The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Cold War RV – 1982 OT-90 JPJ

One Commie’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Photos by Rob Curtis

Let’s face it, who hasn’t fantasized about having their very own tank without being subject to the usual prerequisite of military service or stealing one from a National Guard armory? Schwarzenegger’s YouTube charity videos might make you think he’s the only one with the money and connections to be able to personally own and operate some decommissioned iron, but there’s hope for those of us who’ve felt that same indescribable yearning that could only be satisfied by having tracked armor. Dead Air Armament founder Mike Pappas is living proof that the average civilian can realize that dream as well — assuming your local laws permit such a thing. If not, perhaps it’s time to move or write to your congressman.

Mike wasn't interested in the original guns, which he could've only taken possession of if they were cut up. Since trying to find 14.5mm ammo isn't very easy, and cut-up guns are essentially junk anyway, Mike passed in favor of retrofitting the turret for an M2 and 1919.

Mike wasn’t interested in the original guns, which he could’ve only taken possession of if they were cut up. Since trying to find 14.5mm ammo isn’t very easy, and cut-up guns are essentially junk anyway, Mike passed in favor of retrofitting the turret for an M2 and 1919.

After looking at different options for surplus military vehicles on the market, Mike found this OT-90 the most conducive to his needs. It holds 11 people, can float, and (at 12 tons) is light enough to be hauled on the back of a big-rig trailer as a “wide load.” The history of this particular tank is a little unclear. It was a Russian BMP-1 converted to an OT-90 by the Czechs, and although bullet strikes are visible, he’s not sure if Slobodan Milosevic may have had it terrorizing the Balkans.

For those of you already calling us out on our nomenclature, you’re right, the OT-90 is an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) as opposed to a tank. As a variation of the BMP-1, the OT-90’s original 73mm turret was removed at some point prior to sale for a lighter version that held a 14.5mm KPVT to work coax with a PKP rifle. Mike wasn’t interested in the original guns, which he could’ve only taken possession of if they were cut up. Since trying to find 14.5mm ammo isn’t very easy, and cut-up guns are essentially junk anyway, Mike passed in favor of retrofitting the turret for an M2 and 1919.

1982-ot-90-jpj-periscope

A friend of Mike who is a military vehicle broker, and had also imported a BMP-1 for Oakley, helped him with the transaction and necessary paperwork. The broker did a Form 6 and Mike filled out an end-use certificate along with some export paperwork required by the DoD and ATF, but as he puts it, the whole process “wasn’t that big a deal.” He took possession about a year after the money changed hands and paperwork was filed. The whole ball of wax, including importing fees, only came to about $60,000. The process would be a bit easier if one were to buy something stateside like an old M60 Patton. Since it’s essentially a big gun with wheels, purchasing a domestic tank would be more of a straight transaction, although we’re sure the turret would have to be inert.

Firing this thing up took some work. Mike had to call the exporter to help him identify switches that were written in Cyrillic. Although it took some back and forth, he got it off the trailer and spent the ensuing months labeling the controls in English. The startup is a little complex until you get the hang of the procedure. The UDT-20 19L V-6 engine is multi-fuel capable, and runs on the same things you’d put in an M35A2 truck. On a full tank it has a range of roughly 400 miles.

1982-ot-90-jpj-driver-area

Inside, the IFV is surprisingly spacious. Mike plans on replacing the HF radio with a modern version, in addition to instalilng a 2M/440. Other than that, it really only needs some cosmetic touches here and there. Mike decided to leave the troop weapon portholes on each side cradled for AKs as they were originally intended. Larger portholes in front for Vz.59s are also going to be left as-is, since Mike already has one and plans to get another.

No, the OT-90 is not street legal. Mike lives in a rural area that enables him to use an off-road vehicle license to cruise it around. If you’ve never driven a tracked veicle before, as Mike hadn’t, the driving controls are not overly complicated, but he suggests being mechanically inclined if you plan to purchase a used tank or IFV. Trying to find someone who can work on them is a pretty tall order. Parts are available online, but Mike says the market for communist-block armor is very competitive. Apparently militants buy these up for their local conflict and, after it’s over, sell whatever they can’t afford to maintain.

If you're serious about buying something like this, Mike also suggests finding a vetted broker in your own state who can import a vehicle.

If you’re serious about buying something like this, Mike also suggests finding a vetted broker in your own state who can import a vehicle.

If you’re serious about buying something like this, Mike also suggests finding a vetted broker in your own state who can import a vehicle. In the event you can’t find one who you feel comfortable with, contact Mike through his company so he can turn you on to some reliable sources. It’d also make sense to ensure you have somewhere you can actually drive it. If you don’t live on or near lots of accessible undeveloped land, don’t have adequate storage, and don’t have neighbors who aren’t threatened by the sight of a war implement, this really isn’t for you.

While you might have the desire, but not the means to own a tank, at least you know that having a military vehicle of this ilk is not impossible. Do your homework and don’t make an impulse buy. You might get excited about finding a cheap WWII-era Tiger tank online, but at around 60 tons, it’s impractical for anything other than sitting still or leasing it to museums. It’d make quite a conversation piece though if you have the aptitude to support this sort of possession. You could create license plate holders that say “My other car is an IFV” and actually mean it.

1982-ot-90-jpj-dimensions

OT-90
Make JPJ
Year 1982
Engine 19L UDT-20 V-6
Drivetrain five-speed manual
URL www.deadairsilencers.com
Length 23.39 feet
Width 9.65 feet
Height 6.91 feet
Weight – Empty (approx.) 27,577 pounds
Weight – Combat (approx.) 29,762 pounds
Max Speed – Road 40 mph
Max Speed – Off Road 28 mph
Max Speed – Water 8 mph
Crew 3: driver/gunner/commander
Fighting Compartment 8 fully armed troops
Engine BHP 300 bhp
Fuel Type Diesel
Tank Capacity 15.89 cubic feet (Main) + 2 x 6.36 cubic feet (Aux)


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