About Us

Through the Periscope: Rob Dove

You’re known as a leading expert in CVRTs. How did it all come about?

I left school in 1984 and became a mechanic, a diesel fitter for Land Rover, where I did my apprenticeship. Then I followed in my Father’s footsteps and joined the army. I went into the Tank Regiment where you had to specialise in one trade – driving and maintenance, gunnery or signals. I’d already learned about mechanics, so I went into gunnery and became a Tank Gunnery Instructor and I was also a Commander of all the vehicles: Chieftain, Challenger, Scorpion, Scimitar, Ferret.

When I left the army, there weren’t many jobs going for Tank Gunnery Instructors but the skills I had do come in useful. I know the guns inside out, having been a Small Arms Instructor too – machine guns and things – and I could do anything involving a CVRT at a very high level, as a fully trained mechanic and instructor. Having served on them for 11 years, there’s not much about them that I don’t know.

And how did the company, Rapid MVR, come about?

It actually started as a hobby. I wanted to own a vehicle that I’d personally served on. I bought some vehicles and had my own collection.

At this point I was working in maritime security, working in the Indian Ocean – working one month on and one month off – and in the month off I’d work on my vehicles, but in 2015 the maritime work came to an end and I decided to focus on the vehicles. I starting by selling one to someone I knew, and then the floodgates opened. A lot of people saw that vehicle and wanted to buy one like it, and the business started up overnight.

Which is your favourite vehicle and why?

My uncle had a garage and he dealt in Land Rovers, so I was brought up on them and have always loved them, but my favourites at the moment are the CVRTs. To restore them and know that the vehicles I actually served on are still going strong in civvy hands is really rewarding.

It’s amazing really, that vehicles built in the 1970s are still around today, nearly 50 years later. It just shows how good they are.

They weren’t originally intended to have such a long service life, but it just kept getting extended and over 32 countries across the world still operate CVRTs today, and as a result they had a lot of upgrades, chiefly radio equipment and armour.

CVRTs started out with Jaguar petrol engines but there was an extension programme which moved them to diesels, prolonging their service life while planned replacement vehicles were in trials and development.

WWII or Cold War vehicles – what’s the difference?

WWII vehicles come with a big price tag. A lot of them have been scrapped now and those that remain tend to be owned by museums and private collectors who just don’t want to part with them.

Post War vehicles are far more affordable for the private buyer today – a lot of people don’t have £250,000+ spare to buy a Sherman!

By comparison, a Post War Chieftain is around £40,000 – which is still a lot of money but more achievable – and vehicles are available and we can still get hold of spare parts. With pre-war and WWII vehicles, original spares are hard to come by and so replacement parts have to be fabricated from scratch and that takes a lot of time and money.

I’m looking for my first tracked military vehicle. Should I buy a FV432 or a CVRT?

I’d say CVRT, for two reasons.

Firstly they are relatively light and can be transported easily whereas 432s are much heavier and transporting them means you need a bigger category truck.

Secondly, CVRTs can be more easily road registered and driven on public roads in the UK. Vehicles of a certain weight need a secondary braking system in order to be road registered and CVRTs have that secondary system, but 432s don’t. It’s frequently said that 432s can’t be legally road registered because of their width, but it’s actually because of the brake system.

If I want to drive a tracked vehicle on the road do I need any special qualifications or training?

Yes. You need an H Category – which covers motor vehicles powered by tracks – added to your full driving licence. That involves a training course followed by a test, which you can typically do in a day. You take the test on a tracked vehicle, but it need not be the vehicle you’re buying.

A lot of people who served in tracked vehicles will already have an H category on their licence, but plenty of people buy a tracked vehicle and then get the H category added to their licence.

How do you tackle a restoration project? And what are the different stages?

No matter what condition a vehicle arrives in, I normally strip everything down.

The first job on a gun tank is the running gear and the tracks – to make sure it is mobile – and then the engine and gearbox comes out and everything gets cleaned underneath. Once the mechanics are done, it’s onto the turret: we lift it off, clean it and do whatever the customer wants.

If it’s a real wreck – let’s say one that’s not mobile and has to be towed in – I’d restore it literally from the ground up: the road wheels, tracks, running gear, engine, gearbox and work my way upwards to the aerials and antennas.

I’ve found a vehicle that’s come up for sale. How do I know if it’s any good? What should I look for?

The best thing to do is to get me – or someone like me – to do an appraisal of the vehicle for you. I’d say don’t go on your own if you don’t know much about the vehicle.

I travel all over the country to assess vehicles for potential buyers.

I charge a day’s wages for this but you get a full appraisal and my advice – which will be good advice! – either “buy it” or “don’t buy it” and, if it needs work, how much that work is going to cost, both for labour and parts. Don’t just go off the vendor’s face value – something that looks 95% complete might not be quite so intact underneath.

What are the pros and cons of a petrol versus a diesel CVRT?

Over the pond in the USA people love petrol-engined vehicles, but diesels are more popular over here in the UK. The Cummins diesel engine is more reliable, but the Jaguar petrol J60 is more fun: more sporty, quicker and more responsive. In both cases, as long as you put fuel and water in them and don’t put a million miles on the clock, both engines will run for a long time.

The torque on the diesel engine is a lot higher than on the petrol engine, so when they upgraded CVRTs from petrol to diesel they had to beef up the clutch. Then, because the offset was different, that meant different drive couplings and bulkheads to make it fit. In essence the gearboxes are exactly the same size, it’s just about the parts inside it and the bigger clutch. As times changed and CVRTs got more armour, their weight increased and they upgraded the clutch again.

Are the guns on these vehicles real?

You can choose. You can get live weapon systems as long as you’ve got the appropriate Firearms Certificate, but if not they can be deactivated or removed. Again it’s down to customer preference.

How much should I budget per year to run a CVRT?

If you’re buying a vehicle that’s fully restored or in running and driving condition, your maintenance costs are very low. It’s like a normal car – as long as you drive it right and maintain it regularly, all you’ll need are things like brake pads, fuel, oil, a couple of belts.

If you drive it around the arena at War and Peace twice a day for a week, and lift the decks up every time you come back in to check the oil, the water and hubs, you’d never really have to spend any more money on it. Of course sometimes things do break – a road wheel might come off and you may need to change it, for example.

I offer my customers a service pack, with filters and belts etc., so that they have all the gear they need to service their vehicle themselves.

What are the different types of CVRT? And how much would each cost, roughly?

I would say, the base CVRT model, the Sultan, would cost £20,000 for a good driving and running vehicle. Then, moving up, we’ve got the Samson or the Striker at around £23,000. Spartans are around £28,000 and anything with a gun or turret on – like the Scorpion or Sabre – from at least £40,000 plus. The last two that were sold both went for £50,000 and they sold quickly.

Can you help me with maintenance and parts once I’ve bought a vehicle?

Yes. I’m always here to help. If there’s a problem, I can jump in the van and come and repair it or service it and charge accordingly. Every customer that buys from me knows that I will help.

Some phone me for advice and I’ll talk them through the problem and send them the relevant part and talk them through replacing it: that’s why my phone is always on. People who haven’t bought from me also call me for advice because they’ve heard of me – that’s always humbling, it’s nice. It means it keeps another one of these vehicles in private hands and moving, which is always rewarding.