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The Armored Car to 1940

Design, Development, Engineering and Production

Of Armored Cars (1940-1944)

This edition, edited, annotated and illustrated by David R. Haugh

  The Davidson-Duryea three-wheel car with Colt machine gun and armored shield. This vehicle was constructed circa 1897/1898. (Photo: Author's collection)


Experimental armoring of cars began as early as 1898. The concept of the tank came from the use of armored cars during the early months of movement in World War I. During the trench stalemate of that war the armored car fell into disuse, and at the end of that war its development in America was entirely suspended.


  Only one Davidson-Cadillac armored car was completed. Photographed circa 1914 on a cross-country run, paved roads were few and far between. (Photo: Editor's collection)


In America, six armored car models were developed during the period of World War I. These were armed with caliber .30 (7.62mm) machine guns, were armored with plate averaging .2-inch (5mm) in thickness, and had an average weight of slightly over 4-tons(3632kgs)They were powered by 4-cylinder engines of about 40 horsepower, and had an average speed of about 40 miles an hour (64.4km/h). They were, in fact, trucks of commercial design, lightly armored, with improvised machine gun mounts. None were put into production and none were used in active service in France. ) [For clarity, English system fractions will be converted to decimals and followed by the nearest metric equivalent within parenthesis].


  The King armored car of 1916 was used by both the US Army and USMC. (Photo: US Army)


Typical of the state of development of that period was the White armored car of 1917. This vehicle had a road speed of 40 miles per hour (64.4km/h), and was powered by a White 4-cylinder engine of 45 horsepower. Its weight was 7,430 pounds (3373kgs), unloaded. The car had a two-wheel drive, carried two caliber .30 machine guns and a crew of three men, and the armor was of .15 to .2-inch (3.8-5mm) thickness, with riveted construction. Tires were solid. The car had a long, sloping hood over the radiator, and inclined side armor. In silhouette this car resembled later models of World War II. [All of the US armored cars of this period were gasoline powered].


Mack armored car built for the New York National Guard in 1916. Three vehicles were completed, all on different chassis, but with similar armored body. (Photo: Editor's collection)



 The White armored car of 1917, by this time American design was beginning to catch-up with the Europeans. (Photo: US Army)


Between this period of development and the next elapsed a period of ten years. Mechanization of the Army began in 1928, and twelve models of armoured cars were developed in the following six years. In this period also two models of armored cars were developed in America by commercial sources for the Persian government, and one minor development came in 1938.


During this period there was an increase in the weight, speed, armament, and engine power of successive models. Revolving turrets of manually operated type were used. The caliber .30 (7.62mm) and .50 (12.7mm) machine guns were used as armament, and toward the end of the period experiments were made with the use of the 37mm gun.


  The White Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF) design of 1918. This vehicle was only completed with wooden, mock-up, armor. (Photo: Editor's collection)


In 1932 the armored car was said to be “next to the tank, the most important mechanized vehicle with which the Ordnance Department is concerned… Present day mechanization takes the general form that the light, fast, mechanized vehicles are used by units having the tactical missions of reconnaissance and maneuver, that is, the cavalry; while heavy, slow tanks are employed for assault purposes, that is, by the infantry units.” In this statement is the clue to the shifting importance of this type of vehicle. When tanks became no longer “heavy, slow” vehicles, the armored car lost importance as it had during the period of stabilized trench warfare of World War I. When warfare again became open, the armored car again became of value and the subject of development. As a wheeled vehicle, however, its use is largely confined to roads, and roads can be mined, bombed, strafed, and blocked. The armored car, therefore, fluctuated between major and minor importance as tactical use changed, and during World War II its design and use became at one time a major perplexity of the Ordnance Department.


Of the twelve models developed during the period 1928-1934; two were very light commercial models classed as scout cars rather than armored cars, three models were developed by the Army at Holabird Quartermaster Depot, two were private commercial developments for the Persian government and the remainder were commercially developed under the guidance of the Ordnance Department.


 Car, Armored, Light, T1. Two Pontiac chassis were converted by the Ordnance Department in 1928. An interesting fact is that as originally constructed, the T1 had two (2) caliber .30 machine guns, but no armor protection. (Photo: US Army)


The very light commercial armored car developments were the Armored Cars T1 and T3. The T1, of 1928, was a Pontiac chassis with a speed of 45 miles an hour (72.4km/h), a weight of 2,600 pounds (1180kgs), with no armor and an armament of two caliber .30 machine guns. The T3, of 1932, was of the same general characteristics, and was also known as Cavalry Scout Car, T1.


 Car, Armored, T3. Sporting a rather fancy top and .25-inch (6.35mm) armor for the radiator, this vehicle was also called the Cavalry Scout Car T1. (Photo: Editor's collection)


  Car, Armored, T7. Known as the Franklin armored car, six vehicles were completed by the Holabird Quartermaster Depot using Franklin chassis. USA numbers ran from W-1310 to W-1315. (Photo: US Army)


Armored Cars T6, T7, and T8 were constructed on commercial chassis at the Holabird Quartermaster Depot. The T7, of 1929, used a Franklin chassis and engine. This car had an unloaded weight of 7,200 pounds (3269kgs), a road speed of 60 miles an hour (96.5km/h), an armor thickness of .19-inch (4.8mm), was driven from the rear axle only, and was armed with one caliber .30 machine gun mounted in an open-top revolving turret located over the rear axle. The T6, of 1932, used a Franklin chassis and engine, and had the same general characteristics as the T7 save for the turret, which carried one caliber .30 machine gun.


Car, Armored, T6. Actually completed after the T7, the T6 used a Franklin chassis as well. Only one vehicle was built, carrying USA number W-6011. (Photo: US Army)


  American La France TK-6. Built for export to Persia. (Photo: US Army)


Two armored cars were built during this period for the Persian government. The first, in 1933, was constructed by the American La France Company. This vehicle weighed 20,840 pounds (9461kgs) unloaded, had a road speed of 52.5 miles an hour (84.4km/h) forward and a speed of 23.7 miles per hour (38km/h) to the rear, had front drive [The TK-6 actually had chain drive to all four wheels, and was a 4x4 vehicle], armor of .38-inch (9.65mm) thickness, and was powered by the American La France V-12 engine. The vehicle was armed with one 37mm gun, in a manually revolved turret, having .25-inch (6.35mm) armor, and carried two 7.9mm machine guns as well. The second vehicle, made by the Marmon-Herrington Company in 1934, followed the same general characteristics as the first. This vehicle however had .25-inch (6.35mm) armor throughout and was powered by the Hercules RXC 6-cylinder gasoline engine.


  Marmon-Herrington TH310 ALF-1. Tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground, the decision was reached that while the performance of the car was excellent, the vehicle itself was too large and heavy for use by the U.S. Army. (Photo: Editor's collection)


Other developments of this period follow:

The T2 Armored Car Series of 1928 was built by the Cadillac Division of General Motors using a LaSalle sedan chassis. A road speed of 70 miles an hour (112.6km/h) was claimed for this vehicle, it had .13-inch (3.3mm) armor, was armed with one caliber .30 machine gun and two sub-machine guns, carried a crew of four men, had rear drive only, a weight of 4,850 pounds (2202kgs) unloaded, and was powered by a LaSalle V-8 engine. Further modifications of this vehicle were the T2E1, T2E2, T2E3, and T2E4 mounting various types of turret over the rear axle.


 Car, Armored, T2. Completed in 1928, four vehicles were built using the La Salle chassis. (Photo: Editor's collection)


  Car, Armored, T2E1. The T2E1 (W1303) is at the rear with the higher fighting compartment and smaller turret. The vehicle in the foreground is the T2E2 (W1300). (Photo: Editor's collection)


  Car, Armored, T2E3. On this vehicle the rear compartment has been cut down, with a roof and turret added. (Photo: Editor's collection)


The Armored Car, T10 of 1929 was built by the Willys Overland Company. This vehicle had a road speed of 60 miles an hour (96.5km/h), had .13-inch (3.3mm) armor, weighed 4,000 pounds (1816kgs) unloaded, carried a crew of three men, and was armed with one caliber .30 machine gun in a manually operated revolving open-top turret over the rear axle. The car was powered by an Overland 4-cylinder engine.


Car, Armored, T10. The T10 series was converted by the Quarter Master Corps from the commercial Willys-Overland Whippet chassis. Three T10s completed carrying USA numbers W1304 to W1306. (Photo: US Army)



  Car, Armored, T4. Two pilot T4s were completed before being standardized as the Car, Armored, M1. (Photo: Editor's collection)


The Armored Car, T4 was built by James Cunningham, Son and Company, in 1931. This vehicle was standardized as the Armored Car, M1, and several were built in 1932 at Rock Island Arsenal. The car was a 6x4 vehicle with a road speed of 54.7 miles an hour (88km/h), armor thickness of .09 to .37-inch (2.3mm – 9.4mm), a weight of 10,235 pounds (4647kgs) loaded, and was powered by a Cunningham V-8 engine. A crew of three men was carried. The armament was one caliber .50 and two caliber .30 machine guns, the heavier weapon being mounted in a revolving turret, with top, above the rear bogie.


The Armored Car, T11 and its modifications were the final results of this period of development. This car was first built in 1933 by the Four Wheel Drive Company. It had a road speed of 69.3 miles an hour (111.5km/h), an armor thickness of .19 to .25-inch (4.8 – 6.35mm), a loaded weight of 11,250 pounds (5108kgs), carried a crew of four men, and had front-wheel drive with single tires in front and dual tires in the rear. The car was powered by a Cadillac V-8 engine. The armament consisted of one caliber .50 machine gun, turret mounted, and two caliber .30 machine guns


  Car, Armored, T11. A rear engine vehicle, the original T11 was designed and built by the Four Wheel Drive Company. (Photo: US Army)


Car, Armored, T11E1. Constructed by Marmon-Herrington, a total of five T11E1s were completed. (Photo: US Army)


Car, Armored, T11E2. Only one E2 was completed, turret came from the Combat Car, T1. (Photo: US Army)


The T11E1, made by the Marmon-Herrington Company in 1934, was of substantially the same design but with .375-inch armor replacing the .25-inch armor. In the T11E2, made by the same company in 1936, .438-inch armor was used, the hull line was slightly altered, and a Hercules 6-cylinder engine replaced the Cadillac.


  The Tucker Tiger Tank photographed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in November 1938. A private venture, only the pilot vehicle was tested. (Photo: US Army)


One further commercial development of this period was the Tucker Tiger Tank, made by Preston Tucker in 1938. This vehicle had a speed of 74 miles an hour (119km/h), was designed for a crew of three men, was powered by a Packard special V-12 engine, had an armor thickness of .28 to .56-inch (7.1mm – 14.2mm), and was armed with two caliber .30 and one caliber .50 machine guns, in addition to one 37mm gun carried in a turret of bullet-proof glass mounted over the rear axle. This vehicle was also designed as a track-laying vehicle.  The requirement for all armored cars was canceled by OCM Item 13358, dated 14 January 1937.

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Copyright: David Haugh - August 2006