Before the age of the "tank" came to be in World War 1, there was the age of the "war car" - today more formally recognized as the armored car. These early examples were quite crude in their overall approach, essentially militarized commercial automobiles or light trucks though, in either case, they were generally underpowered for the role. The militarized nature of these vehicles often meant that slabs of armor plate and heavy machine guns were affixed to the unmodified chassis which presented a much heavier vehicle than anticipated. These mobile weapons platforms were hardly serviceable on rough terrain but proved of value in the security, scout and support roles to an extent.
The Charron-Girardot-Voigt of 1902 was one such early attempt at utilizing a combustion engine vehicle and fitting a traversing machine gun mount to the rear of the chassis. There was seating for three though the driver and the passenger resided in an open-air cockpit that held no armor protection. The steering wheel sat high on the steering column which made for an awkward reach. The third occupant was charged with managing a single Hotchkiss 7.7mm machine gun on a raised platform at the rear of the vehicle. This position was partially covered in a 7mm thick armored shield and little else. A later version incorporated a steel surrounding drum though still open-air in its nature. The vehicle sat upon four rubber-tired spoked wheels which offered little comfort and robustness. The engine (of 50 horsepower) was situated in a forward-mounted compartment.
Design of the vehicle was attributed to Georgian engineer Mikheil Nakashidze and originally developed for use by the Russian Army. However, lack of production facilities capable of such a design led the vehicle to be produced by the French concern of Charron, Girardot & Voigt - hence its French origination. The vehicle was put up for public display in 1902 at the Salon de l'Automobile et duCycle being held in Brussels, Belgium.
Only two 1902 model armored cars of this type were ever completed. Though the prototypes performed well in evaluations for the French Army, they were never adopted for serial production and, thusly, fell to the pages of history. Regardless, the age of the armored car had arrived and many would be put into action in the upcoming World War of 1914-1918.
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