Military Vehicle Technology Foundation

Military Vehicle Technology Foundation


Jacques Littlefield

J. LittlefieldJacques Littlefield began building models at the age of 10. His first tool of the trade was his erector set. From there he moved on to radio-controlled boats and tanks. He then began scratch building miniature tanks from scaled down plans. His first project was a one-eighth scale M-48A3 Patton. This model boasted a radio-controlled turret and a working gun that shot .22 caliber pellets. Fast forward to the recent past and Mr. Littlefield’s 12,000 square foot workshop at his Pony Tracks Ranch in Portola Valley, CA is the site of his foundation’s reclamation work. While Mr. Littlefield passed away on January 7, 2009, ending his story, the story of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation keeps going.


Panther
The MVTF

The Military Vehicle Technology Foundation (MVTF) oversees one of the largest and most significant collections of historical military vehicles in the world. Jacques restored the first vehicle himself in 1975: an M3-A1 Scout Car. The first two tanks of the collection arrived in 1983. The collection grew to 5 armored vehicles by 1988. Over time other military vehicles and associated equipment were acquired from dealers, collectors, or in trade with various government agencies and museums. By the mid 1990s the collection included examples of armored vehicles from almost all of the significant land battles of the last half-century. The collection now boasts over 200 vehicles ranging from classic World War 2 tanks like the T-34/85, German Panther, and many Sherman variations to more modern fare like the two early model German Leopard tanks.

T-34/85

The MVTF was established in 1998 to oversee and serve the interests of authors, historians, educators, the defense industry, veterans groups, and the entertainment industry.

Tour Information
You can contact the MVTF to arrange a tour. Tours are given every Saturday at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM. You will need to email the Foundation to reserve your spot on an upcoming tour.

My Tour Experience
I emailed the Foundation and set up my tour for last Saturday at 10:00 AM. My father-in-law Mike and I have wanted to visit the collection since we first saw them on the Military Channel TV show, Tank Overhaul. That episode chronicled Jacques’ crew as they completely restored a Panther tank found in the bottom of a lake in Poland.
MVTF Exterior
We arrived about 10 minutes before our tour began (would have been sooner but we trusted the Garmon over the directions the Foundation sent us in an email). We were immediately greeted by the staff and invited to roam around and view the vehicles sitting outside. We were able to begin taking photos and got some great “before” photos as these tanks had not yet been restored. The only small disappointment of the day came quick as we were informed that the workshop area would not be viewable. I was really looking forward to seeing where all of the amazing restoration work took place. The tour started promptly at 10:00 and we were on our way.

Renault


This museum consists of 4 large metal structures housing the majority of the collection. A good amount of effort has been made to organize the collection into an order that makes sense.  There is no lobby or formal meeting area. You meet the tour guide just outside the door of the first building and give the tour guide your donation as you enter the building. There is also a file cabinet full of tee-shirts that you can buy. Once everyone is in and has paid the guide, the tour begins. Our tour guide, Phil Hatcher began with the oldest tank in the collection, the American Licensed reproduction of a Renault FT-17 from World War 1.

Panzer I


Next to that is a Panzer I that still has the original paint job. Obviously there is a bit of fading, but here is a great example of how the original camo pattern is put on  as well as the turret markings.
Interior
Slowly, one by one, we moved to each vehicle where the tour guide had great information about the vehicle, the way it was used, and tidbits about how it came to the collection.  As I move from one building to the next I was constantly surprised by the diversity of vehicles and side displays. Yes, that’s me holding an RPG in one of the photographs.

RPG & Me


Needless to say this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get an up close look and in some cases touch the objects of our affection that many of us only get to see in miniature form. If you can make your way to Northern California I highly recommend getting in on one of these memorable tours.  My primary interest is in the collection of World War 2 tanks. I can say there are not many holes in this part of the collection. Sure I would have liked to see a Tiger, but they do have a fully restored Panther as well as a Panzer I and IV. And yes, a KV-1 would have been cool to see, but they have a T-34/76 AND a T-34/85.  And an SU-100. It was like a concert where you hope your favorite band plays all of your favorite songs. Sure, they missed a few, but what they did sing more than made up for it.

Keep watch. Mike and I took over 400 photos between the two of us. I plan to build reference pages with all of the photos of each vehicle we took. First up will most likely be the T-34 page.

If you would like to comment on this article, go to one of the following message boards: The Miniatures Page or the official Flames of War message boards.


 

Sources: mvtf.org website and New York Times article To the Collector, the Spoils by Patricia Leigh Brown dated November 28, 2003 as posted on mishalov.net