The Belgian armored cars of the very first model were built on the basis of the passenger car chassis Minerva 16CV. A characteristic feature of the protected Minerva hull was the lack of a roof. This reduced the weight of the structure and reduced the load on the chassis, making it possible to obtain acceptable mobility, but at the same time led to known risks. Already during the first battles, the crews of armored cars suffered losses. Among those killed was Charles Ankar, one of the initiators of the construction of new armored vehicles. The existing problem required an urgent solution.
It should be noted that later, in the 1916 year, all Minerva-type armored cars were upgraded. They got a roof and a new tower. However, in the early autumn of 1914, they decided to get rid of existing problems in a different way. Some events of that time led to the need to develop a completely new project. Design had to be entrusted to a new artist.
Recall the chassis for the Minerva armored cars were produced by the same-name factory in the city of Antwerp. Its production capacity did not allow building the desired equipment in large quantities. In addition, German troops were approaching the city and were preparing to take him into the ring. All these factors had to be taken into account when creating new combat vehicles.
According to reports, the development of a new project was entrusted to the company Societe Anversoise pour Fabrication de Voitures Automobiles or abbreviated SAVA. Upon completion of the design, the same plant was to build a certain number of armored vehicles. As the basis for such a technique, it was proposed to use one of the serial chassis under the brand SAVA.
By the name of the manufacturer of a new model of armored vehicles was named Auto Blindée SAVA. There is also another variant of writing - SAVA Armored cars of this type were built in a small series, and each of them received its own name of the type SAVA Modèle 1 or Type 1.
According to some data, the original chassis of the SAVA brand was previously developed for one of the new race cars, and therefore was distinguished by rather high mobility characteristics. The available stock of engine power could be used for a certain increase in protection, leading to an increase in the combat weight. At the same time, the main characteristics of the new armored car remained, at least, at the level of the serial "Minerva". In some cases - first of all, in the field of protection - there should have been noticeable advantages.
Some sources claim that the assembly of SAVA armored vehicles started only in October 1914. By this time, German troops reached Antwerp and were preparing to seize the city. As a result, the number of available automobile chassis from Societe Anversoise pour Fabrication de Voitures Automobiles left much to be desired. It was possible to find only three cars suitable for restructuring. The assembly of hulls and armored cars as a whole was carried out at another enterprise. After the assembly of all three armored vehicles, the work should have been at least stopped for an indefinite period.
According to others, the work started a little earlier - in September. Before the occupation of Antwerp, the SAVA plant managed to build and transfer three armored vehicles to the army. Soon the city passed to the enemy. Further production of armored vehicles, for obvious reasons, was excluded. The version of the start of production in September and the performance of work only by the SAVA plant looks more plausible and does not contradict other known data.
In the draft armored vehicle SAVA, it was planned to use the already tested approach. On the existing chassis, devoid of all the "extra" parts, it was necessary to install the original armored corps with seats for the crew and a full-fledged combat compartment. There is reason to believe that the design and operation of existing Minerva machines was taken into account when designing the new building. This may explain a certain similarity of some characteristic elements of machines of different types.
Armored car "in the field"
The base chassis of the SAVA brand had a frame construction traditional for its time. A gasoline engine with a power of about 40 hp was installed in its front part. With the help of a manual manual transmission, the power was transmitted to the leading rear axle. The chassis of the car was definitely strengthened in accordance with the increased loads. The suspension on the basis of leaf springs remained unchanged, but the gable wheels were installed on the rear axle. The front steering wheels were still single.
The armored car "inherited" the body layout of the hull from the base car. The body was to consist of a number of large armor parts with a thickness of no more than 4-5 mm. With the help of bolts and rivets, they had to be installed on the frame of the desired configuration. The body for the SAVA armored vehicle resembled the protection devices of the previous Minerva, but it had noticeable differences.
The engine and gearbox covered the hood of a simplified shape and sufficient size. In front of the power plant was closed with a vertical armor sheet, in the center of which there was a large window for air supply to the radiator. In a combat situation, it was covered with wings of the swing door. The sides were installed at an angle to the longitudinal axis of the car - the back of the engine compartment was wider than the front. Above the motor covered with a horizontal roof. Its central part was hinged and could be folded up and down for maintenance.
The front of the habitable compartment differed relatively complex shape. So, she got a curved front sheet, the shape of which was close to cylindrical. Due to the great length of such a sheet, it performed the functions of both the frontal part and the roof of the habitable compartment. Vertical sides received a rounded upper edge, which ensured a proper connection with the forehead and the roof. The sides of the conventional control compartment were distinguished by a greater height: their lower elements covered the chassis frame.
The rear part of the habitable volume, which served as a fighting compartment, was located directly on the frame and did not protect it. This unit received vertical rectangular sides, behind which was a curved forage sheet. The stern part of the chassis, speaking for the fighting compartment, received its own protection in the form of a metal box. The rear wheels are also covered with inclined guards.
On the cylindrical rear part of the hull was placed epaulet for installation weapons and protect it. Armament was to be located on the installation protected by a large dome. The latter had the shape of a sector of a ball and defended an arrow only in the forward hemisphere. Behind a similar tower was made open, which reduced the weight of the car and improved visibility.
The car chassis provided an acceptable off-road performance.
The standard weapon of the SAVA armored car was the Hotchkiss Modèle 1909 machine gun with air-cooled barrel. This weapon was installed in the frontal embrasure of the tower and could attack targets in different directions. Rough horizontal guidance was carried out by turning the entire installation on the chase, thin - by moving the machine gun on the pivot. The machine gun showed a rate of fire at the level of 500 shots per minute. The ammunition was stored in hard cassettes on 30 cartridges. For their transportation inside the case there were bulk boxes.
The crew of the new Belgian armored car was supposed to consist of three people. In front of the habitable compartment was placed the driver who was responsible for controlling the machine. The back of the case was the workplace of the machine gunner and his assistant. The driver was asked to get into his place with the help of a large door in the left side. The arrows, in turn, were to use the hatch in the right wall of the hull. It is curious that under the driver's door there was a step, borrowed from the base car. There was no such detail under the rear hatch, and therefore machine gunners should use a simple bracket attached to the hull.
The driver could follow the road with a rectangular flap in the frontal sheet. In a combat situation, the hatch was closed and the observation should be conducted through a slot in the lid. The tower allowed the machine-gunner and his assistant to observe the front sector through the embrasure and behind the rear hemisphere, taking advantage of the absence of a part of the dome. In addition, additional inspection hatches were located in the side hatch and in the curved back sheet.
The length of the armored car Auto Blindée SAVA should not exceed 4,5-5 m, width - no more than 2 m, height - about 2,5 m. Combat weight, according to various estimates, was 3-3,5 t. the road is relatively high speed. On rough terrain, the mobility of the machine was noticeably reduced, but still remained at a sufficient level. The armored car could overcome some obstacles, but such indicators remained at the level of other equipment of that time.
According to the most plausible version, the first armored car of a new type, which received its own designation SAVA Modèle 1, was built no later than the end of September 1914. Soon, the manufacturer handed over to the military a second vehicle called the SAVA Modèle 2. As follows from the available data, the first two machines of the series almost did not differ from each other. All differences were technological in nature and did not affect the overall appearance or characteristics.
Already in October, during the siege of the city by the Germans, the SAVA plant handed over the third armored car. Probably, the Modèle 3 was built in a hurry, and it was for this reason that it did not receive a turning tower. In her case, the Hochkiss machine gun was mounted on an open installation. At the same time, the possibility of shooting in any direction was maintained.
View of the stern. You can see the open tower
As far as we know, the new SAVA armored cars literally left the factory for the front. Immediately after construction, the equipment was sent to the front line to fight the enemy and support their troops. The first operation involving three cars was the defense of Antwerp. Due to the specific situation at the front and the characteristics of equipping the warring parties, the presence of several armored cars had a noticeable effect on the course of the battles. However, only three armored cars failed to save the defended city from capture.
According to some information, during the retreat from Antwerp, the Belgian army managed to keep all three SAVA armored vehicles and later continued their operation. In the future, this technique was used to support the troops during various operations, for conducting reconnaissance and patrolling of certain areas. "Positional impasse" did not contribute to the frequent entry of armored cars on the battlefield, but did not rule out the continuation of their operation. A similar service continued over the next few years.
Apparently, after the end of the war, the Belgian army decided to abandon obsolete and outdated armored vehicles. Two of them were dismantled as unnecessary. According to some reports, among them was the third car of the series. The remaining armored car (it was a Modèle 1 or Modèle 2 machine) was now to serve in law enforcement and solve the tasks of a special police car.
It is known about the participation of the surviving armored car in several operations to quell riots. According to some information, it was used both in Belgium and in the territory of the Rhine demilitarized zone. According to various sources, the operation of the only remaining SAVA car continued until the 1923 of the year. After that, she repeated the fate of two other armored vehicles, having gone to disassembly and remelting.
The main objective of the SAVA project was to increase the safety of the crew of the armored car while maintaining all other characteristics at the level of existing technology. In general, this problem was solved, but the army could not use the full potential of new armored vehicles. Due to the loss of the manufacturer, only three combat vehicles were obtained, which clearly did not meet the existing requirements. It was necessary to solve actual problems with the help of other armored vehicles.
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