Throughout most of World War 2, the British Army stocked its armored car inventory with two major car types - the Daimler and Humber Armored Cars. Production of the Daimler car nearly reached 2,700 units while Humber cars numbered 5,400 - both proving highly successful in their scouting and security roles. Towards the end of the war, it was seen that a single design with better armament could be adopted to replace both preceding types and a product from a joint venture between Daimler and Rootes was developed, the latter concern the parent company of Humber. The resulting design became the "Coventry Mark I", otherwise known as the "Coventry Armored Car", which arrived in 220 examples under the Rootes Group brand label. The vehicle began serial production in June of 1944 though was delivered too late to see combat service in the war. Despite the intent to replace the existing Daimler and Humber offerings with the Coventry, both types were retained and production of Coventry cars was curtailed with the conclusion of the fighting from the originally planned 1,700 units. Manufacture of Coventry cars ceased in 1945.
With Daimler and Rootes' history in the automobile industry, the Coventry proved a largely standard armored car design of the period. It fitted four large rubber tired road wheels at the extreme corners of the chassis for optimal balance across uneven terrain and sported a shallow hull structure for a low silhouette and a 360-degree traversing turret mounting the primary and secondary armament. The driver managed a position at the front left of the hull with the remaining crew in the turret set over the fighting compartment at center. The engine was fitted in a compartment at the rear in the usual way. The standard Coventry crew included four personnel - driver, assistant driver, commander and gunner. Primary armament was a QF 2-pounder (40mm) main gun with a coaxially-fitted 7.92mm BESA medium tank machine gun. Power was served through 1 x Hercules RXLD 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 175 horsepower. The chassis was fully suspended with an all-wheel drive capability. Operational range topped 250 miles with a maximum road speed of 42 miles per hour. Armor protection was 14mm at the most critical facings.
Initial production versions were the Mark I with their 20mm armament and three-man turret. Engineers also developed a 75mm-armed (Ordnance QF 75mm) tank-killing variant with a two-man turret that was to be taken on as the "Mark II". However, the Mark II design was canceled before production began which ended the planned 900-strong order of this version.
The end of the war signaled the end for many in-development weapon systems and large purchase contracts. The Coventry fell into the latter category and managed limited service into the Cold War years, some sent to operate under British command in India. Other examples were sold off to the rebuilding French Army in the post-war decade and used in French colonial holdings thereafter. French Army Coventry cars were pressed into action during the First Indochina War (1946-1954), setting the groundwork for the bloody Vietnam War (1955-1975) to follow.
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