The Armored Car found its niche on the battlefields of World War 1 in security, reconnaissance, and scouting roles. They provided a form of mechanized warfare prior to the arrival of the tank but still played second-fiddle to cavalry due to long-standing beliefs held by warplanners and commanders. Many cars were simply converted from civilian market automobile chassis which gave them their long-nose defined shapes seen throughout the war. Such vehicles proved hugely useful in mobile warfare and less so for when the war bogged down in the trenches. All major world powers involved in the fighting developed and fielded some form of the Armored Car - the Americans developing some wartime initiatives such as the Davidson-Cadillac Armored Car of 1915 to prove to U.S. authorities that mechanized warfare was the way of the future.
American inventor Royal Page Davidson, with assistance from cadets at the Northwestern Military and Naval Academy of Illinois, took a Cadillac automobile chassis as the basis for their armor car design. It held a twin axle arrangement with well-spaced rubber road wheels and good ground clearance. The engine remained in a compartment at front with the driver's position and passenger cabin along the middle and rear sections of the frame. The front facings were all covered in armor plating and a shallow, open-air armored superstructure was erected over the rear portion of the vehicle (only the driver had overhead protection). The road wheels featured metal rims for improved survivability and rounded automobile-style headlamps were retained at the front of the car in the traditional way. The chassis utilized a 4x2 wheel suspension system and maximum road speeds reached 70 miles per hour on ideal surfaces - quite excellent for an armored vehicle of the period. The crew complement numbered four and included the driver at front-left. A machine gunner operated the sole Model 1895 Colt-Browning system fitted over the rear of the car with good firing arcs available and a gun shield for local protection. The crew could also engage with their service rifles if carried. Spare tires were carried along the hull sides for emergencies.
The Davidson-Cadillac Car was used by Davidson to promote the use of mechanized forces in future U.S. Army doctrine, a way to show authorities that warfare had reached a turning point going beyond set battlefield artillery pieces and cavalry charges with sabres drawn. When unveiled, the vehicle became the first purpose-built armored car in the United States and formed a portion of Davidson's caravan which traveled from Chicago to San Francisco during 1915, arriving at the Panama Pacific Exposition for display. The trip took 34 days and involved his cadets while being heavily promoted by the press.
Inevitably, the war proved the cavalry charge was all but dead - particularly in the face of machine gun fire - and ushered in the arrival of mechanized warfare thanks - for the Americans at least - to contributions like the Davidson-Cadillac Armored Car.