Supplying movie and TV crews with tanks for period and wartime dramas is just one of the tasks performed by Tanks-A-Lot, a British company in Northamptonshire owned by Nick Mead.
He scours the world looking for tanks to market to production companies, for tank-driving experiences, and other events requiring tanks.
He also buys and sells other types of military paraphernalia, and in 2017 he thought he’d seen it all when it comes to formidable military weapons. But the best was yet to come.
While hunting on e-Bay one day, Mead discovered a Chinese Type 69 tank for sale. He bargained and got it for approximately $41,000 (U.S.). Upon receiving the tank, he and his team began restoring it.
The tank was similar in design to the Russian T-54 Tank, built from 1959-1968. During the Gulf War, the Chinese produced scores of them, and sold them to the Iraqi military.
When Mead and his crew, led by mechanic Todd Chamberlain, began the restoration process, Chamberlain noticed something odd about one of its fuel tanks.
It was extraordinarily heavy, and he believed it was full of guns, a not-uncommon find for the team. All such discoveries must be reported to police, so Mead decided to film the removal of the contents–whatever they were.
Chamberlain struggled under the gas tank’s weight, and reached in blindly to pull out what he thought was a weapon. He had already found bullets in the tank’s interior.
To everyone’s shock and amazement, they discovered $1.2 million in gold bars. Five of them, in fact, with a combined weight of over sixty pounds.
Iraqi soldiers took an enormous amount of gold from Kuwait when they invaded in 1990. At the war’s end a year later, officials made a concerted effort was to return the gold to Kuwait, and almost 3,220 bars were ultimately sent back. Some estimates put the value of the gold stolen from Kuwait during that period as high as $1.5 billion in U.S. dollars.
Naturally, Mead notified authorities immediately about the find. But the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, and as of August 2018, the final disposition of the gold was still undetermined.
Authorities are trying to trace the bars to their rightful owners first. Mead won’t get the treasure unless every attempt to find out who owns it proves fruitless.
He may not get the gold, ultimately, but Mead told Coinworld.com in August that there is some interest in a film project about the discovery. That may not make him rich, but it would certainly add to his fame.
The tank’s previous owner, Joe Hewes, had no idea the gold was hidden there. Surprisingly, he is being an incredibly good sport about it. “It’s crazy, and a great find, and I hope they get to keep it.
Everybody (thinks) I should be devastated to have missed out on what could have been a fortune. But I’m not too upset…I made a fair bit of money on that tank.”
He adds, however, that if Mead gets to celebrate keeping the money, he’d love to be bought a pint.
Mead posted a video on YouTube of himself and Chamberlain talking about the tank, what might be in the gas tank, and their surprise when they realized what they had found. It’s available for viewing on YouTube under Mead’s videos, entitled “Gold Found In Tank!”