An M4 Sherman tank, displayed on the grounds of the Normandy Tank Museum. Photos courtesy Artcurial.
In 2013, military vehicle collector Patrick Nerrant opened the Normandy Tank Museum in Catz, France, just a short distance from Utah and Omaha beaches, the site of the American landing on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The 32,000 square-foot facility holds an impressive collection of American armor and military vehicles, as well as a few German, French and British displays, but on September 18, auction house Artcurial will sell off the museum’s collection in an unusual no-reserve sale.
A wide array of American military vehicles are in the collection, including Jeeps and amphibious landing craft.
Patrick began collecting military vehicles in the 1980s, later sharing his passion for World War II history with sons Stephane and Olivier. The trio partnered in the opening of the museum three years ago, with a mission to educate visitors on the history, technological advancement and social cost of the war. Vehicles and artifacts are displayed in a diorama setting, further educating visitors on uniforms and gear used by troops throughout the war, and the facility soon proved to be a popular stop for those visiting the beaches of Normandy. To add to the museum’s appeal, it even offered rides in an American M10 tank destroyer and a contemporary British Army FV432 armored personnel carrier.
Diorama-style displays are used to illustrate the uniforms and equipment used a various times throughout the war.
Built on property adjacent to what was once the A10 Airfield, a key supply point for troops participating in the liberation of France, the museum even flew a pair of restored World War II aircraft, specifically a Piper L4 Grasshopper and a Boeing PT17 Stearman biplane. These, too, will be offered for sale on site during the September auction.
A Willys MB on display in the museum.
The museum is both a victim of economic hard times and of local politics. As Patrick explained to newspaper Ouest France, “Everyone is suffering in the economic context. Our company was fragile because it was young. And we have not received any help, on the contrary.”
The former A10 Airfield is not owned by the museum, and once-cooperative neighbors have recently refused to allow its continued use as an airfield, even on a temporary basis. Now at an age where retirement seems a more pleasant alternative to a potentially long and expensive battle, Patrick instead opted to sell the collection, but only after receiving the endorsement of his sons.
A liberation of Paris display, featuring the M5 Sherman and a Citroën Traction Avant staff car.
An M4 Sherman, built by Chrysler in its Detroit Tank Arsenal and equipped with a 105mm howitzer main gun, is expected to sell for $222,000 to $444,000, a bargain considering that it’s reported to be one of the vehicles that rolled into a newly liberated Paris on August 25, 1944.
The M24 Chaffee light tank.
A Cadillac-built M24 Chaffee light tank, which is said to have seen action in the Battle of the Bulge during the winter of 1944-’45, is expected to sell for $156,000 – $275,000. Like the M4 Sherman (and most of the other vehicles in the collection), it’s said to be in excellent mechanical condition.
For military collectors of more modest means, a Willys MB Jeep is expected to sell for $16,500 – $27,500, with a Ford GPW likely to achieve similar numbers. A Harley-Davidson WLA, restored to a U.S. Navy livery, is also expected to sell in the same range.
Dodge WC54 ambulance.
Other lots of interest are set to include a BMW R75 motorcycle with sidecar; a Caterpillar D8 dozer; a Citroën Traction Avant staff car; an M3A1 Stuart light tank; an M5 Stuart light tank; a Dodge WC-51/52; a Dodge WC Command Car; a Dodge WC-54 ambulance; a German Flak 36 88mm anti-aircraft gun; a Ford M8 Greyhound armored car; a GMC DUKW amphibious transport; a Cushman 53 “Para bike,” a GMC CCKW-352 “Deuce-and-a-half” truck; an M5 Half-track; a German Kübelwagen; an LVT-4 tracked amphibious landing craft; an M7 Priest self-propelled artillery vehicle; an M26 “Dragon Wagon” tank recovery tractor; a British military Norton WD16H motorcycle; and an M3A1 scout car.
The D-Day Sale will take place on the grounds of the Normandy Tank Museum. For additional details, visit Artcurial.com.