m8 armored car



At the beginning of World War II, many of the foreign armies used armored cars extensively. The U.S. Army had not been enthusiastic about armored cars since there were plenty of tanks available which could do a better job. After several aborted attempts at designing an armored car, (The T17 was too heavy, the T17E "staghound" was rejected by the U.S. Army but used by the British) the U.S. Army settled on a Ford 6X6 design called the M8 light armored car (the British later named it the "Greyhound"). Over 8500 M8's were built between 1942 and 1943. Surprisingly, the M8 had an illustrious career in all theaters of operation especially the African and European theaters. It was used primarily for escort, patrol and reconnaissance missions.


Of the three defining characteristics of successful armored vehicles (armor, firepower, mobility), the mobility of the M8 was outstanding. It was light in weight and could attain speeds in excess of 55 MPH. The high rate of speed made it difficult for enemy gunners to acquire a target and fire. The firepower was much less formidable in the form of a 37 mm main gun and two machine guns. This made it inadequate for use as a combat/assault vehicle in the European theater. Consequently, and rather successfully, it was used as an escort and reconnaissance vehicle. However, the 37 mm gun was quite effective against Japanese armor. Being a light armored car implies light armor which, at best, provided protection against most machine gun munitions but nothing more. The vehicle was an uncomplicated design resulting in high reliability and maintainability.


The M8 armored car is a 6 wheel drive (6X6) vehicle powered by a Hercules JXD engine in the rear of the vehicle. The 6 wheel arrangement yields exceptional stability at speeds near 55 MPH, a high speed for an armored vehicle. The transmission is a 4 speed forward, 1 speed reverse gear box with a low and high range select on the transfer case resulting in 8 speeds forward and 2 in reverse. The driver sits on the left front of the vehicle and steers with a conventional steering wheel. The shift levers are to the right of the driver but in a pattern reversed from the normal 4 speed shift pattern. The armor is steel plate, 7/8 inches thick, on the front of the vehicle and 3/8 inches thick on the sides, with welded construction. The turret is cast with a thickness of 3/4 inches. The headlights were designed to be detached and stored inside during battle operations. The 37 mm main gun is mounted in an open top cast turret which rotates under manual control with a 2 speed gear box. The .30 caliber machine gun is coaxial to the main gun. The gun sight views the target through a hole in the cast turret. Storage boxes are integral parts of the fenders. However, during combat conditions, the fenders did not appear to last long since they were easily damaged and ripped away. It was not unusual to see a seasoned M8 somewhere in Europe with all the fenders removed. The vehicle commander sits on the right side of the turret, while the gunner sits on the left side of the turret. The vehicle commander also acts as the 37 mm main gun loader. The vehicle is equipped with a syncromesh transmission, which eases shifting since double clutching is not required, as with other vehicles. The instrument cluster was somewhat sparse, in that the vehicle should at least have had a tachometer, since the engine cannot be heard over the whine of the axle differentials, transfer case and prop shaft universal joints. Hydraulically operated clutch and accelerator pedals are required because of the remote location of the engine but do pose a maintenance problem associated with hydraulic leaks. An engine priming pump is located under the instrument panel to aid in starting since the single barrel Zenith carburetor operates poorly when the engine is cold. The power plant is a 6 cylinder, in line, JXD Hercules, 320 cubic inch, 110 hp, gasoline engine. The compression ratio is 6.5 to 1, allowing operation on low octane fuels. The Hercules JX engine series were used originally as stationary power plants for pump and generator applications, but were adapted to military use, as was much of the existing civilian engine technology. It was found that tire chains helped out immensely in off road muddy conditions. Crews had to tie their duffel bags on the outside of the vehicle, since there was little room inside for much else other than the four men normally assigned to an M8.


The M8 was used in the European theaters of operation primarily for escort and reconnaissance roles. It was not unusual to see M8's being used in infantry assaults on European cities but rarely in armored attacks since many tanks were available. The M8 armored car served in the Far East and was more useful in that most of the Japanese armor was vulnerable to the 37 mm cannon. After the war, M8 armored cars acted as patrol vehicles in the occupation forces of Japan. Surprisingly, the M8 was used by many foreign armies after the war and was a popular and reliable vehicle. The two photos below taken by by CPT Bill Hinman at a Republican Guard Base North of Baghdad call Taji show an M8 in Republican Guard insignia, April, 2005.


Armored car, M8 number 8438, has survived the "scrap heap" and now lives on as a traveling museum of World War II. It is used in reenactments, public displays and various tactical battles sponsored by reenactment societies.

                     ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL DATA

                  Weight................16500 lb.
                  Length.............16 ft. 5 in.
                  Width...............8 ft. 4 in.
                  Height..............6 ft. 6 in.
                  1 37 mm Gun, M6; ammunition
                    A.P.C., M51B1, M51B2; A.P.,
                    M74; H.E., M63
                  1 caliber .30 machine gun
                  1 caliber .50 machine gun
                  Maximum speed............56 mph
                  Turning radius...........28 ft.
                  Maximum grade..............60 %

Copyright 1995 Charles C. Roberts, Jr