We were providers of the Centurion for Channel Four's "SALVAGE SQUAD"
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The Fairy story that came true
Tanks - A -Lot owner Nick Mead takes up the story.....
Once upon a time Nick from Tanks a lot was on a military base, checking over some Tanks and stuff with a view to tendering on one or two ,with his old mate big Ron.Just like kids in a sweet hypermarket ,things soon got out of hand ,Ron suggested bidding low on about twenty and probably getting five or six and if you get the lot you could always shave your head and leave the country. So Nick chose forty , bid a bit low and filled out the form and let postman pat do the rest, luckily he only got eight which meant he would only need to eat happy shopper beans for about three months.

Now this is were the fairy story turns in to a bit of a horror story, whoops ,what's this bloody great big centurion doing on my invoice and what's a.v.r.e mean ? fifty tons, petrol, hasn't run for years, magnetos booster coils, self destructing starter motors., "Youv'e shit it this time" said big Ron,and he was right, an old centurion is worse than a white elephant.

The engine was seized so the army kindly shunted it back and forth a few times, Nick, Ron and a friend called Brian worked like crazy fitting new mag's, coils and a couple of dozen spark plugs , just for a laugh and it still ran like a sick snail with bad wind. Eventually they got it home and the search began for a new engine and a.v.r.e. meant they were going to need a massive great dozer blade from somewhere. "That's gonna cost" said Ron and he was right , but nick can find anything., and he did. So with great enthusiasm the pair set about changing the main engine , Ron said "we can bosh it through in a couple of days", but this time he was wrong. Gearbox out, clutch out , manifolds off, fuel tanks out , donkey engine out. "How much would it cost to get it to a scrap yard Ron?"Nick shouted from the oily depths, Ron grinned "look at all these spanners and sockets under the engine, see it was worth getting it after all !" he shouted, covered in sludge. Anyway children ! , in just a week or so the old barstard was running, badly but running . Now all they had to cope with was all the design faults of a 1948 tank ,not to mention keeping 50 other vehicles running that are used on the Tanks a Lot driving days . Basically sorting a centurion is like nailing jelly to the ceiling so the boys forgot about it and played with their other toys.

A few years later a very nice man called Alex from channel 4 rang and said "were looking for a tank to restore preferably owned by a silly boy who's bitten off more than he can chew, how ever much it costs could`nt be enough". Nick fell to his knees crying with joy ,angels danced around his head he then got up shook himself ,pinched his arm to check it wasn't a dream and said "I know just the one bend over ".

In no time at all SALVAGE SQUAD had taken the challenge and a deal was done. Researchers started to check its history with a clever chap called Ossie who knew every thing about centurions and they found it had been the first off the boat in the gulf war chasing those naughty Iraqi soldiers and then they found its old commander Mark foster , who was keen to come and play with it at a big show at Detling . "steady on salvage squad that's only four weeks away"

It was decided that the tank should have electronic ignition , Gulf war reactive armour , new road wheels and a whole heap of other stuff . Alex said "what do you think Nick" Nick replied "Have you been eating cheese just before bedtime, you will never have time " .Alex replied "you and Ronnie can play too and that flash chap with the Range rover camper" ,he meant Paul our own workaholic" but we will have to keep Ronnie out of camera shot cos his smile will scare the children and he swears to much . Nick said "quite right"

So Nick searched for a posh army jumper not full of holes and a pair of green trousers that his bottom didn't show through and even had a haircut!

The very next day bright and early Salvage squad arrived. Brainy ,Jerry cute Claire, muscled Axel and good old Alex with a wheel barrow full of money ,camera men sound men, runners rabbits on sticks the world and his best friend. Nick sent for shiny new spares from all around the kingdom and across the sea and they all worked so very hard ,because it was a Centurion and we all know what there like don't we children!. They all remembered to keep their shirt tails tucked in, fly's done up and smile for the camera , Jerry even promised not to throw his teddy in the corner when things went tits up.

Things were going just great when there was lots of screaming and Axle had been a bit silly with an industrial grinder, sort of willy wrestling he lost badly but they cut him free dried his eyes and waddled him off to the hospital where a pretty nurse with some plasters got to know him rather well. Nick kept the blood soaked crutch cut from his trousers to auction on the internet when he's a big star not being one to miss a business opportunity.

Then this really old man turned up with Lee hurst the baldy man that all the grown ups laugh at. His name was Hugh and it turned out he was with Nicks tank in the Suez war in1956 and then it was called Rattle ,one of a troop of three called Shake, Rattle and Roll and led the main attack through the town. Hugh had this big book he called his Journal with lots of maps and photos of this really hot place were people have barbecue parties in their bedrooms and loads of ships were having bonfire parties on board. Nicks tank was at most of the parties but the locals soon got bored with all the partying and didn't want to play any more because the Royal Marines got a bit to rowdy for them.

Hugh liked the locals very much and stopped on working in the British embassy. He was very surprised to see the old tank again and wanted to see if he could remember how it started up.
They helped him in and he twiddled a knob or two and it burst in to life. Hugh shouted "I don't remember them starting like that!" Jerry replied "electronic ignition Hugh", with a proud smile.

As the work went on and the show got nearer, Nick thought he'd better buy a caravan to stop in , no sooner had Nick spent all his pocket money , Alex asked everyone who wanted a hotel room for the show (on him). Ronnie grinned but they wouldn't cover his bar bill ,that soon wiped the smile of his face , he is inclined to get very thirsty in the evenings!

When the tank was finished they all drove it and Axle won best driver and he did this splendid dance on the wing that made Claire go all red and sweaty but he forgot his wound, his plaster came off and he went a bit red and sweaty!

The show went great, all the camera and sound chappies came too and lots of the other Tanks a lot instructors rolled up to help which was handy because Nick, Ron, Paul and the squad were completely knackered.

The tank looked very special with its new reactive armour but no one at the show recognised what sort or tank it was, inspite of Ron being a very naughty boy and telling everyone it was a challenger!

It still won a cup and its last commander, Mark foster, arrived and told some pretty scary stories about those naughty Iraqis and we all agreed we won't be going there for our holidays unless we take the tank. He then explained why its name became Fosgene, he was a specialist on gases and radiation and his surname being Foster. Someone mixed this with the name of a gas called phosgene making Fosgene , which he and Nick painted on just were it used to be.

Nick still thinks it's somewhere between a pig and a white elephant , but you can tell he's got a soft spot for it somewhere because he's collecting all sorts of photos of it from people far, far away and he speaks highly of Salvage squad, Alex and all that money they paid him, especially the money!

Oh , and by the way, for those who saw the program ,that letter really was found in the turret and if your Centurion won't start, chat to Nick, he's been there. As it is the only Gulf war Centurion AVRE tank with the armour , he's hoping for some film opportunities, maybe a few weeks in Morocco on a swanky film set ! Could Nick get lucky again ?