Is It Just Us, Or Does Leonardo Da Vinci’s Tank Look Like a Giant Terrifying Dalek?

Orbit Book’s intrepid Creative Director Lauren Panepinto travelled to Burning Man this week, and among the art festival’s many delights, she found this amazing Flaming Dalek Tank! This enormous tank, while it looks like it’s here to exterminate us all, is actually a life-size model of a tank designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Back in 1487, while Leonardo was under the patronage of Ludovico Sforza, he designed a fighting vehicle. Basing the design on a turtles shell, Leonardo’s Tank would be operated by four men turning hand cranks so that gears would (slowly) propel the tank forward. As you can see in the illustration below, the tank was ringed by cannons, so additional men inside could fire upon enemies in any direction. It looks like the interior would be pretty cramped though:

Leonardo's Tank Design

Da Vinci wrote to Sforza, saying:

I can make armored cars, safe and unassailable, which will enter the closed ranks of the enemy with their artillery, and no company of soldiers is so great that it will not break through them. And behind these our infantry will be able to follow quite unharmed and without any opposition.

The blog Leonardo Da Vinci’s Inventions theorized a charming reason for the war machine: Leonardo loved animals. Since in his time, the primary vehicles during war were elephants and horses, it’s possible that he devised this early tank to give humans a mechanical option that would save animals from the horrors of battle.

Here’s a small model of the tank in action:

You can learn more about Leonardo’s design, and why it initially didn’t quite work, over at Leonardo Da Vinci’s Inventions!


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