from the interview he gave to and the facebook page

  2. Anonymous3:13 PM

    The M1917 was a US built licensed copy of the Renault FT tank. It did not see service in WWI, though a few made it to France after the war was over. The suspension on this restored tank is indeed correct, but with the unique lever system you can see how critical it would be to have the spring rate correct. The tank in the black and white photo is not an M1917, but a Ford 3 ton tank that was being developed for the War effort. The Ford tank was about half the weight of the M1917, wider, lower and powered by the Model T motor, but used a track similar to that of the M1917/Renault FT. The war ended before the Ford 3 ton could be put into production.

  3. The main (easily visible) difference between the FT-17 designed and built by Renault in France and the M1917 built by Maxwell (among others) here in the U.S. is the fact that the M1917 had four slits, two on each side, in front for the driver's better visibility. It also used a Buda engine and not a Renault. Of course, metric fasteners were used here, not metric. Jacques Littlefield, the tank collector and once my neighbor, had one M1917 in his large collection of tanks before he passed away and his collection was broken up all over the country. "Anonymous" is correct about the Ford "prototype" tank, of which only 15 were delivered before the Armistice 100 years ago as of this writing.