WWI French Armored Cars

Filtz Armored Tractor

ww1 French Tanks France (1915)
Armored Tractor – 10 Built

It was not long into World War One before the dynamic movement of armies ground to a halt as both sides dug in for a war which was to become synonymous with slaughter. The greatest factors in producing this stalemate, a situation which remained virtually unchanged on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918, was the modernization of weaponry which took place at the end of the 19th Century. The modern machine gun and artillery, combined with thick belts of barbed wire, meant that neither side’s infantry could cross no man’s land without incurring horrendous casualties or hold onto territory they gained across the wire.
A new type of weapon was being born out of the simple necessity to beat the effects of the wire on the troops and, whilst this would eventually result in the tank, there were numerous steps and missteps in the evolution towards that weapon.


The French were pioneers in armored warfare and had armored cars before the start of what would be World War I. These cars were basically commercial motor vehicles onto which a little armor (mostly bulletproof) was added. These were well suited for patrolling what roads there were but wholly unsuited to even moderately wet or boggy ground, let alone ground covered with wire entanglements. Tractors, on the other hand, were still wheeled but were well known as being able to cross muddy fields by virtue of the large wheels spreading the weight of the vehicle. It is no surprise therefore that the French, in the early era of developing armored vehicles, sought to use tractors for a variety of purposes.
The tractor building firm of Georges Filtz produced agricultural equipment before the war and, in January 1915, Filtz’s ideas about using his tractors were taken by General Curmer to General Joffre. These ideas basically revolved around using an existing, tried and proven vehicle, cheaply fitted with armor to crush its way through the wire. The idea had significant appeal to Joffre and was approved for tests.

Believed to be the original Filtz armored tractor, this vehicle retains the open web tractor wheels, a different position of view slits, and no vision flaps other than at the front. The roof hatch also lacks the triangular section to hold it open at an angle. Source: Chars Francis via the Vauvillier and Danjou collections


Construction of the machine was undertaken by the Technical Engineering Section (STG) and involved reversing the tractor. The large diameter rear wheels would become the front wheels and, accordingly, the small pair of front wheels would become the rear wheels. This kept the engine at the front, where it was protected by a square-shaped steel bonnet followed by a fighting compartment made from a much larger box shape of steel sat at the back, where there was enough room to stand. Initially, the vehicle retained its open web type steel wheels at the front and back. Later, these would be covered over with steel covers hiding the spokes.

Believed to be the first Filtz armored tractor, this retouched image still shows the open web wheels. Note: a ‘mirrored version of this IMAGE has also appeared in print later but this is believed to be the original facing left to right. Source: Granier
The main cab, made from 10 flat panels of bulletproof steel up to 12mm thick, was riveted to a steel frame and surmounted by a slightly angled roof at the front, which then descended steeply as the bodyline tapered towards the rear. At the rear, over the pair of solid wheels which had been fitted with a circumferential solid rubber tire, was a rectangular door. This door served as the only access to and from the vehicle. A single flap inside the door served for ventilation and also seeing backward. Two vision slits were provided in each side of the cab, at the back and two more, fitted with armored flaps, were fitted on the corners of the front. The flat front of the cab had a single light machine gun, mounted centrally, flanked by two horizontal rectangular visions ports, each with its own protective flap.

No proper roof hatch or periscopes were fitted, meaning all visibility had to be done ‘buttoned up’ via these slots. The only roof access was by means of an unusual square flap in the back, over the door. Folded back, it would remain at an angle of about 45 degrees to the horizontal, unable to go flat due to a small triangular section between the hinges. This triangular section held up the hatch meaning that one man, and it can be speculated that this was for the commander, to sit out of the roof to get a better view ahead. Although this would be suicidal in combat, it would be useful behind the lines and also provide a lot of ventilation into the stuffy compartment.

The unusual roof hatch at the back open (left) and closed (right). Note the chain steering system connected to the rear wheels as well. Source: Chars Francais

The engine remained unchanged from the standard 45hp and was protected under an armored box with a simple overlapping set of horizontal panels at the front to protect the radiator. There are no apparent ventilation grilles on the vehicle, suggesting that air for the engine was simply drawn in from underneath the bonnet. The position of the exhaust is unclear but presumably was underneath. Steering was done by means of chains running from the front of the cab, underneath the cab and to the small wheels at the back.
At the back end of the sides of the engine armor, there were two doors, each of which allowed for access to the mechanicals of the vehicle. A flat rectangular plate hung down from the front, under the radiator armor and allowed for the fitting of an angled steel picket to be fitted which was intended to force barbed wire down underneath the vehicle or snap.

Filtz tractor named ‘La Foudroyante’, showing the later type of solid wheels. No armament or wire cutter bar is fitted. Source: Chars Francais via Touzin collection (left)

Illustration of the Flitz Armored Tractor, produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Spring 1915

The finished Filtz armored tractor was ready for presentation in February 1915 and an order for 10 vehicles was placed the following month, to be ready by summer. By the summer of 1915, other better ideas had emerged for breaching enemy wire, using tracked machines rather than wheeled machines or repurposed agricultural equipment. The 10 vehicles ordered were duly delivered by July 1915, but tests of them showed the importance of the work on tracked vehicles.

Filtz tractor with a machine gun fitted undergoing tests through a barbed-wire entanglement. Source: Chars Francais
Despite showing some potential, these Filtz tractors proved hopeless. The large wheels were still unable to provide enough traction in soft mud, especially with the added weight of the armor and obviously could not cross trenches or shell craters without getting stuck. They could crush down wire well though, as long as it was tight enough to cause it to snap, a loose wire would simply foul on the machine.

A group of three Filtz tractors, one facing away from the camera. No weapons can be seen and one displays the registration number 37456. The vehicle further from the camera shows the name ‘JOFTRINE’. Note that the middle vehicle is also lacking the wire-crushing bar under the radiator. Source: Chars Francis via Casaubon collection


Despite having proven somewhat hopeless for the role for which they were designed, nonetheless, the machines found use. In August that year, despite their failing, in the absence of alternative vehicles, they were issued to the French 4th and 10th Armies for use in combat in the region of Verdun. Attempts to use them in combat, however, were fruitless. They were unable to cross the terrain without getting stuck and were withdrawn to work behind the lines without having fired a shot in anger.


Behind the lines, these vehicles found use hauling supplies and unditching other vehicles which had got stuck, but they never saw combat and were eventually scrapped. On a hard surface, they proved adequate, able to maintain speeds of up to 7 to 9 mph (11.3 to 14.5 km/h) in either direction but were, therefore, worse than a normal armored car. Off-road, they were worse than a tracked vehicle, and thus, the Filtz tractors, a promising idea to begin with, proved inadequate, just another small misstep on the road to effective armored fighting vehicles for the French Army.

A Filtz tractor in use behind the lines providing a good view of the front of the cab and radiator. The wire-crushing bar is still fitted. Source: unknown


Dimensions (L-W-H) 3.8 x 1.4 x 1.6 meters
Propulsion 45hp, unknown type
Speed 7 to 9 mph (11.3 to 14.5 km/h)
Armament 1x machine gun
Armor 8 – 12 mm
Total Production 10


Chars Francais, Tracteur Cuirasse Filtz
Granier, V. (1919). Les etapes successives de l’arme victorieuse: Le tank. La Science et la Vie No.44
Scientific American (1919). Inventions that Won the War.
Vauvallier, F. (2014). The Encyclopedia of French Tanks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles: 1914-1940. Histoire and Collections.
Zaloga, S. (2010). French Tanks of World War 1. Osprey Publications

WWI French Armored Cars WWI Spanish Armor

Blindado Schneider-Brillié

ww1 French armor ww1 Spanish armor France/Kingdom of Spain (1910-15)
Armored Car – 2 Built

Not long after the invention of the automobile, the concept was adapted and put to use for military objectives, first for the transport of troops and supplies, and later, when equipped with armor and weapons, for fighting purposes. One of the first examples, dating from before the Great War, was the French Schneider-Brillié, developed from a Parisian bus, and used by the Spanish army in Morocco.

A postcard of the Schneider P2-4000 bus on which the armored car was based – Photo: SOURCE

Context – A Vehicle for Morocco

Following defeat by the United States in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the loss of its Caribbean and Pacific colonies, Spain’s colonial attentions shifted to North Africa. Colonial tensions between Britain, France, and Germany had led to Spain being given part of North Morocco, commonly known as the Rif, which added to the small enclaves it already had in the region as part of the Treaty of Algeciras of 1906. Soon after, rich minerals were discovered in the area, and French and Spanish companies rushed to exploit these riches and began to build railways to connect the mines and quarries to the coastal ports.

This aroused local opposition and, on July 9th 1909, a series of assassinations of Spanish workers and citizens in the area began. In response, Spain declared war, and thus began the Melilla War (July-December 1909). Initially, Spain responded by sending reservists, which created problems at home, such as the social unrest during la Semana Trágica de Barcelona, in which 78 people died and over 500 were injured or wounded. By the end of November 1909, Spain would win the war, but would do so unconvincingly. After a few more concessions and the creation of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, war would break out again in June 1911.

The first quarter of the Twentieth century saw world-wide attempts to adapt vehicles for military use and Spain was not going to be left behind.
In March 1909, two unarmored Schneider-Brillié trucks were bought by the Spanish Army from the French Schneider company following a Royal Decree in November 1908. This purchase was part of a plan to buy vehicles for the artillery section of the army, in which two S.A.G. trucks and a Berliet car were also bought for the total sum of 160,000 pesetas. The two vehicles were given to the Comisión de Experiencias de Artillería [Artillery Testing Commission] and were given ‘Artillería nº4’ and ‘Artillería nº5’ as their number-plates. The two vehicles may have been transferred to either Ceuta or Melilla during the Melilla War, and there may have been a third unarmored Brillié bought in 1909.

A Suitable Candidate

In 1909, with views to acquire a suitable vehicle for the ongoing war in Melilla, a report was commissioned through the Real Orden Circular (R.O.C.) de 16 de Febrero [Order with Royal grant] by the Comisión de Experiencias de Artillería [Artillery Experiences Commission]. The report studied seven vehicle proposals from different European companies including: Armstrong Whitworth, Hotchkiss, Maudslay Motor Company, Rheinische Metallwaren und Maschinenfabrik (RMM), Schneider-Brillié, Süddeutsche Automobilfabrik Gaggenau (SAG), and Thornycroft. In the end, the Schneider proposal was recommended.
By the end of the year, the purchase was authorized by the king, Alfonso XIII, and a budget was approved on December 11th, 1909 despite the fact that the Melilla War, the conflict for which the vehicle was being purchased, was about to end. An initial example cost 33,000 French Francs (27,000 pesetas) and was delivered by train to the border city of Irún on June 20th, 1909, subsequently being moved to the Escuela Central de Tiro [shooting range school] of Madrid on 30th. The reason for the delay in the delivery of the single example was that it was the first order for this vehicle Schneider had received and so they did not have the experience building it.
The vehicle was given ‘Aut. M. nº15’ as its number-plate and between July and December 1910 it was trialed as part of the Brigada Automovilista [Automobile Brigade]. These trials included several on-road and off-road trips to Segovia, over 70km (~45 miles) away. The results during the trials were so satisfactory that halfway through, in October, the purchase of a second example was authorized. However, for no apparent reason, the contract would not be signed until March 3rd, 1911 and the vehicle, given ‘Aut. M. nº19’ as its number-plate, would not arrive in Madrid until September 23rd, 1911.

‘Nº15’ being transported atop a rail truck. This photo was most likely taken in Morocco – Photo: SOURCE


The two examples had slight differences in the exterior, but the interiors were much the same. Both were built over the chassis of a Schneider P2-4000 bus, which was a common sight on the Parisian streets at the time. Inside, there were three different sections within two compartments. A frontal section divided into two parts. The frontmost was reserved for the driver and the officer in command and the engine, with a fighting and troop transport section directly behind it. At the rear, there was a compartment for ammunition and other loads with a total weight capacity of up to 1,500kg, though some contemporary sources state that as much as 2,500kg-3,000kg. The fighting section had four wide ‘letterbox’ hatches on each side at two different levels from which the soldiers inside could fire with rifles or machine guns. There was an additional hatch on each side of the driver’s section plus two frontal ones. These were mainly for the driver and commander to know in which direction they were going, though, they could have also been used to fire from if necessary. Above all these sections was a hinged-three-panel roof on each side, allowing the vehicle to be opened in the North African heat and providing another firing option. In the middle section there were benches on either side for the troops to sit on whilst on the move, but these could also be folded during combat operations.
Armor-wise, 6mm steel shield plates covered the original chassis and were supposed to offer protection against 8mm Lebel Model 1886 rifle bullets (the basic French infantry weapon at the onset of the Great War) from a distance of 148m or further.
The vehicle had a 4-cylinder 40hp Brillié engine with 800-1,000 rpm with a bore of 125mm and a stroke of 140mm and being able to deliver 40 brake hp. The gearbox had three forward gears and a reverse one. At 1000 rpm top speed in first gear, the Schneider-Brillié could move at a maximum of 5.65km/h, 11.3km/h in second gear, and 20.2km/h in third gear. The fuel tanks held up to 100 liters and were fed with petrol or benzene (a coal-tar product blended with petrol to be used as fuel). Without a payload, the car used 35-40 liters of fuel to travel 100 km, whilst with a payload, 73-77 liters were needed to travel the same distance.
Both vehicles were initially unarmed, but, prior to being sent to Morocco, they were equipped each with two 7mm Vickers machine guns adapted to Spanish cartridges. Photographic evidence would suggest that the machine guns did not sit on any fixed mounting point, but were kept inside and moved around depending on the situation. The four wheels were made out of wood with solid rubber tires.
The vehicle weighed 5.9 tonnes, which, along with a maximum payload of 3.45 tonnes, resulted in a combined weight of 9.35 tonnes. The pressure on the front wheels was 3.15 tonnes whilst the back wheels bore 6.2 tonnes. The wheels have a diameter of 94cm and were equipped with covers, with the two on the front being removable.

Another photo of ‘nº15’. This photo shows the Vickers machine gun being fired from a rear facing ‘letter-box’. This would probably be one of the least effective firing positions given that gun depression would be severely limited given the length of the vehicle – Photo: SOURCE
The principal differences were on the outside. Although both were covered all around by a 5-6mm thick steel plate, enough to provide defense from Riffian rifle fire, the way these plates were laid varied slightly. ‘Nº 15’s’ front consisted of two parts, a straight plate where the radiator grille could be found and a second plate reaching the full height of the vehicle at a ~45º angle, making it slightly taller than ‘nº19’. The second example, ‘nº19’, had a front consisting of three parts: a grille plate very similar to that of ‘nº15’, a second plate at quite a pronounced (~15º) inwards inclination, and finally, a 90º plate all the way to the top with hinged holes for the pilot and commander to view from.
In addition, it seems that from the very beginning, ‘nº19’ had three headlamps at its front, whilst ‘nº15’ had had them removed by the time it arrived in Morocco or had them removed whilst being transported. The two on either side were most likely acetylene type headlamps, whilst the middstop lampas a movable stoplamp which would have been very useful in counter-insurgency operations.
Given the differences, in some sources, ‘nº15’ is described as Schneider-Brillié 1st Type and ‘nº19’as Schneider-Brillié 2nd Type. Furthermore, the vehicles are sometimes named Schneider-Brillié M1912, which would make sense given Spanish armored vehicles nomenclature between 1910 and 1930 (as for example ‘Camiones Protegidos Modelo 1921 or M1921/M-21).

The most famous picture of ‘nº15’. In this picture, it is equipped with the front headlamps and a horn. The ‘letter-boxes’ are open allowing for rifle and machine gun fire. This picture was apparently taken in the Madrid military camp of Campamento in the winter of 1910 or 1911 – Photo: Villatoro

Similarly, the most famous picture of ‘nº19’ with the different style front. Note that this version lacks a horn – Photo: SOURCE

Illustration of the Schneider-Brillié ‘nº15’, Spain’s first armored vehicle. 

Illustration of the Schneider-Brillié ‘nº19’. Both illustrations by Mr. C. Ryan, funded by our Patron Golum through our Patreon Campaign.

Operations in Morocco

In January 1912, with the new war in Morocco having been going on since the previous June, both vehicles were sent to Morocco, arriving in Melilla on the 17th. ‘Nº15’ was assigned to the Primera Brigada Automovilística [First Automobile Brigade] and ‘nº19’ to the Segunda Brigada Automovilística [Second Automobile Brigade].

‘Nº15’ after it arrived in the port of Melilla surrounded by many curious onlookers. Note the headlamps and horn are missing, as they may have been removed for transport – Photo: SOURCE
Both were used for protecting camps, surveillance, convoy escort, transport of wounded troops, and for offensive combat operations, as the circumstances dictated. On January 20th, ‘nº15’ went on an expedition towards Nador, 16km outside Melilla, and three days later, on the 23rd, it would go to Zeluán. Unfortunately, more details about their use are unknown.

Their operational use in Morocco would be of historical significance, as it was one of the first uses of an automobile-like armored car in warfare.
At the end of the Kert Campaign, just before the start of the Great War, both were taken to Ceuta. In 1915, ‘nº15’ was stripped of its armor and used as a normal cargo lorry. The other vehicle, ‘nº19’, was taken to Tetuán, in northernmost Morocco, to be used as a mobile fort, before being taken back to the Escuela Central de Tiro in Madrid where it was presumably scrapped.

Local North African males pose next to ‘nº15’. The photo was probably taken in or around Melilla in winter 1912 – Photo: SOURCE


The Schneider-Brillié proved to be highly effective in the North African conflict and would motivate the adoption of more armored cars in the following decade. Although the armored car was a relatively new invention, it was here to stay, not only with the Spanish armed forces, but around the world. However, it was not without flaws. It was a crude design and not built for a conflict in North Africa. The vehicle’s plans stipulated that 14 crewmember and passengers could be carried, but the desert heat made this impossible. In addition, the vehicle’s height gave it a very high center of gravity, making it very prone to toppling over, though it seems this never happened. Nevertheless, the Schneider-Brillié was crucial to the history of armored fighting vehicles in Spain and warrants recognition as such.


Dimensions 6 x 4 x 2.25 m (19.68 x 13.12 x 7.38 ft)
Total weight 9.35 tons
Crew 2 (commander; driver) + up to 12 passengers
Propulsion 40 hp Brillié
Speed on-road 20.2 km/h (12.55 mph)
Range 100 km (62.14 miles)
Armament 2 x 7mm Vickers machine gun adapted to Spanish cartridges
Armor 5-6 mm (0.19 – 0.23 in)
Total Production 2


Anon., ‘Die firma Schneider & Co.’ Allgemeine Automobil Zeitung No. 15 (13 April 1913), pp. 70-71 [special thanks to Leander Jobse for finding this source] Artemio Mortera Pérez, Los Medios Blindados de la Guerra Civil Española Teatro de Operaciones de Andalucía y Centro 36/39 (Valladolid: Alcañiz Fresno’s editores, 2017)
B.T. White, Mechanized Warfare in Color. Tanks and other Armored Fighting Vehicles 1900-1918 (London: Bradford Press, 1970)
Javier de Mazarrasa, La Máquina y la Historia Nº13 Los Carros de Combate en la Guerra de España 1936-1939 (Vol. 1º) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1998)
Juan Carlos Caballero Fernández de Marcos, “La Automoción en el Ejército Español Hasta la Guerra Civil Española” Revista de Historia Militar No. 120 (2016), pp. 13-50
Manuel P. Villatoro, ‘«Schneider-Brillié», el primer «autobús» blindado del Ejército Español que luchó en Marruecos’, ABC, 12 May 2014, Historia Militar.

WW1 French Armor WWI French Armored Cars

Hotchkiss mle 1909

France France (1909)
Armored car – 4 built

About Hotchkiss

Everybody’s familiar with the concept of the “American Dream”, especially from the European perspective from two centuries ago, but what about the other way around ? That’s the unusual path followed by Benjamin B. Hotchkiss, a crafty American born in Watertown, Connecticut, who became a gunsmith in the 1850s until the end of the Secession war, when the government showed little interest for firearms. He moved to France and set up a munitions factory in Viviez, near Rodez, and then in Saint-Denis, near Paris, as Hotchkiss & Cie. He developed a marine autocannon to deal with torpedo boats known as the Hotchkiss gun, but died in 1897. His successor devised a reknowned air cooled, gas actuated infantry machine gun which was in widespread use among the Allies during WWI. In the 1930s, he also designed the Hotchkiss H35 light tank. But, early on in 1903, the company also extended to the new business of carmaking with a 17 hp, then a six-cylinder model, which was the basis for its first and only armoured car, the model 1909.

The Hotchkiss mle 1909

The model was clearly a follow-up of the Charron, Girardot et Voigt 1902, displayed at the Paris Exhibition as a concept car in December, 1902. The Army used the Panhard-Genty 1906 in Morocco against rebelling tribes and found it so useful, that it was followed by other conversions of the same style until 1911. However, the Hotchkiss “Automitrailleuse” was specifically designed, from the ground-up, to be such a vehicle. The model was tested by the Army, but also remarked by the Turkish Sultan.


The Hotchkiss model 1909 was based on a standard touring car, powered by a 60 hp gasoline engine, partially armored with 1/4″ (6 mm) thick plates, mostly around the rear compartment, protecting the machine-gunner. This was a kind of “bath-tub” arrangement installed over the rear sedan seats, which protected only the high-up gunner. Access was granted by side doors. The driver and co-driver were woefully exposed to enemy fire, and it is dubious that the engine itself was protected in any way. There was an extension of the platform over their heads, acting as a blast baffle and/or to protect against weather. The sole armament was a standard factory model 1909 7.9 mm (0.31 in) air-cooled Hotchkiss machine gun protected by a shield. It had a ground clearance estimated at 30.5 cm (12 in), and wheelbase of 3.65 m (144 in) for an estimated wheel tread of 1.65 m. It had a 3 speed forward, one reverse manual gearbox and liquid-cooled Hotchkiss 6-cyl 9.5 L gasoline engine, front-axle, chain drive. Crew comprised the driver, co-driver, machine-gunner and loader.

With Turkey

The first vehicle delivered was demonstrated to the Army, tested, but no order followed. However, four were eventually built for the Sultan of Turkey Sultan Abdul Hamid II just before the Young Turk revolution. The irony was that these were captured prior to delivery to Istanbul and assisted in the overthrow of the government. There is no record of their use in WW1 and they were kept stationed in Istanbul for the duration of the war. Other than this model, only German-origin armored cars were used according to the rare photos.

Illustration of the model in Turkish service, used for anti-riot duties. The probable color was white and not green, as it is sometimes illustrated.

Various photo references of the model.

Hotchkiss 1909 Specifications

Dimensions 5 x 1.7 x 2 m (198.5 x 67 x 79 in)
Total weight, battle ready Unknown
Crew 2+2 (driver, co-driver, machine-gunner, loader)
Propulsion 6 cylinder, gasoline (9.5 liters), 75 hp (55 kW) @ 1150 rpm
Suspension 4×2 leaf springs
Est. speed (road) 64 km/h (40 mph)
Armament 7.9 mm (0.3 in) Hotchkiss Machine Gun
Armor 3 mm (0.12 in)
Total production 4 in 1909


About the Danish vehicle
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs

WW1 French Armor WWI French Armored Cars

White AM modele 1915/1918

ww1 US Armor ww1 Frech armor USA/France (1915-18)
Armored car – about 220 built


In 1915, the French were desperate to get more armored cars. Besides some foreign supplied models, they also sought to build some, based on locally available chassis. One of these chassis were made by White in the US, and that model was also produced locally, under licence. The armored bodies were supplied by Ségur & Lorfeuvre. Those built based on US-built chassis were called modele 1915, and had left-hand drive.

The French White AC model 1918

The model 1917-18 White 4×2 was based on locally-built White trucks, the French using the nude chassis with the White engine, transmission & gearbox, leaf springs, rear axle with doubled tires, and made their own complete armored body at Ségur & Lorfeuvre, in 1917. The latter was composed of approximately 30 bolted panels on a rigid steel frame. The hull was flat, but there were two bulges on the fighting compartment, were two doors were situated.
There were armored shutters for the driver and commander, and small side sights with armored flaps opening upwards on the sides, as well as at the rear. This vehicle was indeed fitted with a French reverse steering system in case of an emergency, that a rear driver could use. The engine hood was armored with two access doors, and the radiator had a series of armored shutters for cooling.
The turret was remarkable, as it was large enough to accommodate two men, serving two weapons, one at each end, generally a combination of the short barrel Puteaux (SA-17) 37 mm (1.46 in) gun and a Hotchkiss 7.5 mm (0.3 mm) light machine-gun, or two LMGs. The turret was sloped, with two side panels that could be opened. There were mudguards at the front, and storage boxes fixed above the rear ones, while tooling (shovel, pickaxe and others) were fastened on the sides of the driving compartment. These 200 vehicles were used on the western front until the end of the war, and kept in service until 1930.

Postwar service

Both models were completely rebuilt after the war, between 1928 and 1932 as the Laffly AMD-50 (96 vehicles) and AMD-80 (28 vehicles). Both were called White-Laffly, although their body was entirely French and their chassis was made by Laffly, a French company. They spent their career in North Africa, at least until 1943, being completely obsolete by then. For more information see the AMD-50 and AMD-80 in the WW2 section.



White 1918 specifications

Dimensions 5.50 x 2.30 x 2.60 m (18.04×7.55×8.53 ft)
Total weight 6.5 tons
Crew 4-5 (driver, commander, 2 gunners, loader)
Propulsion 6-cyl gasoline, 3672 cc, White engine, 50 bhp
Speed on-road 65 km/h (40 mph)
Range 400 km (250 mi)
Armament 1 x 37 mm (1.45 in) Puteaux gun, 7.5 mm (0.31 in) Hotchkiss M1909 machine gun
Armor Maximum 8 mm (0.3 in)
Total production 200 in 1917-1918

Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs

White AC in French service, 1918, with the specific turret and armament. By the end of 1915, the first twenty armored were cars constructed in France on the White chassis. Here is the model 1917. Duplicate steering controls, for driving backwards, were apparently fitted in emergency. In total, 200 chassis of two White series were armored in France.
White AM in French service
White AM in French service
White AM in French service

WW1 French Armor WWI French Armored Cars

Renault modèle 1914

ww1 French armor France (1914)
Armored car – 50 built

About Renault armored cars in WW1

Back in 1905, Renault was already a pioneer in the rapidly-growing automotive industry. Long situated at Boulogne-Billancourt, in a suburb of Paris, the company founded by Louis Renault already tested the military waters in 1909, with a Hotchkiss shield-protected machine-gun carrying vehicle. It attracted limited interest from the military, perhaps inspired by the 1908 Charron. However, shortly after the start of the war, along with Hotchkiss, Schneider, De Dion Bouton, Panhard Levassor, Gasnier, Archer and Latil and Peugeot, Renault presented in 1914 its own model, intended for AA purposes. It was followed the next year by a completely rebuilt model similar to the Peugeot, along with the conversion of the former mle 1914. Also, Renault produced a lorry armed with a 47 mm (1.85 in) “autocanon Renault” for the motorized marine infantry.

Renault Autoblindée 1914

This first model was accepted and fifty units were built until early 1915, as 4×2 AA vehicles with an open air rear compartment, armed with a single 8 mm (0.31 in) St Etienne light machine gun. It was relatively lightly armored, with vertical plates between 4 and 6 mm (0.16-0.24 in) in thickness. These enclosed the closed driving compartment (with a single wide armored shutter), while the rear compartment was open, large enough for two operators (loader and gunner). Access for all crewmen provided through this open compartment. The machine gun was protected by a large frontal shield, with a mounting providing full vertical manual elevation (90°) and traverse. It had ammunition supplied in 8 mm/24 cartridge strips. This model had a ground clearance of 24 cm (9.5 in), 3.35 m wheelbase (132 in), with a 4×2 front steering with manual transmission, and a Renault water cooled petrol engine. The axles rested on leaf spring suspensions.

Wartime use

Although a hundred were originally ordered, only 50 were built before their limitations were discovered. The AA mount was problematic, and the rate of fire and range were not sufficient for their intended rôle. Also, the armor was too light to protect against shrapnel and machine-gun rounds, while the open compartment left the crew vulnerable. But, probably worst of all, the front wheel drive proved ill-suited in operations. In 1916, all 50 were taken over to be rebuilt to the mle 1915 standard, which resembled the Peugeot armored car, with a short barrel 37 mm (1.46 in) gun or Hotchkiss LMG behind a shield.

Renault AC 1914 specifications

Dimensions 4.5 x 1.7 x 1.7 m (180 x 66 x 66 in)
Total weight 3 tons, estimated
Crew 3-4 (driver, commander, gunner/loader)
Propulsion 4-cyl Renault WC, gasoline, 35 bhp (26 kW)
Top speed (road) 45 km/h (28 mph)
Range Around 100 km (62 mi)
Armament St Etienne M1907 machine gun
Armor 4 to 6 mm (0.16 to 0.22 in)
Total production 50 in 1914

Links about the Renault Mle 1914

David Haugh’s French ACs (pdf)
Early WWI armored cars (in French)
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs

Renault AC modele 1914
Renault automitrailleuse modèle 1914.

Renault mle 1914 – Credits: blindes-franç

Renault Armored Car modèle 1915. The mle 1914s were rebuilt to this standard

WW1 French Armor WWI French Armored Cars

Peugeot 1914 armored car

ww1 French Tanks France (1914)
Armored car – about 270 built

Peugeot armored cars in 1914

When the war has started in August 1914, France already had a history of armored car development. The earliest was the Charron model 1905. 4 Charron CGVs were already in service since 1908, and some had been exported to Russia. Peugeot entered the fray in 1914, delivering an entire array of armored cars based on tourism vehicles. They used the chassis of the Peugeot 146, 148, but more usually of the commercial 4×2 model 153, and makeshift armor arrangements. They had no standardization and, by late 1914, this improvised series was stopped. At the same time, Peugeot devised a better armored standardized model, based probably on the 148 chassis and delivered in two distinct series.

Design of the Peugeot AM and AC

The Peugeot model 1914 AC (for “autocannon”) was fitted with a standard Schneider 37 mm (1.45 in), short-barrel model 1897 field gun mounted on a central pivot. It was based on the Peugeot 18CV chassis. Over 150 were built in all. The first series AC-1 received a completely open platform and the gun was protected by a curved shield. The second model, AC-2, had a fully traversing turret at the rear, an open-top fighting compartment, but completely armored engine hatch, sides and driver compartment, with 5.5 mm (0.21 in) iron plates. The armor was designed by Capt. Reynaud. Access was through a rear door and on the sides of the driver compartment. To compensate for the extra weight, the rear tire was doubled. The driver compartment received only two small vision slits, but the fighting compartment sides were sometimes given small hatches. The normal crew comprised a driver, commander, loader and gunner.
The other model was based on a Peugeot 20CV chassis, as the Peugeot AM (for “automitrailleuse”) mod.E1. which was generally equipped with a model 1914 Hotchkiss 6.5 mm (0.25 in) machine gun. 120 of these were built. The two were very similar in design and parts were interchangeable. By early 1915, all were simply called “Automitrailleuse Peugeot”.

The Automitrailleuse Peugeot in action

By August 1914 some cavalry units were equipped with Peugeot AM cars, notably the 6th and the 7th Armored Car Groups (7th Cavalry Division) and the 1st Cavalry Corps. Within the first stage of the war mobile warfare allowed them to add their full potential to infantry support on the spot and patrolled well behind enemy lines. But in 1915, when the stalemate began, they saw themselves of limited value. They mostly served to patrol the frontline on open roads and bring fire support when needed. But their off-road capabilities were severely reduced. When the war became more mobile in 1918, only 23 were left. The production had slowed down since 1915 and no replacements had been allocated.

Postwar service

By 1919 the Polish government, threatened by the degenerating situation in Russia, tried to purchased French armored cars, and only received 18 Peugeot AMs in August 1920 along with spare parts. They were shipped by sea and arrived in September-November 1920, too late to be effectively committed in operations. Three were armed with guns, with three more rearmed afterwards. The rear fighting compartment had sloped flanks as seen on photos, unlike the regular models, which makes some sources speak of a new postwar modified “model 1918” version. After their arrival they formed an Armored Car unit based in Poznan and later the 1st and 2nd Armored Car platoons. These units were frequently rearranged during the twenties. In May 1926, during Józef Pilsudski’s coup, two assisted government forces, and one was damaged during the street fighting. They received, in the early 1930s, a small overhaul in the CWS workshops, with a new strengthened gear. Already in 1930 their replacement by the wz.28 halftrack was in full swing. Considered obsolete by 1931, they were lent to the police for training and patrol duties. By 1935, they nearly had all been retired, but three remaining in service with the police took part in the border fight on the 1st of September 1939 in Upper Silesia and dealing with the German Freikorps. The remainder were destroyed during the war.
Four Peugeot AMs were also lent to the Serbian government to deal against Bolshevik incursions, and later reused by the Yugoslavian kingdom. They seem to have been kept in service until the German invasion in April 1941, but their fate is unknown.

Links about the Peugeot AM

On Wikipedia
On (Polish Peugeot AMs)
On (in French)
Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs

Peugeot Armoured car model 1914
Peugeot AM, armed with the Hotchkiss machine-gun. Early camouflage. Unknown cavalry unit on the Marne river, late 1914.

Peugeot Armoured car model 1914
Peugeot armored car AC-2, with the short-barreled mle 1897 Schneider field gun and spoked wheels. Also notice the late “Japanese style” camouflage. Yser front, summer 1918. In 1916 they were rearmed with Puteaux guns, carrying 400 rounds. By 1918 they served as fast infantry support.

Polish Armoured car model 1914
Samochod Pancerny Peugeot AM in service with the Polish Border Police, 1st of September 1939. They were probably the oldest AFVs in service in Poland and fought with the German Freikorps and other advanced elements of the German army near Katowice. The six gun-armed cars (named after Lithuanian queens) received a 6+594437 mm (1.45 in) wz.18 (SA-18) Puteaux L/21 with 40 rounds. The other 8 (named after Lithuanian kings and princesses) received a 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Hotchkiss wz.25 and narrower shields. Among other modifications they received new headlights and a big searchlight, new rear sloped compartment, extra storage boxes and reinforced gear. Their chassis number was painted next to Polish blazon.

Peugeot armored car specifications

Dimensions 4.80×1.80×2.8 m (15.75×5.9×9.18 ft)
Total weight 4.9 tons
Crew 4-5 (driver, commander, 2 gunners/loader)
Propulsion 4-cyl Gas. Peugeot, 40 bhp (30 kW) at 2500 rpm
Speed 40 kph (25 mph)
Range 140 km (85 mi)
Armament 1×37 mm (1.45 in) Puteaux gun or 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Hotchkiss M1909 machine gun
Armor Maximum 5.5 mm (0.21 in)
Total production 270 in 1914-1915
WW1 French Armor WW1 Russian Armor WWI French Armored Cars

Charron model 1905 armored car

ww1 French tanks ww1 Russia France/Russia (1906)
Armored car – around 16 built

Charron, Girardot & Voigt

Charron, Girardot, and Voigt were three former cycling champions, associated in 1901 to produce their first four cylinder, 3300 cc, chain transmission car at Puteaux, near Paris. The firm first known as CGV, or more simply “Charron” built several models, including the world’s first eight-cylinder in line in 1903. In 1906 the first drive shaft transmission model was out. However, the company was acquired by a British group and renamed Charron Ltd after the departure of Girardot. During the Great War, the firm was one of the few producing vehicles, all having in common an awkward engine cooling configuration, as the radiator was placed behind the engine. Charron disappeared following the 1929 crisis.
Technical drawing

The first modern armored car built in series

In 1902, the company developed a partially armored model for the army’s needs, which was the world’s first true production armored car.
It was equipped with an armored, 3 mm (0.12 in) thick “bath-tub” style gunner platform, located at the rear. The Hotchkiss standard machine gun had some traverse and elevation which did not require a true turret. But the vehicle was essentially unarmored.
In 1903 this model was tested by the French military, but not accepted in service. Later, two improved models from a Russian design were presented in 1904 and received positive results as one was purchased by the army and sent to Morocco. The second was acquired by its original customer, Russia and used against rioters in St. Petersburg, with great success.

A Russian design

Georgian engineer and officer M.A. Nakashidze designed the first Russian armored car back in 1905, full of practical experience gained during the Russo-Japanese war. This was a completely enclosed model, both engine and crew compartment, with 4-8 mm (0.16-0.32 in) of armor, a combat weight of 2.7 tons, a 360° revolving turret, and capable of 50 km/h (31 mph) on flat ground. It was accepted by the Russian War Ministry for service but still, no local factory was able to built it. At the same time, Paul Daimler built the Austro-Daimler armoured car, which was the very first with a revolving turret, and sloped armor. It was never ordered by the Austro-Hungarian army thought, but was quite influential.
Hotchkiss Modele 1906 in Turkish service
The Nakashidze design was subcontracted to the French Charron carmaker. Commandant Guye adapted the model from the 15 CV touring car in 1906, which had also a 6 mm (0.24) thick hinged front armored panel, and four large windows with steel panels which slid up to cover them. The main armament was a model 1902 air-cooled Hotchkiss machine-gun protected by a U shaped shield. The wheeltrain was unchanged: four spoked wheels, protected, and leaf-spring suspensions. The tires were filled by a liquid and could still run 10 minutes after being shot at. Another innovation was an engine starter from the inside. The front low-slung radiator was a common feature on CGV models. There was also a single gas headlight mounted on the radiator and a spotlight mounted inside the body. Another characteristic were the two removable steel channels placed over the rear wheels for crossing ditches.
The prototype performed well during the autumn 1906 maneuvers. In Russia, the twelve built and shipped by rail in 1908 were called the “Nakashidze-Charron”. Two seemed to “disappear” en route in Germany, apparently seized and tested thoroughly by the German army.

Wartime use

Four vehicles were used by the French army at the outbreak of WWI, mainly to hunt enemy observation balloons. Tests were even performed with 75 mm (2.95 in) AA guns. However, the CGV had a poor power-to-weight ratio and thus limited mobility. But the concept was an instant success. Despite the fact that Charron stopped any development of this model to concentrate on civilian vehicles, other companies like Hotchkiss and Panhard, opened enthusiastically to this new business, building close copies of the Charron. They were followed by De Dion Bouton, Latil, Renault and Peugeot in 1914-15.
Four Hotchkiss copies of the CGV were delivered to Turkey in 1912, and most of these came into rebel hands and were then turned by the Greeks against their former owners.

Links about the Charron

The Charron on Wikipedia
Charron model 1905 and other early WWI armored cars (in French)

French Charron automitrailleuse modele 1906. Russian vehicles were called “Nakashidze-Charron”

Centennial WW1 POSTER
WW1 tanks and AFVs


Hotchkiss Modele 1906 in Turkish service

On trials, russia 1914

Charron specifications

Dimensions 4.8 x 1.70 x 2.4 m (15.75×5.58×7.87 ft)
Total weight 3 tons
Crew 3-4 (driver, commander, gunners/loader)
Propulsion 4-cyl Gas. CGV, 35 bhp (26 kW)
Top speed (road) 45 km/h (28 mph)
Range Around 100 km (62 mi)
Armament 1 Hotchkiss M1902 machine gun
Armor 4 to 8 mm (0.16 to 0.32 in)
Total production 16 between 1902-1906