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Eaton Detroit Spring Restores WWI Tank Without a Blueprint

EATON Detroit Spring has been a fixture in the leaf and coil springs industry since its inception in 1937. Mike Eaton, currently in charge of the company, is the grandson of founders Frank and Grace. Over 24,000 OE blueprints and 80 years of experience provide EATON with more than enough expertise to create exceptional products for custom projects.

When Randy Becht, owner of Hoosier Restoration and Movie Props, gave the company a call, what he had to say grabbed Mike Eaton’s attention.

“I am amazed by the things I get to learn in this business,” Eaton said. “Randy’s tank project reinforced that one never will know it all.”

Becht has worked with street rods for many years, and has restored military vehicles for museums and movie sets. His newest project, though, may have been his most ambitious, and he knew EATON would be able to help him implement it with the expertise it deserved.

“It was my wife Janet who had the idea of rebuilding Gen. George S. Patton’s tank,” Becht said. “She told the (Indiana Military Museum) CEO, Jim Osborne, that we could do it.”

Patton’s tank—a WWI-era M1917—stands over 7 feet tall and is 16 feet long. It featured a machine gun and is built for a two-soldier crew. No one had previously attempted to rebuild it.

Over the course of 18 months, Becht and his team, Grant Becht and Brian Bartholome, slowly but steadily rebuilt the tank. The process was complicated by the fact that the machine had very few original parts, and no blueprints at all.

“Most of the parts were built or recreated from pictures, but that’s what we pride ourselves on—building what was lost to history,” Randy Becht said.

The need for custom springs put a halt in the proceedings, but Becht had the idea of contacting Mike Eaton.

“Randy sent a rather vague email asking if we could build four springs to special specs,” Eaton said. “Because he could not give much information, I was afraid we would not be able to help him. But once he said the spring was for Gen. Patton’s tank, I knew we would make it happen.”

According to Becht, the importance of the spring setup was unexpected—without the right rates and specs, the tank would neither sit right nor function properly.

“What we started with was flawed,” he explained. “EATON Detroit Spring came in and saved the day. They not only corrected 100-year-old flawed engineering, but improved it greatly.”

Eaton’s first steps were asking the questions needed to design the custom tank springs, including:

  • ·         The length of the area the springs would fit into;
  • ·         The distance from the center bolt location to the center of the spring eyes, both front and rear of the spring;
  • ·         Maximum width allowed;
  • ·         Distance between the bottom mounting plate of the springs and the center line of the eyes when the springs would be loaded with the weight of the tank;
  • ·         The weight the springs would be supporting;
  • ·         How the weight would be distributed front and rear.

“Randy gave me what he could and mentioned a couple of weak points that he saw in the original design,” Eaton recalled. “Then I went to work.”

Eaton’s design relied on his 40-plus years of spring-buildings experience, and was able to accommodate quick corrections if necessary.

“Randy installed the springs and called me, happier than a kid in a candy store,” he said. “The tank sat perfectly.”

It was a project wherein skilled and talented individuals allied to create something special.

“Randy is an extremely talented man,” Eaton said—though Becht is quick to share the accolades.

“Without the dedication and charity of industry leaders like Mr. Eaton and others, we would not be able to do the things we do,” Becht stated. “We thank God for our ability to do what we love and to bring happiness to museum patrons everywhere we send our creations.”

The tank was dedicated November 2, 2017, and received by George Patton Waters, Gen. Patton’s grandson and fellow veteran. It is now on permanent display at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, Indiana.



EATON Detroit Spring has been the only source for the correct leaf springs and coil springs for your vehicle, since 1937; because we have Over 24,000 Original Manufacturers Spring Blueprints ; An in-house design staff; Over 166,000 stock leaf spring & coil spring applications; Over 70 years of leaf & coil spring manufacturing experience; Custom leaf & coil spring manufacturing ability; A full line of Attaching Hardware and Shocks. No other spring manufacturer has been chosen by Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company as authorized producers of authentic replacement springs. The over 70 years experience of Leaf and Coil Spring Manufacturing at Eaton Detroit Spring says "experts and quality" - just what you want in your ride

Eaton Detroit Springs
11555 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, MI 48216
Phone 1-313-963-3839

[email protected]