Meet Merlin, the owner of Norwich's only 'Tank Taxi'
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
Norwich is now the home of a new unique taxi service - as the owner of the unusual transportation reveals what inspired him to take it from family trips to the park to event transportation.
Merlin Batchelor, from Norwich, bought the armoured personnel carrier more than a year ago, which cost £20,000 including refurbishments.
The vehicle, which is decorated in black and purple camouflage, has been spotted out and about including along Belsize Road on Sunday.
Now launching Tank Taxi, the business was inspired by enquiries from parents to hire the AV as prom transportation.
Mr Batchelor launched the business's website on Sunday, offering transportation to proms, weddings, event hire and unique city tours.
The 38-year-old, who works in legal services, said insurance has been cheaper on the military vehicle than the family's Honda Civic, which remains the main mode of transport to school, though the tank is used occasionally for trips to the park.
The dad-of-four said: "The kids love going shopping in it.
"We went to the park with the kids [on Sunday] and when we went down the road and we had to be very careful to not touch anything.
- 1 'Eyesore' bus won't be removed despite neighbours' pleas
- 2 Chantry Place 'close to finalising deals' with four major brands
- 3 How Norwich are you? Take our quiz to find out
- 4 'Such a shame': Social media scammer targets Norwich pub
- 5 Police probing reports Norwich clubbers have been spiked by needles
- 6 'Lives are at risk'-Patients' concerns over surgery appointment struggles
- 7 Tenant's despair as council fixes his windows by screwing them shut
- 8 One of Norwich's most photographed homes is up for sale
- 9 'Significant' amount of cash and electronics stolen from city home
- 10 Neighbours' terror as bleeding man found in garden after street fight
"I haven't been to the school in it.
"It's really nice to go along the street and see people smiling and laughing.
"In Trowse, there was a stranger and their child and they said 'this is the best thing that's ever happened here.'"
"It's amazing, the insurance is cheaper than my car, I guess it's the risk of damage."
The FV432 armoured personnel carrier can fit up to nine people inside and has been fitted with a television and sound system and fold away cooking area, which has proven popular with his four daughters, aged one, five, seven and 13.
The personnel carrier can travel a maximum speed of 36mph but is limited to 20mph on the road driven by Mr Batchelor who has a category H licence, which he has held for 15 years.
Mr Batchelor said the vehicle is from the 1960s and that it had been sitting on its previous owner's driveway for 40 years.
He said: "As it’s quite expensive to maintain I’m hoping that doing a few trips from time to time would help pay for the costs of looking after it."
When filling up the 450l petrol tanks, he has to stand on top of the carrier to fuel it - to the amusement of other pump patrons.
And while he is interested to see the uptake of trips, Mr Batchelor says he is not planning on expanding the business.
"There won't be a fleet of tanks going around Norwich," he added