Israeli tank sells for $293,000 at local auction

It was hardly a snooty Sotheby’s affair.

The 37-ton Israeli tank — complete with a 75 mm cannon and a .50-caliber machine gun — sold for $293,000 at what was billed as one of the largest auctions of military vehicles ever.

An anonymous bidder bought this Israeli tank, which was used during the Six-Day War. photo/courtesy auctions america

More than 80 tanks amassed by a Silicon Valley engineer who died in 2009 were put up for auction on July 11 and 12 on his family’s property in Portola Valley. The Israeli tank was purchased by an anonymous buyer.

Described by auctioneers as “in beautiful condition,” the Israeli-modified M50 Sherman tank had seen action in the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

It was part of Auctions America’s $10.4 million sale of military vehicles and accessories from the Littlefield Collection, which belonged to the late Jacques Littlefield, a Stanford-educated engineer. Littlefield amassed the collection — spanning from World War I through the Gulf War — over decades and kept the tanks on his family estate, up a winding, forested road above Silicon Valley.

Littlefield also founded the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation and, after his death, his family donated the tanks and other equipment to the foundation. With the funds raised from the auction, the foundation hopes to build a military vehicle museum at its Stow, Mass., headquarters.

The most expensive item sold in the auction was a German 8-ton personnel carrier, which went for $1.2 million. A World War II German Panzer IV tank that was expected to fetch as much as $2.6 million went unsold.

According to the auction organizers, the Israeli tank sold was of the type first used in the 1956 Suez War (the term “M50” came from the name of the tank gun). Some 300 Sherman tanks were converted to M50s by 1959. The tanks were retired in the late 1970s.

An Israeli Trail Blazer armored recovery vehicle also was auctioned. A bulldozer that also could haul up to 72 tons, it sold for $19,000.

Beyond the winning bids, the Israeli tank and trail blazer were both listed by Auctions America with $4,488 price tags for “transport cost to storage.” — j. staff & wire reports