Tom Townsend’s Combat Vehicles

My name is Tom Townsend. I founded Toyland Combat Vehicles in 1995, not really because I planned to – it just worked out that way. At that time I was both a military vehicle collector and a World War II reenactor. Courage Under Fire, a movie about a friendly-fire incident during the first Gulf War, was filming near El Paso, Texas. To recreate the extensive battle scenes the producers had purchased a dozen early post World War II British Centurion tanks from a collector in Australia and rebuilt them to look like M-1 Abrams. The regular army crews hired to operate them immediately proved to be unfamiliar with the primitive mechanics of 50-year-old armored vehicles with steering levers, crash box transmissions, and 90-lb. clutches. The producers went looking for old ex-tankers, museum volunteers and military vehicle collectors. They found all three in me, and I was hired.

The job proved to be two weeks of pure fun and no sleep, driving a fifty-ton tank through fire and smoke, but without anyone actually trying to kill me. I fell in love with the filming business, so I began enlarging and tailoring my own collection of combat film vehicles to fit the needs of movie and television production.

The result is Toyland Combat Vehicles, a company which I could not have been more suited to run. I was born in an army hospital. My father was a career officer serving in both World War II and Korea, so I grew up on a dozen different military bases in the U.S. and Europe. Two weeks out of high school I joined the Arkansas National Guard and served as an artillery officer. Five years later I transferred to the Texas National Guard where I served as a tank platoon leader and later worked with two civilian OPFOR (opposing forces) groups in training exercises against both reserve and regular army units.

Nowadays, I enjoy sharing my vehicles with the film industry, as well as lending my historical and experiential knowledge to projects.

I fell in love with the filming business so I began enlarging and tailoring my own vehicle collection to fit the needs of movie and television production.

~ Tom Townsend