Peter Ray is a private collector of war memorabilia based in Bilpin, NSW. The jewel of his collection is a Matilda II Mk IV infantry tank used by Australian army regiments during World War II. Purchased in 1980 for a mere $700, it currently commands a price tag of more than $400,000. Sometimes, weird investments have a way of paying off.
To mark the release of WW2 drama Fury on home entertainment, Universal Sony invited Lifehacker to ride inside an authentic Matilda Mk IV tank: a 25-tonne death machine noted for its formidably armored hull. While riding in the gun turret was exhilarating, one of the most fascinating aspects of the experience was the story behind the tank itself.
Rolling off the production line in 1945, it managed to survive the war in one piece and was later sold off at auction. Like countless other decommissioned tanks of the era, it ended up being used as a makeshift tractor in rural NSW.
This was a task that the Matilda was poorly suited to: while proficient at meting out destruction, its unreliable engine and limited load capacity were less than ideal for farm work. Eventually, the tank was abandoned to collect rust in a field.
In 1980, WW2 aficionado Peter Ray spotted the tank while on a business trip and offered to take it off the owner's hands. After some back-and-forth negotiations, it was sold for the princely sum of $700. Astonishingly, this price included a second tank which also now resides on Ray's property.
Today, the lovingly restored Matilda Mk IV has appreciated nicely.
"The last time someone made an offer on the tank, it was for several hundred thousand dollars" Ray explained to us. "I told them I'd consider selling it once the price reached one million."
With only around 70 Matilda IIs still in existence, it's not inconceivable that Ray's reserve price will soon be reached. We imagine Ray's neighbours probably thought he was a bit strange when this tank rolled onto his property all those years ago. Instead, they should have been buying tanks of their own.
We're curious to hear about our readers' weird financial investments. Have you ever taken a gamble on something that seemed worthless or eccentric at the time? How did it pay off? Share your stories in the comments section below!
Fury will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital formats on January 22, 2015.