Homebrew narco-tanks of the Mexican drug war

Here's a brief article from a June 2011 number of the NYT by Damien Cave detailing the bizarre improvised tanks used by Mexican drug gangs:

Over the weekend, Mexican authorities found two more of these makeshift road warriors in Tamaulipas, the same northern border state where the first armored vehicle appeared in April after a battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas gang. In the latest case, the Mexican Defense Department said, the armored trucks were found in a metalworking shop in Camargo, which also held at least two other partly modified monsters and 23 additional trucks.

The completed versions were bigger than what has been found before. Built on three-axle truck beds, they had room for 20 armed men, one official said. They were covered with inch-thick steel, which could withstand 50-caliber fire, and each had been equipped with insulation.

Monster Trucks on the Road, From Gangs in Mexico (via Neatorama)

(Image: a cropped thumbnail from an AP/Sedena image)



      1. That’s possible but my guess is it has more to do with what happens to people in a big steel box when it’s exposed to flame.

        On an unrelated note, you’re not a US Senator by an chance, are you?

        1. No but that doesn’t stop me from telling strangers that I am.¬† “Don’t believe me?¬† Just google it”

  1. I cannot help but wonder how keeping the current drug laws that put enough money into the hands of violent criminals to build frigging tanks can be supported by anyone who is sincere about reducing violent crime. Since the laws are demonstrably creating a situation that makes violent drug cartels powerful enough to challenge and corrupt the governments of several nations, where is the upside to keeping the current laws?

    1. You underestimate the crazy.  Mexican drug cartels with tanks?  There are defense contractors who are salivating at this image.  In their minds and their congressional pets, it justifies the outlay of further expenses for border patrol ubertanks and anti-tank devices. 

  2. This should be even more badass and evil looking. ¬†All with a flame paint job, some neon underneath, silver naked lady mudflaps and like that. ¬†Hand it over to those chopper TV show guys and it’ll be so fearsome birds will have heart attacks and fall out of the sky when it drives by.

    ETA: and Truck Balls on the trailer hitch. How could I have forgotten that?

  3. I’m not getting it…¬† yeah they are pretty impressive at least visually, but a well placed RPG could easily disable it.¬† Perhaps they weren’t finished putting the plating over the wheel wells…

    1. I think you’re missing the point. This thing could easily drive into a building like a police station or a rival cartel compound, allowing the owning cartel to take out anyone short of the military who opposes them. I seriously doubt the Mexican police are issued RPGs…altho that may change.

    2. If police have to deploy anti-tank weapons to deal with criminals, things are starting to look a bit absurd…

      1. Maybe it will be a SOPA/PIPA induce internet failure.

        Take away youtube and Hulu people are going to freak.

  4. Also, the unquiet ghost of Marvin Heemeyer says “Trucks? Pffft, that ain’t nothing. Let me show you boys what a real homebrew armored vehicle looks like.”¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Heemeyer

  5. Why don’t they just buy some old Soviet APCs or tanks? ¬†Qadaffi had tons of old armor out in the desert, and the former rebels are looking for cash, and it’s not like the drug cartels don’t know how to ship stuff on the sly. ¬†

  6. These gangs are getting serious. Even the lawn maintenance trailer was armored.

    But seriously, those “narco-tanks” look like unwieldy pieces of shit. All you need to stop one is a drainage ditch, or some little foot-high blocks of concrete scattered around. The tires are so overstressed that it wouldn’t take much to finish them off.

    1. It’s more that the trend is alarming than the instance. A good analogy would be the narco-submarines. Despite the initial media excitement and hype, they largely turned out to be cheap semi-submersibles, some of which could not even move under their own power. It wasn’t long, though, before an actual submarine was found under construction in South America along with a bunch of old Russian blueprints.

  7. I think the comments about escalation of Narco-Tanks is pretty founded.  They will build or buy better armored vehicles in the future.

    The Mexican and US armies will have no problem defeating said tanks, but the only time professional armies will deal with them is after drug gang/cartel shootouts.

    The cartels are not stupid enough to think one of these can go up against an army unit with any anti-tank capability.

  8. As mentioned above, ¬†the construction leaves a lot to be desired. ¬†In the midst of all that heavy steel, they left the soft (and flammable) ¬†tires exposed. ¬†And certainly, ¬†as in the past, simple caltrops will stop an advance. ¬†I suppose the insulation is to protect against the searing heat (sun or otherwise imposed) and possibly for the noise from being fired upon. ¬† ¬†What really makes me wonder is that this completely announces you as a target… “HEY I’M A DRUG RUNNER”. ¬†

  9. That’s more of an APC than a tank, really.

    Though I have to say, it’s sort of sad to see the A-Team working for the cartels.

  10. Hard to believe people are getting so worked up over these trucks when the cartels are building submarines that could deliver a nuclear weapon/dirty bomb/shizzload o’ anthrax to a coastal city.

    1. And they would profit from such an attack by…..?

      They’re in this for the money. Using it to just run drugs is far more profitable.

      1. Terrorists aren’t in the game for profit. It has been reported that a¬†variety¬†of terrorist groups (AQ and the Taliban for example) have turned to drugs as their major source of income and now have extensive contacts with the drug cartels. So it would just be a matter of paying them to do it, or purchasing a sub.

        1. Reported by who? The DEA? I’d take that with a grain of salt, especially¬†coming from people who said that taking LSD would make you grow tits.¬†

    1. yeah probably for a few months, until they learned from you and then later fertilized their lawn with little tiny bits of you.

      Damn macbook is burning my junk again.  Get some damned ventilation Crapple!  Like cooking a couple of eggs over here.

  11. In case nobody has mentioned it, you can buy run flats for semis (they are really expensive… but Cartels dont seem to care).

    If they are being cheap, they could just run on solid tires.

  12. Something like 75% of all illicit drugs imported from Mexico into America is Marijuana.  If Beer was still illegal it would probably be 75% Booze.   1,000,000 non-violent parents and children in prison right now for marijuana related charges.  Let them go home to their families and back to work.  Let people grow their own medicine and tell them how it can shrink tumors, reverse cancer and diabetes in some people, help people keep their sight, help people keep their minds clear from dementia (neuroprotectant as per the recent medical patent {kannalife}), limits effects of brain damage after brain trauma and disease.
    Lets not even get started on strongest Clothing, Healthy cooking oil, cheap fuel, permanent paper, etc. etc.

    Never works, increases demand, increases assumed worth, increases profits, MAKES IT LUCRATIVE, makes criminals out of honest people who just want to relax and be happy, increases “make believe” crime and actual crime alike.¬† People get shot and die over it, cops spend countless wasted fruitless hours only to take parents from children, children from parents, careers from good men, houses cars and assets of hard working Americans.¬† Every single second spent by police seeking marijuana in the United States could be spent truly making a change again.¬† People would again have more trust in police because they arent “against whats obviously right.”


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