Road Test of a Centurion MBT
They say it
does four wheel drifts and we believe them, they say it chased the Russian tanks
out of the desert in the four day war….. They say a lot of thinks. Here’s
TO ROAD TEST ONE OF YOUR TANKS, FOR WHEELS”.
an incredulous pause, the Colonel recovered, and was most helpful. WHEELS had of
course, run a feature of Romsey Quints some years ago, on “The Giant headache
Powder Machine”. But that was an armoured personnel carrier – 11 tonnes of
bouncing and bucking aluminium tracked vehicle.
were talking about a Centurion Tank – 52 tonnes of steel. The Centurion is
almost a legend in the tanking world. Since it first arrived in
giant iron maidens were rumbling and squeaking through the
going to drive it,” the whispers ran around behind us, and we felt the eyes of
hardened troopers sitting on top of their tanks, relishing the imminent
hilarity. We were about to enter a world that belongs exclusively to a handful
of skilled men of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps – better known as
Tankies. Swift instructions were coming from the sergeant and the regular driver
of the tank. The gear lever is located centrally, between the driver’s legs,
as you slip down into the small hatch in the front of the tank. On the floor is
the standard pedal layout except the clutch takes 13.9 kg (30 lb) to depress.
Booting the accelerator produces a throaty roar from the V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin
engine, with its dual exhaust system. “Where is the steering wheel,
Sergeant?” we say, sensing there obviously isn’t one, but wondering just
what did turn the beast. The steering clutches are located to the left and right
of the gear stick, which work wonderfully for Amazons and wrestlers. And then a
fascinating thing happened. Without putting the beast into gear, pulling one of
these steering levers and putting on a few revs sent the Centurion into a 180
degree turn in its own length. Called a neutral turn, this gives the Centurion a
turning circle within its own length – 10 meters (32 ft). That maneuverability
would be handy for those tight parking situations, provided of course, that the
park was 10 metres long by four metres wide. Instrumentation is limited to
tachometer, redlined at 2500 rpm, oil pressure and temperature gauges, and a row
of switches master ignition, start, and on / off. These switches protrude into
the driver’s compartment at chest level.
whole cockpit is designed for 45 kg (98 lb) midgets. Moving the gear lever
across the gate, hits both knees, and an enthusiastic wrench on the steering
clutch more often than not leaves a top layer of skin on the steel sides of the
cockpit you are wedged into. But then we are ready to roll. We select second as
first is only for load starts. We, because the driver is sitting just behind my
shoulder on the mudguard, shouting instructions. We succeed in holding the
clutch in long enough to take second without crunching cogs. The throw is long
between the five forward and two reverse gears. “A few revs,” he is yelling.
A few revs and we are moving. With the risk of being accused as the last strong
hold of male chauvinism, the Centurion is definitely not a ladies car. The
pressure required to turn the beast is enough to send muscle – building
courses out of business. The five speed gearbox is a crash type, which even
double clutching will not persuade to give up its old cog without grumbling.
special technique is required to change gears. After reaching the red line, you
throw the clutch, ram it out of second, jerk one of the steering clutches
briefly to the rear, then slam it through the gate into third, quickly planting
the right foot again before the giant traffic unjammer slows to a halt. The
quick jerk on the steering clutch wags the tail end slightly, allowing the gears
to mesh smoothly. The box itself is a Merritt-Brown type, designed during World
War 11. The Centurion box bears no resemblance to the Italian tank of WW2 which
reputedly had three forward and nine reverse gears. The Centurion has a five
forward and two reverse transmission which, complete, weighs just over one
tonne. The V12 Polls-Royce Merlin is a non supercharged version of the famous
Spitfire engine. Running on Super petrol, the engine puts out 480kW (630 bhp) at
2500 rpm, developing 2107 N-m (1555 lb / ft) of torque at a modest 1500 rpm. The
engine revs out smoothly to its governed maximum of 2500 rpm. In low gear, with
a ratio of 11.64:1, the Centurion will pull itself out of just about anywhere.
With a final drive ratio of 7.47:1, this gives the Centurion a top speed of 37.4
km/h 9(21.6 mph) in fifth gear.
is assisted by the twelve-wheel fully independent suspension, with horizontal
coil springs and double action vertical mounted shock absorbers. Handling over
roads is excellent and bumps up to four metre drop can be ironed out by the
“wide tracked” machine. Its 9754 mm (384 in.) wheelbase and 3429 mm (135
in.) track gave the Centurion rock like stability – perhaps slightly assisted
by the all up weight of 5200 kg (144,000 lb). Under hard cornering, the
Centurion suffers from characteristic understeer. Body roll is negligible, but
the tankies claim under full power the Centurion will four wheel drift through a
tight corner. We took the Sergeant’s word for it. The trooper’s sitting atop
their green monsters got their money’s worth. Out through the timbered harbor
where the tanks were positioned, we swung the beast around to avoid incurring
the wrath of the conservationists. Across the other side of the road lay a patch
of mud and a rough washaway. “Ah, ah,” eager eyes zoomed in on a chance to
see what the beast would do. It hadn’t got out of second at this stage, so we
throttled back and sunk the 5200 kg of tank into the soupy quagmire. Without
even changing revs it trundled out of the bog. Suitably impressed, and
confidence increased, we headed for some open ground to try some high speed
runs. Red line, clutch in, select neutral, jerk the steering clutch while
simultaneously selecting third, clutch out….. it stalled. Stalling a 480 kW
Rolls- Royce engine is no mean accomplishment. But we had at least given the
“troopies” who up until now were showing sign of frustration at our success,
something to laugh about. The beast forgave us the one cruel mishandling, and we
continued to test drive uneventfully, until the predetermined time, when we both
were mutually happy to part company. Fuel consumption of the Centurion is an
incredible four gallons per mile under cross country driving, and up to two
gallons per mile on the open road.
This looks like 169002 or maybe 169012
addition to the V12 Rolls-Royce main power plant, the Centurion has an auxiliary
engine to power the tanks gunnery gear, and recharge the batteries. It is a four
cylinder, side valve Morris Minor industrial motor. With the advent of steel
belted radial tyres, the Centurion goes one further, with its 24 inch wide solid
steel tracks. Options that can be fitted to the Centurion include infra red
lighting for night driving (not recommended for highway cruising), snorkel for
underwater crossing, and searchlight. Sadly, the Centurion is on the way out and
will, in a few years become a museum piece. The new Leopard tanks are coming,
with their 42 tonne weight powered by a 627kW (840 bhp) Daimler Benz V8 diesel,
coupled to an automatic transmission. The Leopard designed by Porsche, and
manufactured by Krauss Maffie of
And we all know what this poor bugger is stuck with --a clutch change in the field --- note the mud and slush
this makes great reading there are heaps of mistakes, so do not contact me with
complaints, as it was written as it appeared in the Wheels magazine in 1976. My
thank to Jared Archibald, from
Modern Motor had also done a roadtest
on the Centurion
Looking through some old article's I came across this test by Modern Motor
As can be seen I was able to scan this one. This test was done in 1967 and I think the Wheels one was about 1976
STEEL THUNDER CD’s
two CD’s of Steel Thunder that were my first attempt at recording the story of
my search and photo’s.
1 is the story of my search around
2 is a collection of my photos and others donated by
Thunder upgrade consisted of the continued search after the first set of CD
discs were released. There are many more tanks found and driven. The second disc
contains photo albums and also some videos.
have never sat back and counted the photos but there would be at least 2000 on
both photo discs.
was after I finished the second set of CD’s that I started my web page.
money from the sale is being used to purchase items and cover costs for the
Costs are $30 for the first pair with free postage
of the second set is also $30 with
purchase contact me at
I will give details for bank transfer.
WHAT IS IT???
Now this is something I have never seen before, but I took a guess and was lucky
A 20 pounder smoke round
These photos came down from a mate in Queensland -- Rusty Dyson
There is only room for one of us here!
Here are a couple of prints that are quite famous in the Armoured memories, both were painting done of action in Vietnam, one, "The Battle of Binh Ba" and the other named "The Breakout". Unfortunately it depends on what troop you were attached to as there are a couple of claims to where the scene was. But the one suggested to me by quite a few Veterans said it represented the Battle at Balmoral. As I do not want to become involved in discussions on that point we will leave it there.
I donated this print to the Vietnam Veterans Museum
THE BATTLE OF BINH BA
Rusty Dyson donated this print to the Vietnam Veterans Museum
Peter Best MID donated the money to have both these prints framed and glassed
At the time of the photos they were still in their protective wrapping hence the lines on the frame which is actually plastic covering
Both prints look great and will be displayed on the walls of the new Museum
BELOW IS A DEFENCE DEPT ADD
And last but not least a Cent going over the Knife Edges at Pucka
The view about this time for the driver was blue sky and you went up about another six feet!! It was a lot of bloody fun!