Photos by Cameron Flaisch
ON A SUNNY DAY, driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains is always a worthwhile experience. Scenic views of the lush greenery are around every bend, leading you from one quaint mountain town to the next.
Some travel there to enjoy the landscape alone, others to take advantage of the endless outdoor opportunities available the them. From great restaurants to unique shopping experiences, there are many reasons to make the drive, but on a muggy day in June, V3 photographer Cameron Flaisch, a few close friends and myself had a different mission…to crush a car, with a tank.
Needless to say, the excitement between a few fellas aching to go on a machine-fueled rampage was palpable, making the almost two-hour drive seem much shorter. In what seemed like no time at all, we arrived at Tank Town USA. The parking lot was flanked with military cargo vehicles lead- ing to an entrance with a viewing area of the tank course. Rows of chairs lined the bunker-like area that overlooked the mayhem in which we were about to participate in.
Directly to the left was the sign-in area and there was no mistaking who the man in charge was. A group that had just finished stood atop the platform, still riding the high from their experience and covered in a thick layer of mud, stood with their host and owner of Tank Town, Todd Liebross. He wore the smile of a proud father in contrast of the ear-to-ear grins of his guests.
“It never gets old,” says Liebross. “I’ve been at this four years now and have been a part of every car crushed here. It’s a rush every time and seeing people enjoy it for the first time is even better.”
The course is essentially a mud-pit and, thanks to our overly wet month of June, is particularly sloppy on our visit. Liebross had us covered for the muddy conditions, though. We were fitted for mud boots upon arriving, sent out to decorate our victim with spray paint and armed with a sledgehammer to have a little extra fun before we flattened it like a pancake.
“Just leave the back windshield and driver’s side window,” Liebross instructed. “Those two look the best in photographs when the tank rolls over it.”
From there we gave our best artistic effort to create a post-apocalyptic V3 demolition derby
car, out of the sea-green Ford Escort that laid before us. Upon completion of our masterpiece, we took turns wielding the sledgehammer, smashing windows, mirrors, tail lights and so much more. The trip was already worth it and the tank was still to come.
It was at that point that Liebross led us to our vessel, a FV432 armored personnel carrier used by the British Army. These carriers were built in the 1960’s and were used to safely transport troops through dangerous areas and rough terrain.
Tank Town’s fleet is made up of three such vehicles, all maintained and cared for by Liebross himself.
“I graduated from UGA with a B.A. in History,” re- calls Liebross. “So, naturally I ended up working in the engine room on a commercial cargo ship.”
“That job allowed me to travel all over the world, but I moved back to Blairsville and eventually started a family. That’s not easy to manage when you’re gone all the time, so I started looking for different options. Oddly enough, I stumbled on an article on Yahoo Finance titled, ‘Guy Makes Money Driving Tanks’, which sounded like something I would enjoy. The rest is history.”
His mechanical expertise allows him to be a one-man show, but he had on his tour-guide hat during our visit and the main event was now on the table. After making sure everyone was secure, he shouted out the driving instructions and turned us loose on the course. The mud was thick enough to slow down the best off-road trucks, but thetank bullied its way through the muck effortlessly. Liebross essentially rides side saddle to help the driver navigate and most importantly line up for the proper crushing technique.
The objective is to get one track on the car, with the other on the ground to achieve the cleanest crush. Drivers get to hit the car from every angle, but the first crush is the sweetest and the tank’s weight and power made it feel like the equivalent of a fat man stepping on a jumbo package of marshmallows. When the mud settled, the heap of flattened metal barely resembled the Ford it once was and the four of us that tagged, hammered and crushed it agreed that the therapy session we just took part in was a huge success.
We weren’t telling Liebross anything he didn’t already know, but he seemed to enjoy our jubilation none the less.
“I have eight crushes scheduled this weekend, but onaverage I do about five a week,” says Liebross. “The car crushing is the ultimate experience, but we also offer 10 and 20 minute drives, Excavator operation and soon will have a machine gun firing range for guests to enjoy. I started this in 2013 and I love every minute of it. I’m always looking for things to make Tank Town a better experience for our visitors.”
“I like to think that anyone can enjoy this experience,” says Liebross. “The tanks are really pretty easy to drive and I’ve had about an equal split of men and women drivers. My oldest driver was a 91-year-old WWII Veteran and even on a cold, wet day he had no issues getting in and out of the tank. He enjoyed himself and so far, I haven’t had a customer that didn’t.”
Our rag-tag team certainly joined the ranks of satisfied “crushtomers” and the conversation about the experience made that scenic drive home seem even faster than the journey there.
Tank Town USA is located at
10408 Appalachian Hwy
Morganton, GA 30560 And can be reached at 706.633.6072