AEC Armoured Car Mk I
Vehicle design and service history:
The AEC Armoured Car was a series of British Heavy armoured cars built by the Associated Equipment Company (AEC) during the Second World War. The armoured car was designed based on experience gained by the British in the Western Desert against Italian armoured cars, as at the time British armoured cars were only armed with light and heavy machine guns, resulting in captured Italian and German autocannons being mounted on vehicles in order for them to effectively engage enemy reconnaissance vehicles.
The Daimler Armoured Car was currently under development at the time, armed with the 40mm 2-pounder, as used on British tanks at the time, but no armoured cars were envisioned with the armour to go along with the armament of a tank. Because of this AEC undertook the development of a private venture for a vehicle based off one of their artillery tractor lorries, which would have armour directly equivalent to the contemporary cruiser tanks in service at the time. The Matador artillery chassis was initially developed for towing medium field and heavy anti-aircraft guns and was based on AEC’s previous experience manufacturing truck and bus chassis.
Using this chassis as a base, a mock up armoured car was presented to officials in 1941 during a horse guards parade in London, where it made a favourable impression with Winston Churchill, who requested an initial contract for 120 vehicles, which would lead to 629 being produced from 1942 to 43.
AEC aimed to build an armoured car with protection to match its firepower, and as such the first version mounted the same turret as the Valentine Mk II infantry tank, including the 2-pounder gun. This would be supplemented by a single Besa machine gun, a 2-inch bomb thrower/ smoke grenade discharger, a no.19 radio set and a Bren light machine gun for defence against enemy aircraft. The driver was provided with two periscopes for vision when buttoned up; otherwise, in a non-combat situation, he could raise his seat to see over the glacis, by poking his head out of the top hatch. The engine was also mounted in a downwards angle to reduce the angle of transfer on the shafts, which heighted the rear hull deck, though in normal road operation only the front wheels were driven, as to not cause undue wear on the chassis.
The turret was electrically driven with a manual traverse option, allowing rapid target acquisition whilst in combat, though the armament was soon deemed insufficient and further improvements were requested which would lead in to the later Mk II and Mk III variants of the AEC after 129 MK I armoured cars had been manufactured. Despite this small production run, the MK I was first used in combat in the North African Campaign late in 1942, before being replaced by later variants for the fighting in Europe with both the British and British Indian Army often in consort with American-supplied Staghound armoured cars.
Mass 11 long tons (12 short tons; 11 t)
Length 17 ft (5.2 m)
Width 9 ft (2.7 m)
Height 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)
Armour 16–65 mm (0.63–2.56 in)
Main armament QF 2 pounder
Secondary armament 1 × Besa machine gun
1 × Bren light machine gun
Engine AEC 195 diesel 105 bhp (78 kW)
Power/weight 9.5 hp/tonne
Suspension wheel 4×4
Operational range 250 mi (400 km)
Maximum speed 36 mph (58 km/h)
Additional historical photos:
- AEC Armoured Car - Wikipedia (wiki page for the class)
- WarWheels.Net-AEC Mark 1 Armored Car Index (Additional info)
- WarWheels.Net - AEC Armored Car Mark 1 Stowage Diagrams (Stowage diagrams for the MK I)