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A Russian tank with a V55 V-12 diesel engine.

Crew: 4
Weight: 36 tons

Cannon (D10T2C)
caliber - 100mm
length of barrel - 560cm

2 machine-guns

Year designed: 1955
First used: 1958
To add to the above, the T-55 is the most widespread tank in the world, and is a common sight in recent news reports about Afghanistan, as it is also one of the cheapest tanks in the world.

The T-55 was originally known as the T-54. The T-54 was introduced in 1949 as a replacement for the T34, widely regarded as the finest battle tank to be fielded in World War 2. In 1958 an upgraded - autoloader, gun stabilisation, fume extraction, new engine, but essentially similar - version of the T-54 was redesignated as the T-55. Although the T-55 has not attained the same mythological status as the T-34 it was nonetheless widely regarded as being superior to NATO's post-war efforts (such as the M-48 Patton or the Centurion), on account of its low stature, curved armour, and typically Russian dependability. Although over half a century old, the T-55 still looks like a modern piece of equipment - the dome-shaped turret, low hull and streamlined body set the pattern for subsequent Soviet tank design, and the T-80 is regonisably its heir.

The USSR used it as a front-line battle tank until the mid-70s, by which time it had filtered through to most of the Soviet client states and a large number of middle eastern countries. Since then a series of upgrades and improvements have kept it in service in Eastern Europe, Africa and some of the poorer countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

In 1999 Poland sold 20 T-55s to Yemen for roughly $1.2 million. We can therefore deduce that an upgraded, combat-ready T-55, presumably equipped with spare parts, sells for somewhere in the region of $60-70,000. In pounds sterling this is roughly £40-50,000, which, for context, will buy you an optioned-up Jaguar XJ8. If you're squeamish about causing mass death, militarily decommissioned examples can be had for £10,000-£15,000 depending on quality and/or MOT. Assuming that you use the turret as luggage space, a T-55 might come in handy if you have a farm in the wilds of Scotland, and with (typically) a 700bhp diesel engine, a T-55 would also make a fantastic towing vehicle.

There are two caveats for private buyers, however; firstly, the controls are not power-assisted - not a problem in a Mini, quite tricky in a main battle tank - and secondly, the T-55 does not have an automatic gearbox. The manual gearbox has a habit of jamming, the recommended solution for which is to bash the lever with a mallet.

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