Bizarre stories have been cropping up in the Chinese press this week about a fleet of off-road buses sold to Kazakhstan by a Chinese manufacturer – and whether they are actually buses at all.
Stories have begun to appear in the press claiming that these buses are, in fact, "desert tanks" suitable for fighting terrorists in the desert on Kazakhstan's border with China.
The vehicles in question are Shaanxi SX6100 SPF, and are apparently nicknamed the ‘Desert Tank’ due to the fact that they are based on the mighty 6×6 Dongfeng truck chassis which is made for all-terrain duty in the desert.
It's been reported that Shaanxi sold twenty SX6100′s to the Kazakhstan security services for use in ‘anti-terrorism-patrol’ in the vast empty deserts near the border with China’s Xinjiang Province.
But as you can see from the photo above, even though the SX6100 looks a bit of a handful, its still more like of a bus than a tank. Don't be fooled, says the Chinese press – they can be upgraded, adding that Shanxi can easily fit a turret for a small machine gun on the roof.
Except they haven't, of course.
What makes the whole thing even more bizarre, however, is the fact that there really isn't a terror threat on the border with Xinjiang anyway. So why, I wonder, would the Kazakstanis want to arm their off-road buses - especially as they've all been fitted out as buses and they aren't even fitted with armour?
Paranoia, it seems, is alive and well in China...
Of course, I'm waiting for a London bus operator to acquire a couple of these. They look just about perfect for bludgeoning your way through the capital's traffic.
Not sure Boris would approve, though...