HomeCar CultureLifestyleRestoring a WWI Tank - Without a Blueprint

Restoring a WWI Tank – Without a Blueprint


EATON Detroit Spring became a leading manufacturer of leaf and coil springs soon after its establishment in 1937. Since then it has provided insight and expertise to dozens of custom projects.

But is there anyway to be prepared for the task of rebuilding a WWI era tank? And without a blueprint?

“I am amazed by the things I get to learn in this business,” Mike Eaton said, “[this] tank project reinforced that one never will know it all.”

The tank was brought before Eaton by Randy Becht, a specialist in military vehicle restoration. The M1917 two man tank was long forgotten when Becht decided to take on the ambitious project. Completing the rebuild would be a fitting tribute to WWI servicemen and one of the tanks most famous owners–General Patton. 

With no blueprint to guide them, and no spare parts available, Becht and his team pieced together the tank by recreating parts they could identify in photographs. Their biggest challenge came about when it was time to install new springs. But with a short message to Mike Eaton, the rebuild was soon underway again. WWI tank, Restoring a WWI Tank – Without a Blueprint, ClassicCars.com Journal

“Randy sent a rather vague email asking if we could build four springs to special specs,” Eaton said. 

“Because he could not give much information, I was afraid we would not be able to help him. But once he said the spring was for Gen. Patton’s tank, I knew we would make it happen.”

The importance of the spring setup was unexpected. Without the right rates and specs, the tank not only wouldn’t sit right, it wouldn’t even function properly.

“What we started with was flawed,” Becht explained. “EATON Detroit Spring came in and saved the day. They not only corrected 100-year- old flawed engineering, but improved it greatly.”

Calling on his 40-plus years of spring-building experience, Eaton created a design he believed solved all the problems, including a way to make a quick correction if needed.

Patton’s WWI tank was dedicated November 2, 2017, and received by George Patton Waters, Gen. Patton’s grandson and fellow veteran. It is now on permanent display at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, Indiana.


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