During TankHistoria’s recent trip to Normandy, France, The Wheatcroft Collection and Military Classic Center kindly gave us access to vehicles under restoration at the center.
The Military Classic Center is located in Grandcamp-Maisy, France and specialises in vehicle restorations, including tanks. However the center also holds auctions for equipment, vehicles, memorabilia and more.
Matthieu, the founder and manager of the Military Classic Center, gave us a comprehensive tour of the facilities and the remarkable work they carry out.
Inside we were shown an enthusiast’s dream of engines, transmissions, turrets and components all exquisitely restored. We also got a unique look at the way these vehicles were designed, how they go together and some of the hidden differences between tanks from different factories.
Many of the tanks we saw were from The Wheatcroft Collection, which currently has a number of Shermans under restoration. The Wheatcroft Collection is known around the world for its superb restoration standards, and we got to see that first hand at the Military Classic Center.
Upon entering the building we were greeted with the center’s showroom, which contained a number of vehicles up for auction, including a rare Ford GP from 1941 and a GPA amphibious Jeep. There was also a German Hanomag Sd.Kfz 251 in the showroom, which still bears scars on its original armor plating. You can check these vehicles out here.
From the showroom Matthieu showed us to the center’s restoration facilities. First we saw three Continental radial engines immaculately restored.
These engines were almost ready for installation into tanks, although the central engine is waiting on a component for the clutch assembly to arrive before this can happen.
We continued past these engines and into the main section of the facility that contained an M10 Achilles and an M4A1 Sherman in late stages of restoration. Much of the work occurs in here, including painting.
This M4A1 Sherman belongs to The Wheatcroft Collection, and was produced at the Lima plant during the Second World War. It is almost ready for final assembly.
Note the single-cylinder, 2-stroke auxiliary engine in the back right corner in the image above.
While this vehicle is virtually complete, it is waiting on a single component that is in short supply and must be manufactured. Once that part has arrived and is fitted, the tank will be test run, receive its final coat of paint and be fully assembled.
In the image above, the transmission is on the right, connected to the differential housing at the front of the vehicle. The central tunnel from the transmission covers the prop shaft that runs between it and the engine.
On the other side of the workshop from the Sherman was its turret basket, awaiting installation. The turret basket keeps the turret crew in place as the turret rotates.
The assembly on the left side of the basket in the image above is the turret traverse gear, which controls the turrets rotation. On the extreme lower left corner of the image is a split commander’s hatch.
Shown above are various components for the Sherman’s hydraulic turret traverse mechanism before installation. The black objects on the right are electric motors, in the center are traverse pumps and on the left are oil reservoirs.
In front of the Sherman was the aforementioned M10 Achilles. This vehicle was not from The Wheatcroft Collection but was at a similar stage of completion.
Like the Sherman, the M10 is nearly complete and approaching final assembly. The M10 Achilles uses a British 17 pdr gun instead of the 76.2 mm M7 gun used in the standard M10.
The floor escape hatch can be seen on the left side of the hull floor. The racks for 17 pdr ammunition are situated near the top of the image. The light grey assembly on the right is where the two engines in the rear combine into a single output to the transmission.
The M10 was based on the M4A2 Sherman, which was powered by the 375 horsepower 6046 twin diesel engine. As such, the M10 uses this engine too.
Most M4A2 Shermans were sent to Europe as part of Lend-Lease, so the 6046 engine was a comparatively rare sight on US tanks. The three black containers on the left side of the image are the engine’s air cleaners. As there are two engines, another set are located on the opposite side out of view.
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The turret for this vehicle was located nearby in the workshop.
The turret with the British 17 pdr gun, making the M10 Achilles one of the few Allied vehicles that could deal with heavy German tanks in 1944.
Outside the workshop is a large quantity of parts waiting to installed on these vehicles or used in upcoming restorations.
The image above depicts a large variety of parts for Sherman tanks. At the back is a number of prop shafts for use in The Wheatcroft Collection tanks. Sherman idler wheels can be seen on the right.
Here we have three transmissions and differential housings from Shermans. The differential housing on the right has additional metal plating welded on its front lower portion, on both sides. This was an Israeli modification for a dozer blade.
This turret is ready for installation on The Wheatcroft Collection’s M4A1 Sherman. As you can see, the gun, mount and mantlet have not yet been installed, as well as other components like the commander’s hatch.
Note the welded up pistol port, a feature found after 1943 when the port was found to be a weak point.
Three hulls were positioned further down.
This image shows three different Sherman tank hulls in various stages of restoration. The central hull is of the rarer composite type. This and the left-most hull are from The Wheatcroft Collection. The hull on the right is an M4A3E8, with large hatches, the Ford GAA V8 and HVSS suspension.
From here Matthieu guided us to the other side of the facility, where there were another four Shermans and an M7 Priest from The Wheatcroft Collection.
These vehicles are important in the restoration process as a source of spare parts. As with any group of Shermans they all have their differences. For example, the turret on the right has a thickened cheek, a factory version of the applique armor seen next to the mantlet of many Shermans.
A stand-out among this group was a Sherman Firefly, built on the M4A4 hull. The most obvious indicator that this is a Firefly is the welded over hull machine gun.
This concluded our fantastic visit. We were nothing short of amazed by the quality, complexity and sheer scale of the ongoing restorations taking place here.
The work carried out by Matthieu and his team at the Military Classic Center is absolutely outstanding and will be admired for decades.
TankHistoria would like to give a massive thanks to Matthieu and the Military Classic Center for welcoming us in to their facility and giving us an in-depth, close up look at their work.
If you’d like to learn more about the Military Classic Center, you can check out their website here, and follow them on Facebook here. Similarly, you can check out their auction website here, the Facebook for which is here.
In addition, we’d like to give a second massive thanks to The Wheatcroft Collection for giving us access to their vehicles. If you’d like to learn more about The Wheatcroft Collection, check out and follow them on Facebook here.