The armored car was born during the decade preceding World War 1 (1914-1918) and was led by designs such as the Austro-Daimler "Panzerwagen" of 1904 and the French Charron model of 1906. During this period, cavalry maintained their presence on the battlefield as primary intelligence gatherers until the machine gun made horse-mounted troops cannon fodder. Aircraft were eventually used in the role but it was the armored car that was evolved to directly tackle this trouble on the ground - able to provide mobility and firepower while protecting its crew within.
The Austro-Daimler Panzerwagen saw development in 1904 and became one of the first true examples of an armored car of the Great War period. It was based on an existing automotive chassis and to this was fitted an armored superstructure to protect the engine and drive components as well as the crew. The superstructure offered protection against small arms fire and had rounded edges giving the vehicle a most distinct appearance when compared to other assault cars of the time. A traditional four-wheeled arrangement was used, the front set with solid rims and the rear set spoked. The 4x4 suspension system was used to offer some cross-country mobility. Over the rear of the hull was a 360-degree traversing turret fitting 1 or 2 x 7.92mm Schwarzlose (or similar) water-cooled machine gun(s). The crew numbered three - driver, commander, and dedicated machine gunner - and the bolted-on armor protection reached 4mm thickness. The driver and commander were seated side-by-side at the middle of the hull, their positions given vision slits, with the gunner in the turret.
The vehicle sat at 5,500lb and had an overall length of 4.8 meters, a width of 1.75 meters, and a height of 2.75 meters. Drive power stemmed from a Daimler Model 4-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 40 horsepower.
For its time, the Panzerwagen was a pioneering Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV). It housed its entire crew under its modest armor scheme and relied on a fully-suspended 4x4 wheel arrangement. Road speeds could reach 28 miles per hour on paved surfaces and range was out to 150 miles.
Despite it obvious battlefield benefits, the series still suffered from the qualities other armored cars of the war period suffered - it was heavy, offered little (if any) true cross-country capability despite its suspension, and presented itself a tall target along the horizon. During this period of warfare, many military stalwarts still respected the value of cavalry and refused to entertain the thought of automobiles in combat.
The Austro-Daimler design was showcased to both the Austro-Hungarian (in 1906) and German (in 1905) armies and it came as no surprise that neither party adopted the type. Indeed, it wasn't until German warplanners felt, first-hand, the success of Belgian Minerva cars using guerilla-style tactics against their forces that the Germans came to appreciate the armored car in war and ordered development of local solutions during 1915. By this time in the war the Panzerwagen was overtaken by more modern armored car designs - and the arrival of the tank - and thus fell to the pages of history with no more than two examples completed. Additionally, the advent of Trench Warfare restricted the tactical value of armored cars as a whole, which made development of tanks all the more important.