M5 Stuart Light Tank Looks Ready for Battle in New York Parking Lot, Is a WWII Vet Itself

The M3/5 Stuart was a Second World War American tank that perenially saw its spotlight whittled away by the Sherman, and even the more well-known but considerably less adored M3 Lee. The Stuart was a tank designed for every facet of the Allied war effort. But this one's found its way all the way to a VFW in Central New York.
M5 Stuart VFW 1710 12 photos
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
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Lots of VFWs across America commonly feature one or two small items of military regalia outside their front entrance or in the parking lot, as is the case with New York State's Steuben County. It's a bit of a national tradition among its members.

In most VFWs, this amounts to little more than an old Willys Jeep parked out front or perhaps a couple of mobile artillery pieces. At VFW Post 1470, they get a fair bit more than that. The first thing to greet you as you pull up to the front gate is a Vietnam-era Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter that you can spot from the gas station on the other side of the street.

But it's Post 1470's M5 Stuart Light Tank that steals the show. It's been in this same collection for almost 50 years. For our non-American friends, the VFW is an organization comprised a series of private clubs for American service people who've fought in wars and battles in any region of the world outside U.S. soil.

Their chapters often feature live music, pool and fooseball tables, with complintary snacks, beer, wine, and if you're lucky, cocktails. It's a gathering ground where veterans and their families can come have a drink and tell stories from their days in the service. It's the collective responsibility of all VFW 1470 members to use money from their club dues to upkeep and maintain this 28,000 pound (127,00.5 kg) relic of World War II.

M5 Stuart VFW 1470
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
It's hard to say when and where this M3 light tank had its beginnings. Well over 20,000 units were built in a slew of different factories owned by General Motors, the American Car and Foundry Company, and the Massey Ferguson tractor company. The old war machine served both the European and Pacific theaters as well.

What's better known is that this example's made the parking lot at 7230 NY-54 in Bath, New York, its home for the better part of 45 years. For decades, the tank endured ages and eons of brutally harsh Central New York winters, complete with lake-effect snow from nearby Keuka lake and equally swelteringly humid summers. The result of it all was that by the year 2020, the trusty old tank was looking pretty darn worse for wear.

It was impetus enough for a fund of $8,500 to be raised by VFW members and their families to give their treasured relic a new lease on life. It involved lifting the 14-ton light tank onto a trailer and rolling the whole convoy a distance of 70 miles (112.7 km) to the facility of Sandman's Sandblasting and Coating in Manchester, New York.

The company is most notable for collaborating with the nearby Glenn H Curtiss Museum in nearby Hammondsport, New York, for which they performed the bulk of the museum's custom restoration and fabrication work. As a result of their efforts, every visible surface on the tank, from the rear engine compartment to the barrel of its 37-mm main cannon, was refurbished, repainted, and ready for another 50 years of gate guard duty.

M5 Stuart VFW 1470
Photo: Benny Kirk/autoevolution
Its great thumping Cadillac is finally free of bird droppings and other miscellaneous goop that may have accumulated around the tank over the years. It's all rubberstamped with the "VFW Post 1470" proudly displayed in bold lettering across its mighty hull.

With so many amazing planes, cars, and motorcycles on display just a stone's throw down the road, it's wonderful to see this small, tight-knit New York town come together.
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