US 1944 M32B1 Armored Recovery Vehicle

Lot 0233, Tracks & Trade March 2023 auction

The result of 45 years of courting and cajoling – and she’s a beauty.

Ivo and I are chatting about the March 2023 auction again, with two very special vehicles firmly in our sights today. One ofthem is lot 0233, an M32B1 Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV).

“It’s the WW II version of your local heavy truck retrieval and towing service”, says Ivo with a chuckle. “Based on the hull andrunning gear of a tank, without the turret and the main cannon, and with the addition of a very powerful winch, A-frame and boom. These go-anywhere,
tow-anything recovery vehicles are capable of freeing stranded tanks, tuck somewhere whereeven a tracked vehicle can’t go, or bringing back units damaged in battle for repairs. They are extremely rare now because most of them were converted back into tanks after the war. In fact, I know of only two other examples that come close to this vehicle’s quality, one in America and one in Aachen Germany.”

The vital statistics are impressive: a 420 HP radial gasoline engine (fully rebuilt and overhauled in this case), a 27 ton winch,a top speed of 24 MPH, a machine gun and a mortar (due to the various regulations, these are not included in the auction). But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this beautifully restored and very rare M32B1 is the 45-year courtship that preceded the purchase of the unrestored vehicle by its current owner.

Willy Roulande, a well-known and highly respected French restorer of Military Vehicles, based near Lyon in France first cameacross the M32B1 in 1970. A French Army vehicle that had been decommissioned and put out to pasture at a militarytraining area and shooting range near Brest, probably for use as a target originally, had been repurposed by the rangesupervisor as a towing vehicle. After all, why would you waste a perfectly good engine and functional running gear? Willy’s interest was aroused and he started making tentative enquiries about purchasing the vehicle. In 1985, the original engine failed and the M32B1 was nudged into a makeshift shed for further storage. During the following years the ARV was gradually forgotten, and ‘Nature’ gradually overgrown the shed.

To cut a long story short, Willy finally got permission to buy the vehicle in 1996. But, as the saying goes - good things taketime, great things take longer – and he only actually got his hands on it in 2015. He then restored it to the perfect condition you see today and displayed it at its first major event in 2019.

This vehicle is worth every cent of the estimated price: extremely rare, highly usable and potentially a useful asset to have around at Classic Military Vehicle events, just in case one of the participating tanks has a bad day.

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