The Lanchester Motor Company Limited produced a four-wheeled armored car for service in World War 1 (1914-1918) and this product was only rivaled in British Army service by a Rolls-Royce model. During the interwar years, Lanchester turned its attention to a new design featuring a six-wheeled arrangement at the behest of the British Army. Armored cars proved their worth on World War 1 battlefields and their value was not lost in the ensuing decade for many automobile manufacturers attempted to sell their designs to various military forces around the world. Such vehicles could reconnoiter forward positions, provide light fire support for advancing infantry, and police colonial strongholds. The Lanchester 6x4 Armored Car was born from this interwar period work and went on to serve the British Army across four distinct marks numbering 39 total cars.
British Army authorities saw the need for an all-modern six-wheeled armored car providing improved cross-country performance through four-wheel drive power when compared to the wartime designs then available. Lanchester was awarded funds to develop a new car in 1927 and this begat a pair of pilot vehicles in the D1E1 and the D1E2 in the year following (the latter with front-and-rear driver positions for quick escapes). Trials soon revealed a weak chassis and inadequate cross-country performance which helped to finalize a production form designated as Mk 1. Eighteen of this mark were commissioned in July of 1928 along with four Mk 1A models to serve as Command Vehicles (CVs) fitting increased communications gear while losing their hull-mounted .303 machine gun. The turret featured a dual-machine gun arrangement mounting a 0.50 heavy and 0.303 medium machine gun arrangement (side-by-side).
Unlike many previous wartime armored cars, the chassis of the Lanchester was purpose-built for the role as opposed to using an existing truck chassis. An armored hull superstructure fitting a traversable turret was fitted over the 6x4 wheeled chassis. The engine held a conventional placement at the front of the vehicle with the driver's compartment just aft (the driver seated front-right). The superstructure featured a fighting compartment over the rear of the chassis and carried the turret and primary armament. A typical operating crew was four and included the driver, a vehicle commander, and two machine gunners. The hull-mounted machine gun was installed in a trainable mounting at the front left of the hull, next to the driver's position. The turret roof included an independently-traversing cupola which proved useful in protected observation.
Overall weight was in the seven ton range and the vehicle sported a length of 6 meters, a width of 2 meters, and a height of 2.8 meters. Armor protection reached up to 9mm in thickness and drive power provided from a Lanchester 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 90 horsepower. Suspension was of a leaf spring arrangement to the 6x4 wheeled configuration and road speeds reached 72 kmh with operational ranges out to 320 kilometers.
In October of 1929, the Army returned with an order for eight more cars - three Mk II models, three Mk IIA CV models, and a D1E3 and D1E4 training vehicle. Four additional Mk II cars followed in July of 1931 while 1932 saw three more Mk IIA CV cars arrive. Mk IIs used single-tired rear axles (as opposed to the Mk 1s double-tired approach) and a redesigned turret cupola with sloped sides (as opposed to vertical sides seen on the Mk 1).
First deliveries of Lanchester cars were in early 1929 though full unit strength (with the 11th Hussars Regiment) was not reached until 1934. Such cars often replaced what were horse-dominated cavalry forces as global militaries geared up for a new kind of land warfare - mechanized. Lanchester cars then saw service across Germany, Egypt , and Libya.
In practice, the design was appreciated for its reliability and good cross-country performance when compared to the competing Rolls-Royce. However, the type suffered what many armored cars influenced by World War 1 suffered - proving top-heavy, oversized, tall and long making for a slower-than-expected, highly visible target whose chassis was stressed by the weight of the armored superstructure and weaponry. With the adoption of the Morris Light Reconnaissance Car (LRC), Lanchester cars continued in service when they were shipped to the Far East for colonial security. The cars soldiered on into the early years of World War 2 (1939-1945) after which they largely fell away to history - only one having survived to become a museum showpiece (this present at the Bovington Tank Museum UK as of 2015).
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Lanchester Armored Car (6x4) production model)
1 x Lanchester 6-cylinder gasoline engine developing 90 horsepower.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Lanchester Armored Car (6x4) production model)
45 mph (72 kph)
199 miles (320 km)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Lanchester Armored Car (6x4) production model; Compare this entry against any other in our database)
1 x 0.50 caliber Vickers heavy machine gun (HMG) with 1 x 0.303 caliber Vickers machine gun in turret (side-by-side installation).
1 x .303 caliber Vickers machine gun in forward hull.
Ammunition: 500 x 0.50 caliber ammunition (estimated)
1,200 x 0.303 ammunition (estimated)
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Lanchester Armored Car (6x4) production model)
Lanchester Mk I - Initial Production Mark; featuring dual rear tires; 18 examples.
Lanchester Mk IA - Battlefield command variant based on the Mk I with communications equipment; 4 examples.
Lanchester Mk II - Revised Lanchester Car with new sloped armor panels at turret cupola; single tires per axle; 7 examples.
Lanchester Mk IIA - Battlefield Command variant based on the Mk II with communications equipment; 6 examples produced.
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