Associated Equipment Company (AEC) of London began operations in the automotive field as early as 1912. With its tremendous stable of experience in the manufacture of heavy-industry trucks and similar vehicles, the firm proved a perfect candidate for a private venture, multi-mission armored car offering by the time of World War 2 (1939-1945). Taking its 7.75-ton Matador medium-class artillery tractor vehicle taken as a basis, the AEC Armored Car was born as a light-armored vehicle with considerable firepower for the period - in fact matching many tanks then in circulation. It was debuted to British military officials in 1941 and adopted for service a short time later with production beginning in 1942.
Externally, the AEC car appeared as a highly utilitarian offering with little noticeable frills. It featured four large rubber-tired road wheels set at the extreme corners of the chassis for good balance and stability. The hull superstructure was multi-faceted in its design approach to provide basic ballistics protection from small arms fire and artillery spray - armor protection spanned from 16mm to 65mm at the various facings. A typical operating crew was three with the driver at front-center ahead of the turret )later designs were to introduce an operating crew of four). The turret, taken from the Valentine infantry tank, was used to house the armament. Standard armament began as the QF 2-pounder gun supported through 1 x Besa machine gun. The chassis was suspended atop a 4x4 arrangement with the powerpack at the rear. Speeds reached up to 40 miles per hour on roads with operational ranges out to 250 miles. The original vehicle weighed 12 tons (short) and further Marks increased weight to approximately 14 tons (short).
Few variants of the AEC car existed beginning with the original Mk I fitting the Valentine QF 2-pdr tank turret. These were powered by an AEC 195 series diesel and some 129 examples were completed to this specification. The Mk II featured an all-new, more robust turret mounting the QF 6-pdr main gun as well as a modified hull front end while being powered by an AEC 197 series diesel. The Mk III followed and fitted a more potent 75mm main gun - the variant intended for the close-support role. Indeed it was this mark that ended the AEC car line. A proposed Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft (SPAA) vehicle emerged, this fitting 2 x Oerlikon automatic cannons, but the design was given up for good when Allied air superiority was uncontested.
With its availability by late 1942, the AEC Armored Car was immediately pressed into action during the pivotal North African Campaign where its rugged design and simplistic operation proved itself a sound addition to the British Army inventory. Additional service then saw the car operating in the European Theater where, by this time, the future marks of greater battlefield potency had appeared. This AEC design was one of the many Allied armored vehicles to see extended military/security service into the post-war years where it continued in its intended role a while longer - as far-reaching as 1976 (Lebanese Army).
In all, 629 AEC Armored Cars were completed form the period of 1942 to 1943, joining the ranks of other excellent armored car designs of World War 2.