We weren’t going to war, we were going for a ride and the top of the tank seemed like the place to be. When presented with the option of a comfortable seat or the wind sweeping through your hair as a 1950s Austrian tank zipped around the Melody Ranch Studio in California, I preferred to be outside. Unfortunately, when my turn came up, the top of the tank was already full. So I hopped into a little hole in the armored shell, and waiting there to greet me was the massive hand of action superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger. Little did I know this seat was right next to the actor, who would soon be driving the tank. I was his co-pilot and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

Schwarzenegger was the biggest star in the world in the late ’80s and early ’90s before riding that fame into politics. He always said he’d be back, though, and now he has returned. His first starring role is Kim Jee-woon‘s The Last Stand, opening January 18. To help raise awareness of the film, Lionsgate invited a small group of journalists to ride in Schwarzenegger’s personal tank. After the jump, read about the tank, see a bunch of photos and even a few videos of the event.

The event took place at the Melody Ranch Studios in Newhall, CA. It’s an out of the way Western setting that’s just close enough to Los Angeles to have been the setting of almost every Western TV show you can think of – Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, Annie Oakley – as well as the setting for countless western movies from all the biggest names in the genre. Most recently, it was the town of Daughtry in the opening of Django Unchained. Oh, and it’s also where Arnold Schwarzenegger stores and drives around his personal tank.

Schwarzenegger owns an M47 tank that was used by the Austrian army in the 1950s. It’s the exact same tank Schwarzenegger drove when he was in the army in his late teens. In 1992, he bought it and had it imported to America to be part of a special Las Vegas Planet Hollywood that was planned to have a collection of military and movie vehicles. That collection was not meant to be, so now the tank is used for charity events and movies.

The former California governer explained that parts of the tank get so hot, he and his fellow soldiers could cook steaks on it. He also cleaned out the toolboxes on either side to store his personal weights, helping him keep in shape during his two years in the Service before competing in the Mr. Universe competition that made him a star.

And while that was all well and good, we’d come up here to ride a tank. And ride a tank we did. How about some video and photos?

Here’s a gallery of images taking you through the day. In the middle you’ll see my head popping out of the tank and, at the end, you’ll see the tank crushing a car. I have videos of both of those things below the gallery.

Thanks to Eric Charbonneau for the photos.

Here’s the video of my tank ride. It starts as a first person experience but, around :44 seconds, I begin to shoot Schwarzenegger driving. At the end, I bring my phone inside to watch him shifting.

And here’s a short video of the tank demolishing the car.

The Last Stand opens on January 18.

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