Retired engineer's homemade remote-controlled tank and lorry could sell for £25,000

Roland Hopper, 79, made a remote control tank and lorry 
Roland Hopper, 79, lives near Saffron Walden in Essex. Credit: PA

An engineer who was “bored to tears” in retirement built an 8ft-long remote-control transporter lorry with a tank on it - and now hopes to make £25,000 on them at auction.

Roland Hopper, 79, used the controls to drive the lorry around his garden this week, though he said the tank has not been driven for some time.

He is planning to sell the model tank and transporter at auction at Cheffins in Cambridge on 22 April, where they have a pre-sale estimate of £20,000 to £25,000.

When asked why he decided to sell, Mr Hopper said: “It’s probably my age.”

He retired from his firm, a heavy engineering company which carried out steel fabrication and repair work in quarries and cement plants, around 10 years ago.

“I was a bit bored to tears in retirement and my nephew had got a business friend in Braintree who built model tanks as a hobby,” he said.

It is remote controlled with the power pack and smoke generator fitted into the cab. Credit: PA

The pensioner said he bought the 1:6 scale model kit to build a Sherman Firefly tank from British firm Armortek, and put together thousands of pieces to complete the tank.

Mr Hopper, who lives near Saffron Walden in Essex, then decided to construct a 1:6 scale Scammell Pioneer Tank Transporter from scratch, having previously restored a full-sized original for a hobby project.

He worked sporadically on the scale model transporter over a period of 10 years, getting some of the parts made at his former engineering firm in Saffron Walden.

He said: “I’m basically a draughtsman I suppose, an engineering draughtsman by trade, so I had a number of drawings from Scammell years ago then I was able to produce drawings.

“Some of the parts I obviously had to get made – some were made in my old company, some were made in other machine shops, then I bought all the driving gear.”

He said that he believed the 1:6 scale transporter was unique.

The scale model tank and transporter have been described as “a true feat of engineering”. Credit: PA

“People like Airfix and the plastic kit - they probably do one which is about six inches long,” he said. “But nobody makes these – that’s the only Scammell model tank transporter of that scale in existence as far as I know.”

He said that his wife Diana Hopper, 79, a retired schoolteacher, had been “very supportive”.

“She doesn’t really understand any of it, but she’s put up with me doing the original lorry all those years and that’s unique,” he said.

“She’s put up with me doing this, you know, and given me support. She’s a golfing lady. I’m not a golfer. It keeps me occupied.”

The tank has a power pack, remote control unit, sound system and smoke generator, and is complete with the Armortek certificate stating that the set is number nine supplied by them in kit form.

He said that his wife, a retired schoolteacher, had been “very supportive”. Credit: PA

The scale model transporter is described as having all axles, steering and trailer linkage working just as the real thing.

It is remote controlled with the power pack and smoke generator fitted into the cab, and there is also a sound system supplied that would require fitting by the new owner.

The auctioneers said that the “practicalities of moving a model of this size and massive weight have proved too much” for Mr Hopper and it has “never been shown and only ever driven around the family garden”.

In a listing, Cheffins said it was “absolutely of exhibition quality and deserving of museum space”, adding: “Some recommissioning will be required due to it remaining static for the last 18 months or so.”

Mr Hopper described the full-size transporter, that he previously restored and sold, as the “only complete World War Two English tank transporter in existence”.

He had sourced a tank from a ship breakers in Portsmouth to go on it, but was unable to find an English tank.

“It was a Russian tank, one of Gaddafi’s, it was captured in the Gulf War,” he said.

“The Army brought it back to this country then they scrapped it.

He retired from an engineering company around 10 years ago. Credit: PA

“It had got no engine in it but had a turret on and everything, it looked the part. It became a bit of a liability storing it in the factory and it took up space in the yard so I decided to sell it.”

Jeremy Curzon, of Cheffins auctioneers, said the scale model tank and transporter were the “definition of a big boy’s toy and a true feat of engineering”.

“It took the seller over a decade to build, with around 40,000 pieces meticulously built, painted and put together,” he said.

“This is an unusual find and I am sure it will capture the imaginations of many of our buyers.”

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