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Not treading lightly

Agua Dulce man puts military vehicle collection to good use — in movies

Posted: February 10, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 10, 2014 2:00 a.m.

David Wang, owner of Army Trucks Inc., stands next to a mocked-up British tank made to look like the latest U.S. Army M1 Abrams tank. Wang has rented out this tank from his Agua Dulce yard for movies such as "Godzilla" and "Transformers." Signal photo by Dan Watson.

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David Wang is really into heavy metal, but he does his rocking and rolling in a 50-ton army tank. 

Wang, 54, the CEO of vehicle and equipment rental company “Army Trucks Inc.,” purchased 11 acres in Agua Dulce in 2006. Today that yard looks like a marshaling yard for a military operation. 

The yard is studded with more than 280 military vehicles including tanks, trucks, trailers, jeeps, tents and military props available for rent, mostly by movie- and TV-show-making firms.

The equipment, mostly vehicles, has been rented out for some pretty significant projects — “Transformers,” “Batman” and “Godzilla” to name a few.

“I bought my first jeep out of The Recycler in the 1980s after leaving the U.S. Army National Guard,” Wang recalls. “I restored it from the ground up and started renting it out.”

Wang slowly added more vehicles and turned his hobby into a heavy-duty business.

He started rebuilding Army Humvees from parts in a hanger in Arleta.

Wang is now a government contractor; he has International Trade Agreement and ATF licenses and can buy tanks and transport vehicles in other countries for filming.

Wang says his love for the vehicles began when he was growing up in Van Nuys.

Like many boys, he played with G.I. Joe action figures and built backyard battle scenes.

That love led to work.

“I didn’t have the patience to build model tanks from kits, but I always wanted to be a mechanic,” Wang recalled during a recent interview while holding a metal World War II-style Army helmet. “I wasn’t good in school, but I really did well in the Army. I went in as a vehicle-recovery specialist where I was able to operate big equipment, tow tanks, repair stuck jeeps, and work as a mechanic.”

Walking onto the yard past battle-damaged prop vehicles, burned-out hulks of Humvees and piles of spare parts, Wang points out a 1980s-era Russian tank.

“Mr. T drove this tank over the top of three cars in a Snickers commercial,” he says.

The Russian tank sits next to two huge British self-propelled howitzers.

“These are like tanks, but they are mobile-artillery pieces,” Wang says. “Pick a color — desert camo or olive drab. My daughter Candice drove one of these in the last ‘Batman’ movie.”

Candice Wang, 27, works full time with Wang at the Agua Dulce location.

“I was between jobs. I was an assistant buyer for a big clothing chain and hated it,” she recalls. “Dad hired me to be a cast driver for a couple of weeks on the movie ‘Lions for Lambs’ in 2007.I drove Meryl Streep to the set each day. The movie was a flop, but I’m still here working with dad.”

“I drive the tanks too,” she continued. “The first time was on the sci-fi thriller ‘Cloverfield’ in 2008. The director wanted to use our Abbot SPG (a tracked, self-propelled artillery piece), and I was the only one who could fit in the driver’s seat.”

Leaving the office where Candice handles the computers and paperwork, Wang walks toward three massive tanks, one painted in green camouflage and the other two in desert tan.

“These are actually British tanks mocked up to look like the current U.S. Army Abrams tanks,” Wang says. “You really can’t tell them apart from the U.S. tanks. The government doesn’t sell their latest battle tanks to civilians. These were used in the movies ‘Hulk,’ ‘Jarhead’ and ‘Godzilla.’”

The barrels on the tanks’ 120-mm canons are plugged and the breeches cut so they will never fire again, Wang explains.

“For firing in a movie they load a powder charge in the end of the barrel and set it off with electrical wires,” he says. “It just makes a big puff of smoke.”

Wang has recently set up a new location for his collection in the New Orleans area.

He says the demand in that area has increased with more filming being done there.

A new “Fantastic Four” production is renting his vehicles from that location.

Wang got the itch to start his business when he worked for another vehicle and equipment rental company shortly after he left the Army.

Nearly everything on Wang’s Agua Dulce property is for rent.

Except a few things.

“This is Brutus,” he says of his bulldog. “But he is not for rent.”

Comments

ricketzz: Posted: February 11, 2014 5:45 a.m.

The movie business is very hypocritical. They cry about the environment then blow stuff up for the movies; filling the air with smoke. I hope we grow up soon.



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