Mitchell Bell and his squad mates of the King’s Own Texas Dragoons have been waiting for Operation Farm to Market for weeks.
So when Bell started the engine of his Daimler Ferret armored car and it purred like a lion under the Texas sun, the 48-year-old was ready to roll through Colleyville.
Bell, of Fort Worth, and his scout tank joined friends for a joy ride through Colleyville on May 29 to show off their work in restoring British armour.
“We’re like a car club on steroids,” Bell said.
The caravan included three Ferrets and one larger Alvis Saladin, each restored and driven by local enthusiasts.
The team took their 4-ton vehicles first to Chisholm Park in Hurst and ended the day with fish and chips at The Londoner pub in Colleyville.
Each owner knows the history of his vehicle, which British military forces have used since World War II.
To make the drive more authentic the self-titled Dragoons wore period uniforms and used period radio communications between the vehicles during the drive.
This was the first time the group took all of the vehicles out for a drive together, with vehicles in Fort Worth, Dallas, Colleyville and Bedford. Members were confident this was the largest caravan of its type in the states.
“It was awesome watching everyone,” Bell said. “To actually see our labor of love happen.”
Each of the guys has spent years restoring and maintaining their vehicles. Glenn Wilson, 47 of Bedford, shared the expression, “Drive for an hour work on it for two.”
The one thing these guys don’t talk about is gas mileage, Jeff Brooks, 40 of Dallas, joked.
“It’s the closest thing to a tank you can get and still drive on the street,” he said.
The men each started their projects alone, but through chance encounters at parking lots and fun runs, and through the Internet, they found a close network of people with a shared interest.
Now, they take time to work on their vehicles together rather than alone.
James Hill, 52, of Colleyville, said the vehicles are street legal and that local police know of the group and their hobby because of how often they’re on the streets.
Hill said he and his girlfriend, Sandy Allen, 65, who bought the armour from Wilson, occasionally take the Saladin for a joy ride to Sonic.
“It’s the wow factor,” he said. “It’s a toy.”
As they drove to a rendezvous spot at the park, drivers stared, some were fearful to pass and children waved.
“The kids are the best,” Hill said. “When I was a kid, I never got to see a tank. That’s the bonus.”
The group usually shows off the vehicles at comic conventions, zombie-themed runs and veteran events. Bell said the group may have another full gathering of the vehicles in October during haunted house season. Bell added that they’re always welcoming to new Dragoons.