A relatively rare 4x4 Tempest mine-protected armored truck, one of only eight 4x4 Tempests to ever have served with the British Army, has come up for auction online. So, if you’re worried about increased hazards along your own commute, are looking to stand out in your neighborhood, or are looking for a new ride that can carry you safely through hordes of zombies or past wasteland bandits, you can make a bid on it yourself.
British auction house Brightwells is handling the sale of the Tempest, which by all account is in running condition with a working 300 brake horsepower Cat engine. The listing, which the U.K. defense analysis site Think Defence was among the first to spot, does not make any mention of what, if any, additional ex-military equipment might still be in the vehicle. At the time of writing, the top bid for the vehicle was 2,000 pounds, or around $2,560, but it seems highly unlikely that this meets the minimum reserve price for the vehicle, which originally cost the U.K. government closer to $500,000. You’ll need to secure an export license if you want to get it out of the United Kingdom, too.
Of course, private purchases of military vehicles, including armored vehicles and even tanks, are hardly unheard of and mine-resistant armored trucks, now commonly referred to as MRAPs after the U.S. military’s particular program, have become a ubiquitous part of conflicts around the world. But having a Tempest would be owning an interesting piece of mine-resistant vehicle history. The very origins of the basic design, and how it came to the attention of the United Kingdom, are somewhat convoluted, but the vehicle served as the basis for a very popular subsequent MRAP known as the Cougar.
State-owned South African manufacturing conglomerate Denel, through its subsidiary Denel-Mechem, had developed the 4x4 vehicle first under the name Lion in the 1990s. Decades before, South African firms had already established themselves as world leaders in mine-resistant vehicle design, the vast majority of which used V-shaped underbodies to try to deflect mine blasts and other explosions as safely as possible away from the occupants.
Per a now defunct British Army Royal Engineers webpage, an archived copy of which you can fine here, the 12-ton Lion combined a new armored body with cab and chassis components from the Peterbilt 330 tractor together with a Marmon-Herrington four-wheel-drive conversion. However, other sources suggest that the primary donor vehicle was a tractor from Mack South Africa, according to Think Defence.
Eventually, the rights to the Lion passed to an American-headquartered company, Technical Solutions Group (TSG), which continued to work on the design, eventually dubbing it the Cougar. TSG, in turn, worked with yet another firm, Seafire, to market these and other vehicles in Europe.
Separately, beginning in the late 1990s, the Royal Engineers had begun looking for replacements for a small number of vehicles derived from the South African Mamba, which they had acquired for use during peacekeeping missions in the Balkans earlier in the decade. As if things were complicated enough, British firm Supacat, better known for their all-terrain vehicles, worked with Seafire to pitch TSG’s design to the British Army.
The name Tempest was chosen to help differentiate the armored trucks from other British military systems named Cougar at the time. Between 2001 and 2002, the British Army ultimately acquired just eight of these vehicles at a total cost of more than $3.8 million at the time. Supacat became responsible for making further modifications to the vehicles, including the installation of additional underbody armor and U.K.-specific radios.
But instead of going to the Balkans to replace the Mambas, the Tempests had arrived just in time for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The United Kingdom was a major party to that operation.
As the invasion quickly turned into an occupation and the threat of insurgent attacks and improvised explosive devices grew, the Tempests, in sand-colored paint schemes, head to Iraq for patrol duties.
By 2004, some of the Tempests, in more appropriate overall green paint jobs, had finally arrived in the Balkans to join British peacekeepers and replace the Mambas, which had already gotten retired, according to Think Defence. Two years later, the mine-protected vehicles also went to Afghanistan.
It’s not clear exactly when the British pulled the Tempests from service, but by 2006, they were already buying substantial numbers of superior mine-resistant trucks. Tempest had actually paved the way for many of these vehicles.
To rewind, in 2002, TSG had found itself on the verge of bankruptcy after having trouble securing major orders for its vehicles. It eventually became a wholly-owned subsidiary of a new American company, Force Protection, Inc. Force Protection went on to market a much-improved derivative of TSG’s earlier design, which it also called the Cougar, but briefly marketed as the Typhoon.
In 2004, the U.S. Marine Corps began buying a large number of 4x4 and 6x6 variants to meet its own urgent demands for better-protected patrol vehicles in Iraq. The U.S. Army and Air Force followed suit. In 2007, continued purchases of these, and a host of other mine-protected vehicles, got rolled together into the joint-service Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) program.
In 2006, the British Army join in, purchasing a special U.K.-specific 4x4 variants known as the Ridgeback and Mastiff, respectively. This was eventually followed by orders a further modified 6x6 type with open pickup truck style rear bed, known as the Wolfhound.
Force Protection developed a number of other designs, including the Buffalo, based on Denel-Mechem’s Lion II vehicle. The Buffalo has seen modest sales, but nothing compared to the deliveries of more than 1,000 Cougar variants to more than a dozen countries.
In 2011, General Dynamics Land Systems scooped up Force Protection. The two had previously worked together as part of a joint venture company called Force Dynamics. Cougars remain in service in both the United Kingdom and the United States to this day.
Now, if you have the means, you have around six days to try to place the winning bid for one of just eight Tempests the British Army ever purchased, a unique piece of history and the progenitor of the Cougar MRAP family. You'd also certainly be starting conversations wherever you might go and be well equipped to rite out a Zombie apocalypse.
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