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The VBB-1 was a Brazilian-designed vehicle developed from 1967 in response to the needs of the Brazilian Army. It was conceived as a 4x4 vehicle with a 37mm cannon mounted in a rotating turret. The goal was to create a robust and powerful vehicle, similar to the M8 but simpler, with a crew of 3 to 4 members. The project aimed to make the most of ready-to-use components from the Brazilian automotive industry, saving costs.
Initially, there were plans to reuse the turrets from the obsolete T17 Deerhounds, but this idea was abandoned during development. The VBB-1 was inspired by the Belgian FN 4RM 62F Auto Blindée vehicle, although with some differences in the weapons used. The Brazilian doctrine at the time favored the use of 37mm weapons in reconnaissance vehicles.
The development team, led by Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Cordeiro de Mello, began the project in July 1968, with the vehicle designed to carry a crew of 4 and spare tires on the sides of the hull. Throughout development, scale models were created, with variations in the hull structure and spare tire layout. The reason for the change in spare tire arrangement may be related to the development of bulletproof tires.
The VBB-1 was not designed to be innovative but rather to meet the specific needs of the Brazilian Army, drawing inspiration from existing vehicles like the M8 Greyhound. For more information, I recommend reading the full article written by Darren Hazes on the website VBB-1 - Tank Encyclopedia
The VBB-1 hull went through several development stages. Initially, scale models were constructed, showing similarities to the M8 Greyhound, including the driver’s and assistant’s hatch styles. The overall shape of the hull, especially in the area near the turret, was simplified compared to the M8 Greyhound. The thickness of the side armor, 9.5 mm, was similar to that of the M8 Greyhound. The process of building the full-size hull took place between July and October 1968, with the Trivellato company in charge of construction. Interestingly, the hull was initially designed for flat tires, but the VBB-1 was delivered with spare tires. The concept vehicle with flat-rolling tires was photographed in April 1969, and the first flat-rolling tires were manufactured in March 1969. The team responsible for the project likely chose to cut the sides of the hull to accommodate spare tires instead of waiting for the delivery of flat-rolling tires to advance the vehicle’s development more efficiently. The exact reason for this decision is unknown.
The VBB-1 underwent a transition regarding its spare tire concept. The initial version with spare tires mounted on the sides was completed sometime between January and March 1969. In 1969, the vehicle with spare tires was presented to the Army and underwent shooting tests in this configuration. However, in March 1969, the first flat-running tires were developed, and in April of the same year, the VBB-1 was photographed without the spare tires. Most of the VBB-1 components were in advanced stages of development by October 1968, including the turret, hull, and engine. Mercedes-Benz played a key role in supplying engines, transmissions, and a special differential for the vehicle. The complete VBB-1 with spare tires was delivered to the army in the first quarter of 1969 and underwent testing, although the specific nature of these tests is unclear. In March 1969, Novatração’s flat-running tires were completed, and in April of the same year, the VBB-1 was seen without the spare tires.
The VBB-1, a Brazilian military vehicle, had the following specifications:
- Weight: 7 tons (7.7 tons in the USA).
- Length: 5 meters (16.4 feet).
- Width: 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).
- Height: 2.3 meters (7.55 feet), excluding the .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the turret.
The design of the VBB-1 was inspired by the M8 Greyhound, a reconnaissance vehicle, and as such, its crew was positioned similarly to the M8. The VBB-1 was operated by a four-member crew, including the commander, gunner, driver, and co-driver. The commander likely served as the loader, similar to the M8. The co-driver may have also acted as a radio operator, although it is unconfirmed whether the VBB-1 already had a radio set installed.
The VBB-1 had a steel hull with a design similar to the M8 Greyhound, featuring two main sections: a large lower hull and a complex upper structure containing hatches and the turret mount. Specific armor details were unknown, but it likely resembled the M8’s armor due to matching model values. The front armor was sloped at about 60 degrees, while the sides inclined inward at the bottom of the hull. A pyramid-like structure on the left side protected spare tires from frontal fire but might have been removed for mass production. The driver and co-driver were placed at the front, the turret in the middle, and the engine at the rear. The vehicle had lights, a .30 caliber machine gun, and tools, with extinguished lights at the rear.
The VBB-1 was powered by a 120 hp 6-cylinder OM-321 diesel engine built by Mercedes-Benz. This gave the vehicle a top speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) and an operational range of 1,200 km (746 miles). It had a turning radius of 7 meters (7.7 yards) and could climb a slope of 60 degrees. The transmission and differential were also produced by Mercedes-Benz, while the gearbox was built by Engesa. The VBB-1 used hydraulic steering. The vehicle was a 4x4, which meant that each wheel could support approximately 1.75 tons (1.93 U.S. tons). The VBB-1 used 4 flat-rolling tires, developed and manufactured by Novatração. They had a diameter of about 1 meter and used the 9.00 x 20 tire size, which was also used for the M8 Greyhound.
The VBB-1 turret was a modification of the M8 Greyhound turret and was not open; it was enclosed. It featured a small front platform where the mount for the .50 caliber machine gun was installed. The turret had two rear hatches that folded forward, as well as vision blocks on the sides and rear that could be opened as needed. The armor thickness of the turret is not known, but as it was a copy of the M8 turret, it was likely similar. The VBB-1 also underwent armor tests in which the turret was hit by .50 caliber and 37mm ammunition at various distances, demonstrating its ability to withstand attacks from these weapons.
The VBB-1 was armed with an M6 37mm cannon as its main artillery piece, potentially adopted from the T17 Deerhound. This 37mm cannon had a total length of 2.1 meters, with a barrel length of 1.98 meters. It had the capability to fire M51 APC ammunition, which could penetrate up to 53mm at a distance of 455 meters and 46mm at 915 meters, both at a 30-degree angle. In addition to the 37mm cannon, the VBB-1 was equipped with a .30 caliber M1919A4 machine gun located on the right side of the hull and operated by the co-pilot, as well as a .50 caliber M2 machine gun mounted on the turret. However, details about the available ammunition for the VBB-1 were not specified.
Blindados no Brasil – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos
VBB-1 - Tank Encyclopedia