Littlefield tank collection prompts museum plans

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The family of a Silicon Valley engineer who amassed one of the nation’s most extensive historic military vehicle collections is giving the tanks, missile launchers and armored vehicles to a Massachusetts-based Collings Foundation museum that will preserve and display some of them.

Until now, the $30 million fleet of tanks has been refurbished and housed in seven storage sheds on a family estate, seen only under privately arranged tours. But in a deal inked on July 4 and announced Monday in honor of Veteran’s Day, the 240 pieces have been signed over to The Collings Foundation, which preserves historical military aircraft and now plans to add a new military vehicle museum at its Stow, Mass., headquarters.

Foundation director Rob Collings told media the organization hopes to raise $10 million to build the museum by auctioning 160 of the military vehicles in August 2014. Eventually he hopes visitors can learn U.S. history through a chronological walk past the remaining 80 historic military vehicles.

The collection was assembled by Jacques Littlefield, a Stanford University graduate who left Hewlett Packard in the 1970s to focus on collecting and restoring military vehicles. He acquired his first tanks in 1983, and by the mid-’90s the collection included examples from almost all historically significant land battles of the last half-century, according to the nonprofit Military Vehicle Technology Foundation that currently is in charge of the collection.

Before his death in 2009, Littlefield acquired tanks and armored vehicles from the U.S., Russia, Germany, England, France, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Israel. There’s a Sherman tank and a Striker tank destroyer.

The oldest armored military vehicle in the collection is a World War I era M1917 light tank. While some are quite worn, many have been meticulously restored.

Although proposals have been made, there is currently no federal historic military vehicle museum in the U.S., and only a few significant private collections.

Bill Boller, president of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, said the Littlefield family opted to give the collection to the Collings Foundation so that more people could visit it.

 

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