WW1 British Prototypes WW1 Canadian Armor

Ivel Motor Ambulance ‘Ivel First-Aid Motor’

Canada United Kingdom/Dominion of Canada (1904)
Armored Ambulance – 1 Built

The Boer Wars had taught the British Army many lessons, often coming at a high price. One of those lessons was that they needed a better and more efficient means of hauling artillery off-road than using animals, such as teams of oxen. A report for the army in 1902 recommended a general need for mechanised transportation in the army, although steam engines were still the preferred method. The preference for steam would end with trials in October 1903, when the diesel-engined Hornsby tractor built by Richard Hornsby and Sons of Grantham, Lincolnshire, won the £1,000 first prize. The Hornsby tractor, although very large, marked the start of the British Army involvement with combustion engines and, as early as 1904, the army was even beginning to look at tracked machines. All this was still being looked at for gun-haulage, and there was another internal combustion-engined machine at the time which received less attention; the Ivel light tractor.

US Patent US724513 filed 13th September 1902. Source: USPTO

The First Tractor

Designed by the innovative tractor pioneer Mr. Daniel Albone in 1902, the Ivel agricultural tractor was a small affair. It was the first combustion-engined light agricultural tractor built in Great Britain and brought mechanization to farming within the reach of more farmers than the old steam-powered machines could. In 1902, mechanization was still in its early days, but the military was open to ideas. The small size of the lightweight (just over a ton) Ivel motor tractor made it an attractive proposition for a mobile army needing to haul supplies and light field guns.

The 1902 three-wheeled Ivel agricultural tractor. Britain’s first internal combustion-engined light agricultural tractor. Source: Science Museum UK
Built by Ivel Agricultural Motors Limited, located in Biggleswade, London, this compact vehicle used a triangular arrangement of three wheels. It sat on two large steel wheels, 4 feet (1.2 m) in diameter, with steel spokes at the back providing traction and a smaller steel wheel at the front with a solid circumferential rubber tire which was narrower than the wheel. This rubber tire would help to dig into soft ground to prevent slipping from side to side and extra ‘purchase’ in the dirt for steering. On the road, this solid tire held the steel wheel off the hard road surface and, again, assisted in steering. For use on roads or for additional traction in soft soils, large rubber treads could be fixed around the outside of the steel-driving wheels.

Large rubber treads fitted to the steel wheel. Source:
The single-seat was located high off the ground at the back on the right-hand side, next to the water-filled cooling box for the engine on the left. The steering wheel was simple and arranged on a vertical steering column with the wheel horizontal, applying steering power to the front wheel by two push/pull rods, but no power steering was provided. A belt-drive wheel was fitted to the left-hand side, which would be used for driving a variety of agricultural equipment.

Ivel tractor fitted with steel body in use pulling a plough 1903.
The engine was a small 2 cylinder horizontally opposed petrol engine located centrally on the frame of the tractor. From the early production of this vehicle in 1902, the car engines, mostly from the firm of Payne and Baynes, had steadily increased from just 8 hp to 24 hp by 1913. At the time of trials in 1904, the engine was an 18 hp Payne and Baynes petrol engine, although it was expected that an oil (diesel) engine could be substituted for any military contract production.
This power was supplied to the drive wheels by means of a simple 2-speed gearbox with a single forward and single reverse gear, ideally suited to a small machine designed specifically to draw ploughs, harrows, and other farming implements. All told, this vehicle weighed just 28 hundredweight (1.42 tonnes) maximum, making it not just one of the smallest tractors, but also the first combustion-engined tractor in Great Britain.


With the design of the light tractor behind him and export orders to the Empire and beyond for his design, Mr. Albone was doing well and, upon the suggestion of Major Palliser of the Canadian Militia, he worked out a way of fitting armor to his tractor. Major Pallister designed the armor, it was fabricated by Messrs, Cammel, Laird and Co., and Mr. Albone arranged and organized the construction. The goal was not a ‘fighting vehicle’ per se, but a means to reach and treat injured soldiers on the battlefield. There do not seem to have been any ideas for evacuating or moving wounded soldiers back to safety, and there was little space for a stretcher, but the idea of an armored ambulance was a novelty to the military.
Unlike many novel ideas which went no further than an outline on paper or even a blueprint, this design was built. Albone had his tractor clad in ¼ inch (6.35 mm) thick Cammell’s bulletproof armor plate to protect the crew seeing to injured men. The armoring consisted of covering the open-spoked wheels with a circular plate each and then the body. The armor took the form of a wedge shape coming to a sharp angle at the front. The very front wedge of the plating had two upside-down ‘V’ shaped notches cut into it to allow for the movement of the rubber tire on the front wheel. A large sloping bonnet covered the engine area, and two rectangular hatches provided access for maintenance. The entire construction of plating was bolted together onto a frame.
The cab area was roughly square, with a plate at the front sloping slightly backward. The driver, seated in the rear right, had a single long horizontal vision slot in the front. No side vision slots appear to have been provided, which would have made any kind of awareness as to the ground conditions very hard for the driver to determine. At the rear of the cab were the two large rectangular doors. Each one was hinged, forming two parts and each had a smaller rectangular piece which folded down forming a full shield from the height of the vehicle down to ground level. As both doors could be opened at once, this formed a large shield 7 feet (2.13m) high by 9 feet (2.74m) wide, impenetrable to bullets, behind which medical crew could attend to the wounded men and where they could be sheltered safe from enemy fire. When fitted with armor plating, the weight of the vehicle increased from 28 hundredweight (1.42 tonnes) to just over 30 hundredweight (1.52 tonnes).
Although it only had a seat for the driver who also functioned as an engineer, a second crew member could be carried, although he would have to squeeze in the back by the water tank. There was also little space for stores or medical equipment to be carried, but this marked a significant change in military thinking.

Artist’s impression of the Ivel armored tractor. Source: Wood, Healey, and Hobson

Illustration of the Ivel Motor Ambulance or ‘Ivel First-Aid Motor’ with the rear panels in the open position, produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Bisley May 1904

There were no markings on the vehicle for its first test at Bisley (Surrey, England, UK) – house of the National Shooting Center – on 17th May 1904. Here, Mr. Albone showed not one, but two of his vehicles. Both were his light tractor designs, but only one was armored. Ivel was looking for a military contract and now could show, with this armored version, the versatility of this design. The first vehicle, fitted with armor plate, was demonstrated as an ambulance but was also still capable of being used as a tractor. The second vehicle, unarmored, was somewhat incongruously demonstrated by being used to power an ice-making machine, as well as the slightly more practical electric light generator and water purifying equipment. The armored tractor also showed it could haul wagons loaded with medical supplies or a wagon for the wounded holding up to 30 men. It could haul these off-road and also deal with the undulations in the terrain. The audience included military figures and a representative from the US Embassy in London.

The ‘Ivel First-Aid Armoured Motor’ during trials at Bisley 17th May 1904. Source: Motor-Car Journal and Scientific American respectively
The vehicle was driven over the testing ground, whereupon to “a severe fusillade was then poured upon the vehicle from rifles at ranges varying from 20 to 100 yards, but without penetrating the armor”. With no damage from rifle fire, the armor had proven itself, and the machine did too, achieving between 3 and 6 miles per hour.
Several small problems were noted, but overall it had been a successful trial. The vehicle had shown its potential as an ambulance and, with that belt-drive wheel on the side, the capability of supporting a field hospital with light, water, and of course, ice. A further demonstration was to take place.

Bisley November 1904

The second official showing of the Ivel Motor Ambulance took place at Bisley Barracks in mid-November 1904, under the gaze of Sir W. Taylor from the Army Medical Service. Here, once more, the vehicle was seen to move easily off-road and was tested against rifle fire, where once more the shielding proved to be impenetrable. The only substantial change to the machine since Bisley in May was that, in the second test, it had large red crosses in a white circle painted on it, one on the front plate next to the driver’s vision slit, and one more on each of the outer sections of the rear doors.

Ivel Motor Ambulance, Millbank trials November 1904. Source: Scientific American and Automotor Journal
Despite these tests and the obvious practical benefits of the design, no orders for it were made. It was 1905 and the Boer War was over, the First World War had not yet begun, and with no major wars apparent, there was little urgency at the War Office. This intransigence was challenged in March 1905 in the House of Commons by Colonel McCalmont, Conservative Member of Parliament for Antrim East, who wanted to know whether the War Office would cover the costs of trials of the ambulance. All he had requested was a formal field trial of the machine paid for by the War Office, hardly an extravagance considering that the vehicle had already been built at the expense of the Ivel company. Nonetheless, Mr. Arnold-Foster (Secretary of State for War) responded that the ambulance had been under consideration but was rejected as it was unsuited to service requirements. Further trials, therefore, were not contemplated.
The design was patented in 1904 with a filing the previous year by Edward Palliser, of Hurlingham, London. In that filing, Palliser explained the potential uses as including as a tractor for hauling stores like ammunition. It does not seem that this contemplated use was every considered by the Army who were shown it making better use of those folding rear shields as protection for wounded men. Palliser made one other comment regarding the vehicle in use as an ambulance though, he explained that these rear doors could be removed to use as a shield independent of the vehicle specifically for the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.).

The arrangement of armor plate on the tractor (left) and the view from the front with the shields folded out (right). Source: British Patent GB10082 of 1903

Ivel Motor Ambulance with the back doors open being viewed by soldiers. Source: Fletcher


Despite the failure of the Army to take up the Ivel Motor Ambulance, the firm still found international export success. Mr. Daniel Albone though, died in 1906, aged just 46. Without the insight and imagination of this man, the firm entered a period of decline and was wound up in 1915, just after the start of WW1, when, perhaps ironically, his armored ambulance could have provided some useful service. The fate of the Ivel ambulance is unclear. Following the trails in 1904 and the official abandonment of any interest by 1905, it was likely returned to a normal tractor and sold off. Today, only seven Ivel tractors are known to remain in existence worldwide, and the ambulance is not one of them. The Royal Army Medical Corps would have to wait many more years for an armored vehicle to evacuate the wounded as the opportunity for probably the first combustion-engined armored-ambulance was missed.


Dimensions 2.13 m high
Weight 1.42 tonnes unarmored, 1.52 tonnes armored
Crew 1 (driver/commander) + 1 medic
Propulsion 2 cylinder 18hp Payne and Baynes petrol engine. (Diesel considered)
Speed (road) 3 – 6 mph (4.8 – 9.7 km/h)
Armor ¼” (6.35mm) Cammell’s bulletproof plate
Total production 1


Army and Navy Journal. (4th March 1905). Untitled article.
The Automobile. (17th December 1904). An Army Motor Ambulance.
The Automobile. (21st January 1905). Motor Ambulance.
The Automotor Journal. (19th November 1904). Ploughing, Ancient and Modern.
The Automotor Journal. (3rd December 1904). An Ambulance Motor.
British Patent application GB3920 filed 15th February 1902
British Patent GB10082 by Edward Palliser. Improvements in Bullet-proof Shields for use on Motor Vehicles, filed 4th May 1903, granted 28th April 1904
Cobette, W. (1905). The Parliamentary Debates.
DK. (2015). Tractor: The Definitive Visual History. DK.
The Engineer. (2nd December 1904). An Armoured Motor Tractor.
Engineering. (February 19th 1904). The Motor Car Show.
Fletcher, D. (1987). War Cars. HMSO
Hansard. (20th March 1905). The Ivel Motor Ambulance. HC Debates, Volume 143. C440.
The Motor. (29th November 1904). A New Motor Ambulance.
Motor Car Journal. (21st May 1904). Comments.
Motor Car Journal. (28th May 1904). Here and There.
Pharmaceutical Journal. (March 25th 1905). Notes in Parliament.
Scientific American. (18th February 1905). An Ambulance Automobile.
Scientific American. (23rd March 1907). Latest Designs of the Motor in Warfare.
US Patent US724531, filed 12th September 1902, accepted 7th April 1903
Williams, M. (2016). Farm Tractors, A Complete Illustrated History. Fox Chapel.
Williams, M. (1974). Farm Tractors in Color. Macmillan.
Wood, J., Hiley, B., Hobson, W. (1979). Farm Tractors in Colour. Blandford Press.

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2

The second issue of the Tank Encyclopedia magazine covers the fascinating history of armored fighting vehicles from their beginnings before the First World War up to this day! This issue covers vehicles such as the awe-inspiring rocket-firing German Sturmtiger, the Soviet SMK Heavy Tank, the construction of a replica Italian Fiat 2000 heavy tank and many more. It also contains a modeling section and a feature article from our friends at Plane Encyclopedia cover the Arado Ar 233 amphibious transport plane! All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and period photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!
Buy this magazine on Payhip!

WW1 British Prototypes WW1 Canadian Armor WW1 US Prototypes

Kupchak War Automobile

Canada United Kingdom/Dominion of Canada/United States of America (1917)
Armored Tractor – 1 Prototype Built

In April 1917, World War I was in full swing with devastating losses on the Western Front and the United States had just declared war on Germany. Tanks had started to be used in combat and generated an enormous amount of interest in the newspapers, magazines, and newsreels of the day. The result was a response from the inventive minded members of the public to get creative with many of their own designs. One of these designs came from the hand of Stephen Kupchak, a British citizen living in Rosevear, Alberta, Canada, who submitted his design for a patent on the 17th April 1917 in the USA.
Kupchak did not call his tracked machine a tank though, instead, he called it a ‘War-Automobile’. Although it was never built, it remains an interesting development at a time of great inventiveness and learning in the rights and wrongs of tank design.

Profile and top-down cut-away schematic. Photo: Patent US1253605


The basic shape of the machine is crude, a giant box on tracks. Kupchak has adopted a rounded front with vertical faces which extended along the sides and a vertical rear. The structure was made of “suitable armor plate” of an unspecific thickness. Inside the curved front section, was mounted a “rapid fire gun mounting a silencer”, although a caliber was not specified.
Access to the machine would be provided by two large rectangular doors in the sides located in the front half of the vehicle. On the roof of the machine was a “conning tower” fitted with a variety of slots for the commander to see out of. It is not mentioned if it rotatable and, as no firing ports are obvious in the drawings, it would appear to have been simply for observation.

Holt suspension seen from the side is quite noticeably very different to the Kupchak design with multiple small wheels and with track tensioning taking place at the end idler.

Illustration of the Kupchak War Automobile. Produced by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, funded by our Patreon Campaign.


Online it has been said that the chassis on which the ‘tank’ is based is that of the Holt tractor, but this is not described in this way in the 1917 US patent filing. The patent spends a lot of time describing the track mechanisms stating the added advantage that it could be tensioned from inside the machine without getting out. Certainly, in 1917, this was something which could not be done on the existing British tank models and had the advantage that the crew would not be exposed to fire just to tension the track.

Details of the Kupchak track tensioning system. Photo: Patent US1253605
The track tensioning system of the Kupchak design was crude but ingenious, and completely different from that of the Holt chassis, showing that whatever relationship this design had to the Holt was superficial at best. Unlike a British tank of the period, which used a large adjusting nut from outside to move the entire idler further out, Kupchak instead opted for an unusual winding system. The three extremely small wheels, which also provided the suspension for the machine, were mounted on a vertical rod which could move up and down with undulations in the ground and return to position via a spring. The initial position, however, was modified by means of a winding handle operated from inside the machine. This had the effect of jacking the machine further up on the wheel meaning the track-run was longer and thus tensioning the track in the process. Quite how practical this system would actually have been, or whether, indeed, it could even work, is not clear, as there is no additional gearing to provide the mechanical advantage which might be needed to elevate a heavy vehicle in such a way.

The front-mounted track tensioner on the British Mk.I male tank on display at Bovington. Photo: Mark Nash


The Kupchak design is hard to judge. Clearly, it was drawn at a time when tank technology was in its infancy and has significant problems, but it also offers an interesting insight into the technology available at the time. The problems of tightening tracks and providing suspension for a track-laying vehicle were clearly not completely understood, yet the solutions are both inventive and unusual. Tim Rigsby, in ‘WW1 Landship Design’, states that Kupchak was one of the designers (with responsibility for the hull) for a rejected 200 ton ‘Trench Destroyer’ idea and that he submitted the design of his vehicle to the British War Office in 1918. According to Rigsby, the War Office did not reject it, but simply asked for a full-size machine for demonstration purposes to be built, something that Kupchak, with limited resources, could not do. Thus, according to Rigsby, the project died but none of that account can be verified and is still being investigated.


US Patent US1253605 filed 17th April 1917, granted 15th January 1918
WW1 Landship design, Tim Rigsby

WW1 Canadian Armor

Saczeany APC

Canada Dominion of Canada (1918-1920)
APC – Blueprints Only

Early tank designs are fascinating, as many of the things which would later be determined to be important on a tank had not yet been identified and information on tank design and employment was relatively scarce. The lack of experience in design and usage led to some of the most interesting and, in equal measure, awful tank designs ever envisaged. The design by Frank Saczeany in 1918 is one of the former, and one of Canada’s first armored vehicle designs.
Saczeany’s primary objective was to design a motor-driven vehicle such as a tank, but with a power-operated door which would allow the exit of a large number of soldiers after having carried them into battle under armor for their own safety. In this way, what Saczeany is describing is actually one of the first ideas for an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC).
The envisaged vehicle would have to be able to protect the “large number” of men carried from enemy fire over rough ground and deliver them to the battlefield ready to fight the enemy. The overall shape of the vehicle is very similar in the layout of the fighting arrangements to the British ‘rhomboid’ shaped tanks of World War One. His drawings are dated the 16th September 1918.

Side view of the Saczeany design showing in dashed lined the track run for the vehicle. Photo: Patent CA203748


Propulsion was by means of an “endless belt after the manner of the usual caterpillar tread” and, just like the British designs, had the track following a path high across the tank before coming down to ground level providing for a very high ‘nose’. The track path drawn, however, is slightly different. Instead of going all of the way around the circumference of the tank, the tracks instead run below the level of the roof line around four key rollers but still above the level of the side sponsons. Furthermore, at the front, the track, rather than being exposed to enemy fire, came out of an armored cover protecting it from damage positioned just below the level of the nose. In this way, it can be assumed that the designer hoped to retain the high nose of the tank and the climbing ability whilst having some protection from enemy fire which could cripple the vehicle. However, it is expectable that such a track cover with no mud chutes was vulnerable to being clogged with mud and debris.

Unlike the British vehicles, this design left the back end of the tank empty for the mounted troops. This was done by moving the motor forwards to the crew space and housed just below the level of the sponsons and just ahead of the center-line of the tank on the left-hand side. The motor would drive the rear sprocket in much the same manner as the British tanks by means of a looped drive chain along each side. Both drive sprockets were powered by the same motor as power was transferred to the right-hand side via a power gear meshing with a pinion and control clutches. The rear drive sprockets would then pull the track under the tank moving it forwards as it then went back on its run up towards the tank’s roofline.
Steering for the design would be arranged by the manipulation of these clutches altering the power to each side to generate a slewing moment.

Drive system for the Saczeany design with the fore-mounted engine and rear-drive. Photo: Patent CA203748

Combat Ability

The first and foremost purpose of the vehicle was to get troops to fight the enemy unharmed. During the war, when attacking, the main threats came from enemy machine-gun fire and barbed wire. The wire obstacle was solved by the vehicle’s nature of simply crushing and rippings its way through it. To protect from enemy fire it had to be armored with simple bulletproof plate.
It was not devoid of firepower either. In the main section for troops at the back of the vehicle were a series of protected loopholes on each side which the soldiers could fire from, and within each sponson, there were additional loopholes. All of these provided ample coverage by small arms to the flanks of the tank. Presumably, when attacking an enemy trench or position, it would be supported by other tanks which would have provided supporting fire. When not in use for firing from, these loopholes were protected by bulletproof glass windows which allowed good visibility to the exterior of the vehicle.

Front view of the Saczeany design showing the rectangular forward firing loopholes and the imposing front aspect of the concept. Photo: Patent CA203748
Firepower forwards was achieved in the same manner with two large covered loopholes in the front permitting troops to fire forwards. Additionally, in the sponsons (described simply as “box-shaped housings”), firing ports were provided in the fore and aft, enabling additional firepower to be used to the front. Presumably, the designer also had in mind the same sort of thing used in British designs with machine-guns in this position which would have been more useful than a service rifle for such a task.
Finally, on top of the vehicle was a large low circular turret described as a dome but drown in the form of a short cylinder. Four even spaced loopholes were spread around the circumference of this turret providing additional lookouts of positions to fire from.

The Saczeany Armoured Personel Carrier (APC) in a fictional livery, based on common styles of the period.

The APC with troop deployment platform open.
These two illustrations were modeled by Mr. C. Ryan, funded by our Patreon Campaign

As an APC

Looking at the design it is very easy to miss its most important aspect, the transport of troops. Whilst there were other ideas for carrying troops under armor before this, they tended to rely on common doors, a very different idea. Instead of a door, there was a powered platform inside of the tank in which troops were carried. When they had to dismount, the tank driver could, by means of a clutch, engage a drive for the platform. Supported by vertical supports to the roof and a guide bar, this platform was very rigid as a way to prevent it from flexing, and when engaged, the entire platform, including the ‘tail’ of the tank, moved outwards in the rear of the tank. This not only formed the portal by which the troops could leave on both sides, but also meant that no soldier had to close the door afterward. Once dismounted, the tank crew could retract the platform closing the tail back over the portal and continue in the advance, either to support the troops it had dropped, or to return for a new batch.

The means of delivery of the troops by the unique platform at the back. This image was adaped from Patent CA203748 by the author

Arrangement view of the troop platform showing the means of drive to move it out and back. The three vertical bars descending from the roof support a horizontal guide bar attached to the platform to keep it rigid and moving in a straight line. Photo: Patent CA203748


With the number of firing ports available, Saczeany saw the vehicle as being suitable, even when static, to work as a fort, although, such a static target would have, in reality, become prey to enemy artillery pretty quickly. Overall, the design is rather unremarkable with the shape being very much a copy of the existing British vehicle designs, which, by 1920, were already changing shape. The use of large sponsons had already fallen out of favour with the military, and the choice of individual firing ports provided nothing that a single machine-gun could not. The most important part of Saczeany’s design was the unusual sliding ‘tea-tray’ type platform to carry and deposit the troops which certainly showed a good level of thought to some of the problems in the design of an APC. Quite how soldiers would have christened such a delivery to the battlefield from the backside of a tank can only be imagined though.
It is not known what became of Mr. Saczeany or if he had any other military ideas, but his design and ideas never left the Patent office and he filed no more patents for military vehicles. This particular idea had been submitted during the closing months of World War One and the patent expired in 1937, but by that point it was obsolete.
An unfortunate fate for an idea which, in some ways, was ahead of its time.


Canadian Patent CA203748 filed 1918, granted 7th September 1920

WW1 tanks and AFVs
WW1 centennial: All belligerents tanks and armored cars – Support tank encyclopedia