Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The Original Panzerboys

Back when I first read Cyberpunk 2020's Hardwired sourcebook my attention caught on one of the few paragraphs actually devoted to Panzerboys, the hi-tech hover-tank jockey smugglers who dominate Walter Jon William's original novel of the same name. Cowboy and his ilk might have been weirdly absent from the CP2020 book devoted to his own world, but his influence can be felt across cyberpunk RPG settings - what are the odds that Shadowrun's Native American Nations were conceived to give Hardwired-aping T-Bird smugglers suitable borders to scream across?

Anyway. In the book, Walter Jon Williams claims

"The new smugglers are called "panzerboys", after 20th century butter smugglers who ran armored cars across the Dutch-Belgian border in the face of Belgian tariffs on Dutch dairy products. (I'm not making this up, you know.)"

I'm sure you aren't, science-fiction-writer-posing-with-fake-cyberhands-on-back-of-an-RPG-sourcebook!

For years I failed to find any corroborating evidence for this claim, because my google-fu is weak and I don't speak Dutch. However, this has now changed:

THANK YOU, December 16th 1962 edition of the Chicago Sunday Tribune! 

According to the August 24th 1966 edition of the Tuscaloosa News, these bullet proof panzer wagons simply hurtled through border posts at high speed, dropping caltrops to hinder pursuit vehicles. 

I couldn't find any pictures of Dutch butter smuggling panzers. However, I could find pictures of contemporary German border smugglers operating near Aachen, mere miles aways... below the jump:

A Coffee-Tank:


And the obvious means of defeating them:

These pictures all came from here, where there are some more delightful shots (coffee smuggler's cyberleg!).

Here is a statue of a heroic smuggler in Baarle, sorta-Belgium:


Below is an armoured stealth boat used for luxury car smuggling in the Pearl River Delta:

See here for wonderful pictures of half a dozen different variants, and enjoy!


  1. Mind.

    Is there nothing new under the sun? This is amazing. Also weird. Butter. A grey market smuggling syndicate created by a 22c difference in the price of butter...wow...

  2. Thanks for collecting this altogether in a blog post. I just randomly stumbled upon the Hardwired Sourcebook (coincidentally after just reading the original novel last week no less) and that line sent me Googling too.

    Utterly fascinating stuff!

    I found another news article on these panzerboys from the Toledo Blade on February 25th, 1958:

    Also found out that Walter Jon Williams found out about this through Nicolas Freeling's mystery novel Gun Before Butter.

    Hope that helps!