For sale: used 12-wheel truck, with trailer. Army green. Maximum speed 25 mph. Weight 62,000 pounds. Previously used only for hauling nuclear missiles.
That was one of the offerings Friday at an unusual Red Tag Sale put on by the Soviet Ministry of Defense and several semipublic organizations to recoup some of the cold cash spent in the Cold War.The sale items were military support equipment for the medium-range nuclear missiles destroyed under a 1987 U.S.-Soviet agreement, and they were on the market as part of the Soviet drive to reorient its economy from military to domestic needs.
Items as small as rolls of cable, for as little as $1.85, and as big as the 12-wheel monster MAZ547-B truck for $49,600 were packed into an exhibition hall in Moscow's Sokolniki Park, to be sold to whoever comes up with the most money the fastest.
"We want to learn how this equipment can be used in the national economy," said Yuri Vorontsov, a spokesman for the sale.
One of the sale's organizers, Elvin Kalinin, said more and different equipment might be offered at later sales, depending on the success of this first one. In the future, the organizers might also offer after-sales service, he said.
As many as 100 potential buyers milled around the drafty exhibition hall, among them Gennady Gritsevsky, a departmental director for the government environmental commission, Goskompriroda.
Gritsevsky was looking for a vehicle to turn into a mobile environmental laboratory to take to chemical factories, dumps and elsewhere. He was facing down another green truck, this one with a cabin built onto its flatbed.
The starting price was $21,700, but that's not what was bothering Gritsevsky. It was just too big, even with modifications that the government agency figured it could make on its own.
"You can't use it on the street," he said and then huddled with one of the organizers who said the Ministry of Defense might have something more suitable that it would be willing to sell.
Another organizer who declined to give his name said they could get several hundred such trucks from the Defense Ministry if they could sell them.
One of the biggest headaches has been pricing the equipment, Vorontsov said. Although military equipment is very specific and expensive to manufacture, many of the costs are hidden in the Soviet economy.
They hope demand will drive up the minimum prices marked on white cards by each piece of equipment.