A military armored (or armoured) car is a lightweight wheeled armored
fighting vehicle, historically employed for reconnaissance, internal
security, armed escort, and other subordinate battlefield tasks.
With the gradual decline of mounted cavalry, armored cars were
developed for carrying out duties formerly assigned to horsemen.
Following the invention of the tank, the armored car remained popular
due to its comparatively simplified maintenance and low production
cost. It also found favor with several colonial armies as a cheaper
weapon for use in underdeveloped regions. During World War II, most
armored cars were engineered for reconnaissance and passive
observation, while others were devoted to communications tasks. Some
equipped with heavier armament could even substitute for tracked
combat vehicles in favorable conditions—such as pursuit or flanking
maneuvers during the North African Campaign.
World War II
World War II the traditional functions of the armored car have
been occasionally combined with that of the armored personnel carrier,
resulting in such multipurpose designs as the
BTR-40 or the Cadillac
Gage Commando. Postwar advances in recoil control technology have
also made it possible for a few armored cars, including the B1
AMX-10RC and EE-9 Cascavel, to carry large cannon
capable of threatening many tanks.
1.2 Armed car
1.3 First armored cars
1.4 World War I
1.5 World War II
2 Military use
2.1 Scout cars
3 See also
During the Middle Ages, war wagons covered with steel plate, and
crewed by men armed with primitive hand cannon, flails and muskets,
were used by the
Hussite rebels in Bohemia. These were deployed in
formations where the horses and oxen were at the centre, and the
surrounding wagons were chained together as protection from enemy
cavalry. Similar wagons were used by the English army of Henry
VIII, and by the Chinese Empire.
With the invention of the steam engine, Victorian inventors designed
prototype self-propelled armored vehicles for use in sieges, although
none were deployed in combat. H. G. Wells' short story The Land
Ironclads provides a fictionalised account of their use.
F.R. Simms' Motor Scout, built in 1898 as an armed car.
Motor Scout was designed and built by British inventor F.R. Simms
in 1898. It was the first armed petrol engine-powered vehicle ever
built. The vehicle was a
De Dion-Bouton quadricycle with a mounted
Maxim machine gun on the front bar. An iron shield in front of the car
protected the driver.
Another early armed car was invented by
Royal Page Davidson
Royal Page Davidson at
Northwestern Military and Naval Academy in 1898 with the
Davidson-Duryea gun carriage
Davidson-Duryea gun carriage and the later Davidson Automobile Battery
However, these were not 'armored cars' as the term is understood
today, as they provided little or no protection for their crews from
enemy fire. They were also, by virtue of their small capacity engines,
less efficient than the cavalry and horse-drawn guns that they were
intended to complement.
First armored cars
At the beginning of the 20th century, the first military armored
vehicles were manufactured, by adding armor and weapons to existing
F.R. Simms' 1902 Motor War Car, the first armored car to be built.
The first armored car was the Simms' Motor War Car, designed by F.R.
Simms and built by Vickers, Sons & Maxim of Barrow on a special
Coventry-built Daimler chassis with a German-built Daimler motor in
1899. and a single prototype was ordered in April 1899 The
prototype was finished in 1902, too late to be used during the Boer
The vehicle had Vickers armour 6 mm thick and was powered by a
four-cylinder 3.3-litre 16-hp Cannstatt Daimler engine, giving it a
maximum speed around 9 miles per hour (14 kilometres per hour). The
armament, consisting of two Maxim guns, was carried in two turrets
with 360° traverse. It had a crew of four. Simms' Motor War
Car was presented at the Crystal Palace, London, in April 1902.
The earliest French armored car - the Charron-Girardot-Voigt 1902.
Another early armored car of the period was the French Charron,
Girardot et Voigt 1902, presented at the Salon de l'Automobile et du
cycle in Brussels, on 8 March 1902. The vehicle was equipped with
a Hotchkiss machine gun, and with 7 mm armour for the
One of the first operational armoured cars with four wheel (4x4) drive
and fully enclosed rotating turret, was the
Austro-Daimler in 1904. It was armoured with 3-3.5 mm
thick curved plates over the body (drive space and engine) and had a
4mm thick dome-shaped rotating turret that housed one or two
machine-guns. It had a 4-cylinder 35 hp 4.4 litre engine giving
it average cross country performance. Of note, both the driver and
co-driver had adjustable seats enabling them to raise them to see out
of the roof of the drive compartment as needed.
Austro-Daimler four-wheel-drive Armoured Car (1904)
The Italians used armored cars during the Italo-Turkish War. A
great variety of armored cars appeared on both sides during World War
I and these were used in various ways.
World War I
Generally, the armored cars were used by more or less independent car
commanders. However, sometimes they were used in larger units up to
squadron size. The cars were primarily armed with light machine guns,
but larger units usually employed a few cars with heavier guns. As air
power became a factor, armored cars offered a mobile platform for
Rolls-Royce Armoured Car
Rolls-Royce Armoured Car 1920 pattern
The first effective use of an armored vehicle in combat was achieved
Belgian Army in August–September 1914. They had placed
Cockerill armour plating and a
Hotchkiss machine gun
Hotchkiss machine gun on Minerva
Armored Cars. Their successes in the early days of the war convinced
the Belgian GHQ to create a Corps of Armoured Cars, who would be sent
to fight on the Eastern front once the western front immobilized after
the Battle of the Yser.
Belgium Minerva Armored car 1914.
Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service dispatched aircraft to Dunkirk to
defend the UK from Zeppelins. The officers' cars followed them and
these began to be used to rescue downed reconnaissance pilots in the
battle areas. They mounted machine guns on them and as these
excursions became increasingly dangerous, they improvised boiler plate
armoring on the vehicles provided by a local shipbuilder. In London
Murray Sueter ordered "fighting cars" based on Rolls-Royce, Talbot and
Wolseley chassis. By the time Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars arrived in
December 1914, the mobile period on the Western Front was already
over. As described below, they had a fascinating birth and long
and interesting service.
More tactically important was the development of formed units of
armored cars, such as the Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade,
which was the first fully mechanized unit in the history of the
British Army. The brigade was established on September 2, 1914 in
Ottawa, as Automobile Machine Gun Brigade No. 1 by Brigadier-General
Raymond Brutinel. The Brigade was originally equipped with 8 Armoured
Autocars mounting 2 machine guns. By 1918 Brutinel's force consisted
of two Motor Machine Gun Brigades (each of five gun batteries
containing eight weapons apiece). The brigade, and its armored
cars, provided yeoman service in many battles, notably at Amiens.
Rolls-Royce Armoured Car
Rolls-Royce Armoured Car was famously proposed, developed, and
utilised by the 2nd Duke of Westminster. He took a squadron of
these cars to France in time to make a noted contribution to the
Second Battle of Ypres, and thereafter the cars with their master were
sent to the
Middle East to play a part in the British campaign in
Palestine and elsewhere. These cars appear in the memoirs of numerous
officers of the BEF during the earlier stages of the Great War - their
ducal master often being described in an almost piratical style.
Armored cars also saw action on the Eastern Front. From 18 February -
26 March, 1915, the German army under General Max von Gallwitz
attempted to break through the Russian lines in and around the town of
Przasnysz, Poland (about 110 km / 68 miles north of Warsaw) during the
Przasnysz (Polish: Bitwa przasnyska). Near the end of the
battle, the Russians used four
Russo-Balt armored cars and a
Mannesmann-MULAG armored car to break through the Germans' lines and
force the Germans to retreat.
World War II
American troops in an
M8 Greyhound passing the
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe after
the liberation of Paris.
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force (RAF) in the
Middle East was equipped with
Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars and Morris tenders. Some of these vehicles
were among the last of a consignment of ex-
Royal Navy armored cars
that had been serving in the
Middle East since 1915. In September
1940 a section of the No. 2 Squadron RAF Regiment Company was detached
to General Wavell’s ground forces during the first offensive against
the Italians in Egypt. It is said[by whom?] that these armored cars
became ‘the eyes and ears of Wavell’. During the actions in the
October of that year the Company was employed on convoy escort tasks,
airfield defense, fighting reconnaissance patrols and screening
Fordson armoured car waits outside
Baghdad while negotiations
for an armistice take place between British officials and
representatives of the Iraqi rebel government.
During the Anglo-Iraqi War, some of the units located in the British
Mandate of Palestine were sent to Iraq and drove
cars. "Fordson" armored cars were Rolls-Royce armored cars which
received new chassis from a
Fordson truck in Egypt.
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles did not mention armored cars, Germany
began developing them early. By the start of the new war, the German
army possessed some highly effective reconnaissance vehicles, such as
the Schwerer Panzerspähwagen.
BA-64 was influenced by a captured Leichter
Panzerspähwagen before it was first tested in January 1942.
In the second half of the war, the American
M8 Greyhound and the
British Daimler Armoured Cars featured turrets mounting light guns
(40 mm or less). As with other wartime armored cars, their
reconnaissance roles emphasized greater speed and stealth than a
tracked vehicle could provide, so their limited armor, armament and
off-road capabilities were seen as acceptable compromises.
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See also: List of military armored cars
A preserved, World War 2, American M3 Scout Car
A military armored car is a type of armored fighting vehicle having
wheels (from four to ten large, off-road wheels) instead of tracks,
and usually light armor. Armored cars are typically less expensive and
on roads have better speed and range than tracked military vehicles.
They do however have less mobility as they have less off-road
capabilities because of the higher ground pressure. They also have
less obstacle climbing capabilities than tracked vehicles. Wheels are
more vulnerable to enemy fire than tracks, they have a higher
signature and in most cases less armor than comparable tracked
vehicles. As a result, they are not intended for heavy fighting; their
normal use is for reconnaissance, command, control, and
communications, or for use against lightly armed insurgents or
rioters. Only some are intended to enter close combat, often
accompanying convoys to protect soft-skinned vehicles.
Light armored cars, such as the British Ferret are armed with just a
machine gun. Heavier vehicles are armed with autocannon or a large
caliber gun. The heaviest armored cars, such as the German, World War
SdKfz 234 or the modern, US M1128 Mobile Gun System, mount the
same guns that arm medium tanks.
Vehicle built by railway shop workers for the Danish resistance
movement, near the end of World War 2
Armored cars are popular for peacekeeping or internal security duties.
Their appearance is less confrontational and threatening than tanks,
and their size and maneuverability is said to be more compatible with
tight urban spaces designed for wheeled vehicles. However, they do
have a larger turning radius compared to tracked vehicles which can
turn on the spot and their tires are vulnerable and are less capable
in climbing and crushing obstacles. Further, when there is true combat
they are easily outgunned and lightly armored. The threatening
appearance of a tank is often enough to keep an opponent from
attacking, whereas a less threatening vehicle such as an armored car
is more likely to be attacked.
Many modern forces now have their dedicated armored car designs, to
exploit the advantages noted above. Examples would be the M1117
Armored Security Vehicle of the USA or
Alvis Saladin of the post-World
War II era in the United Kingdom.
Alternatively, civilian vehicles may be modified into improvised
armored cars in ad hoc fashion. Many militias and irregular forces
adapt civilian vehicles into AFVs (armored fighting vehicles) and
troop carriers, and in some regional conflicts these "technicals" are
the only combat vehicles present. On occasion, even the soldiers of
national militaries are forced to adapt their civilian-type vehicles
for combat use, often using improvised armor and scrounged weapons.
Main article: Scout car
In the 1930s, a new sub-class of armored car emerged in the United
States, known as the scout car. This was a compact light armored car
which was either unarmed or armed only with machine guns for
self-defense. Scout cars were designed as purpose-built
reconnaissance vehicles for passive observation and intelligence
gathering. Armored cars which carried large caliber, turreted
weapons systems were not considered scout cars. The concept gained
popularity worldwide during
World War II
World War II and was especially favored in
nations where reconnaissance theory emphasized passive observation
Examples of armored cars also classified as scout cars include the
BRDM series, the British Ferret, the Brazilian EE-3 Jararaca,
the Hungarian D-442 FÚG, and the American Cadillac Gage Commando
A preserved, World War II, German SdKfz 234/4 heavy armored car
Tank Museum, 2006)
Armored personnel carrier
Armored car (VIP)
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Hussite war wagon
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^ Gougaud, p.11-12
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^ Crow, Encyclopedia of Armored Cars, pg. 102
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^ Lyman, Iraq 1941, pg. 40
^ Lyman, p. 57
^ Lyman, Iraq 1941, pg. 25
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