Military Review

Light armored car Morris Salamander to replace a motorcycle with a machine gun

Light armored car Morris Salamander to replace a motorcycle with a machine gun
One of the few surviving photographs of the Morris Salamander armored car. Photo

In 1940, Brigadier General Vivienne W. Pope, inspector of the Royal Armored Corps, proposed the development of a promising light armored vehicle capable of replacing existing motorcycles with a sidecar and a machine gun. On this proposal, two projects were developed, one of which remained in stories called Morris Salamander.

Armored replacement

In the pre-war period, armed motorcycles became widespread in the British army - they were used for reconnaissance, as communication vehicles, etc. In general, this technique suited the military, but it did not go without complaints and claims. First of all, the crews were not satisfied with the lack of any protection, which made it difficult to work on rough terrain and threatened in battle.

In this regard, General W. Pope proposed to develop and adopt specialized light armored cars that can replace motorcycles. The concept involved bulletproof armor, armament in the form of a single machine gun and a crew of two. The minimum cost of a serial car was specially negotiated.

Automobile companies Hillman and Morris Motor Limited expressed their desire to create a new armored car. The latter soon presented a project called Salamander ("Salamander"). Morris already had experience in the development and construction of wheeled armored vehicles, which helped to a certain extent in the new project.

On the existing base

Earlier in the year, Morris introduced the Light Reconnaissance Car (LRC) light reconnaissance armored vehicle. In the future, he received approval and went into the series. Already in 1940, the first proposals for the development of the LRC appeared, and one of the machines based on it was supposed to be the light "Salamander".

The new light armored car was made on the basis of the modified LRC chassis. The existing frame was shortened, but the arrangement of the units remained the same. This made it possible to reduce the required dimensions of the armored hull, as well as to reduce its weight and internal volumes in accordance with the new requirements. At the same time, the main units of the machine remained the same.

The Morris Salamander was powered by a 4 hp 30-cylinder petrol engine. The mechanical transmission delivered power to the rear drive axle. According to other sources, it was possible to introduce four-wheel drive. The chassis included two axles with vertical spring suspension. The engine, transmission and chassis were borrowed practically unchanged from the LRC armored car.

Serial armored car Morris LRC Mk I - base for "Salamander". Photo

An original riveted armored body of reduced dimensions with protection at the LRC level was developed. The frontal projection was protected by sheets with a thickness of 14 mm, armor with a thickness of 6-8 mm was used in other areas. The hull with a characteristic "nose" had a single habitable compartment for the driver and gunner. Behind the fighting compartment was an armored engine casing with a stern grille. An important feature of the hull was its small cross-section. In fact, the hull was built with the "compression" of the crew and power plant.

A polygonal turret without a roof was placed on the roof of the armored car. Light wings of a simplified design were installed over all the wheels. On the sides, at the level of the wheels, there were boxes for property. There was the necessary lighting equipment on the forehead. The sides received eyelets for the installation of additional equipment.

The Salamander crew consisted of two people - like a motorcycle. The driver was placed in the front of the hull and could observe the road through a hatch in the frontal sheet and cracks in the cheekbones. Behind him was the gunner commander, who used a machine gun. The vehicle was accessed through a door on the starboard side or through an open turret. Communication means, internal and external, were absent.

The armament of the armored car consisted of one Bren machine gun. In the fighting compartment next to the commander there were racks for ammunition in box magazines. The design of the turret provided circular shelling and fire with significant elevation angles.

The base Morris LRC was not very large, and the light armored car based on it was even smaller. The length did not exceed 3,5-3,6 m, the width was determined by the wheels - approx. 1,8 m. Height - approx. 1,8 m. The combat weight did not exceed 3 tons and corresponded to the capabilities of the power plant.

The Salamander armored car could move on highways and rough terrain, overcoming small obstacles. To overcome water barriers, special pontoons were developed. Two such units were attached to the sides of the vehicle using pipes with locks. Movement was proposed to be carried out by rotating the driving wheels; the steering functions were assigned to the steered wheels.

Armored car on trials

In 1940, the Morris company was engaged in the development of serial production of LRC armored cars, which significantly influenced the implementation of the Salamander project. Development and construction dragged on, and it was possible to bring the prototype vehicle of this type to testing only by the end of the year, and the main checks took place already in 1941. For some time now, the Salamander has been tested in conjunction with the Hillman Gnat product, comparing two samples.

Salamander with swim gear, stern view. Photo

The chassis on the existing base proved to be good, but it was not without claims. The Morris Salamander armored car moved confidently along the highway and rough terrain. Under certain restrictions, obstacles were overcome. However, on rough terrain, chassis performance without all-wheel drive dropped sharply. Experiments with the installation of pontoons are known, but there is no information about actual tests on water.

The booking was deemed sufficient. At the same time, the likelihood of hitting the vehicle was reduced by reducing the frontal and side projections. Armament was also found acceptable. From these points of view, the Salamander armored car looked very good - especially against the background of the motorcycles that it was supposed to replace.

The ergonomics of the habitable compartment were sharply criticized. The car was too cramped: boarding, disembarking and working were difficult and inconvenient. Moreover, in emergency situations, such design features directly threatened the lives and health of the crew.

Expected Finale

In general, the prospects for the Morris Salamander project were already determined based on the results of the first tests. Nevertheless, for some time, new tests were carried out, and two promising armored cars retained the theoretical chances of entering service. However, the command treated them without enthusiasm and was not going to make a positive decision.

In fact, everything was decided in October 1941. The initiator of the project, General V. Pope, died, and promising armored cars were left without support. At the beginning of the next year, the two products were reviewed again - and this time the final decision was made. Both projects were closed due to the dubious ratio of positive and negative qualities, as well as due to the lack of real prospects.

After this decision of the army, the two car companies returned to their previous projects. Hillman focused on the production of Tilly light trucks, while Morris continued the already established production of LRC armored cars. The latter were built until 1944, and in a few years more than 2200 vehicles rolled off the assembly line. In addition, various specialized armored vehicles were developed and tested, but none of them went into series.

Thus, the two projects of light armored cars did not progress beyond testing and did not lead to the replacement of army motorcycles. However, they allowed British industry to explore opportunities and identify real prospects for an interesting direction - as well as draw conclusions and focus on more rewarding projects.
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  1. Kot_Kuzya
    Kot_Kuzya 7 March 2021 07: 52
    A motor with a capacity of 30 horses per 3 tons of weight is extremely small, it turns out only 10 horses per ton of weight. Whereas even in tanks there should be a ratio of at least 15 horses per ton, for example, the T-34 has 17 horses per ton, the Panther has 16 horses, the Tiger has 13 horses, and he already had mobility problems, the Royal Tiger has 10 horses. and his mobility was completely useless. For comparison, the BA-64 weighing 2,4 tons had a 50 horsepower engine.
    1. The leader of the Redskins
      The leader of the Redskins 7 March 2021 08: 12
      Well, your approach is not entirely correct. Often people who are far from mechanics look only at horsepower. But no less important is the torque produced by the motor. For example, both the "Muscovite" and the tractor "Belarus" have a power of 50 l / s. Does this mean that the "Muscovite" will be able to plow a dozen hectares or pull the bus out of the mud?
      That then ..
      The project, of course, is a frank failure. Our Ba 64 was considered cramped, but here ...
      Thanks to the author for the rare material.
      1. Kot_Kuzya
        Kot_Kuzya 7 March 2021 08: 26
        So the Englishman has a petrol engine with useless traction, not a diesel.
      2. Catfish
        Catfish 7 March 2021 08: 46
        Igor, hello!
        Of course, thanks to the author for the new information, but, in my opinion, it was a dead-born project.
        Since 1939, the British army was already armed with an excellent scout car "Dingo" (, "Daimler". Scout Car, Daimler) with a much more powerful engine:
        Engine power, l with. Xnumx
        Highway speed, km / h 90
        Cruising on highway, km 320
        Specific Power, l s / t 18
        Wheel formula 4 × 4/4
        Armor of the forehead of the body, mm / deg. - up to 30 mm.
        Armament: the same "Bran" 7,7 mm.

        Its further development was the famous "Ferret" armored car, which became widespread almost all over the world.

        1. The leader of the Redskins
          The leader of the Redskins 7 March 2021 08: 50
          Good morning. Yes, I know these samples) Normal, thoughtful.
          The whole concept of "armored motorcycles" is a failure.
          1. Mister X
            Mister X 7 March 2021 10: 59
            Quote: Leader of the Redskins
            the concept of "armored motorcycles" is a failure.

            In the USA, they tried to build them in the 20s to fight bootleggers.
            But they did not receive much distribution.

            In Europe, the idea was "twisted" in the mid-30s.
            Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, France, Germany experimented in this direction.

            The British armored Triumph suffered a fiasco.
            In case of danger, the motorcyclist had to dismount and take cover behind him.

            In 1932, the Swedish company Landsverk (belonged to the Krupp concern since 1925) developed the Pansarmotorcykel L-190 armored motorcycle based on Harley-Davidson.

            In 1938 Denmark ordered an improved motorcycle based on the L-190 from Landsverk.
            The Swedes built 2 vehicles with the designation Landsverk 210.
            Engine 1,2 / 30 HP, combat weight 730 kg.
            Denmark bought 1 car, giving it the designation FP 3.
            According to rumors, the second car was bought by the grandfather of actress Uma Thurman: Baron Friedrich Karl von Schlebrugge.
            He fled to Mexico after the arrival of the Nazis.

          2. Mister X
            Mister X 7 March 2021 11: 01
            In the USSR, they came to this idea later: in 1941.
            So, at the Moscow Motorcycle Plant (before its evacuation), they developed a set of mounted armor for the M-72.
            The motorcycle was equipped with a 22 hp boxer engine.

            The driver received a stationary armored shield with folding elements, which he could install in case of danger.
            The sidecar cradle in front received a stationary shield, as well as a folding armored shield for the machine gunner.
            Behind the M-72 was also protected by folding armor plates.

            The armored M-72 turned out to be heavy, but in fact its booking still did not protect motorcyclists in modern combat.

            In NATI (Scientific Automobile and Tractor Institute) there was even a fantastic project of placing an armored capsule between two motorcycles.
            It looks menacing, but in practice it turned out to be not viable.

            In NATI, several more attempts were made to create a lightweight booking, reducing the weight of the armored shields, changing their shape.
            But in the USSR, they came to the conclusion: a motorcycle should remain a motorcycle, not an armored car.
            1. Richard
              Richard 7 March 2021 12: 39
              In the interwar period, the Soviet designer and engineer Pavel Ignatievich Grokhovsky proposed his own project for a combat armored motorcycle or simply an armored bike. Pavel Grokhovsky was primarily an aircraft designer and worked in the interests of the newly emerging airborne troops.
              Grokhovsky’s armored vehicle was a small single armored car on a semi-tracked chassis with a front swivel wheel of a motorcycle type. The caterpillar mover was distinguished by the presence of only one belt, as well as two support wheels of small diameter on the sides. Reservation is lightweight, providing protection for the fighter and machine components from small arms fire and small fragments. The armored corps covered the entire motorcycle. The armored car driver simultaneously performed the role of a shooter, firing from a course machine gun installed in the frontal sheet of the hull. The driver's seat was in a closed armored cabin in front of the car, followed by a motor-transmission compartment. To monitor the terrain, the driver used viewing slots in the car body, as well as a hemispherical turret on the roof of the body.

              Grokhovsky’s armored cycle was worked out in detail, but the project did not interest the military, therefore it was never implemented in metal. It’s a pity when you consider that your version of a half-track motorcycle appeared and was widely used by Germany during the Second World War, however, it was an option without armor, which proved to be an effective lightweight transporter. At the same time, like the Grokhovsky armored vehicle, the German SdKfz 2 was created primarily for the airborne troops.
              1. Catfish
                Catfish 7 March 2021 14: 41
                Hello Dima! hi
                With your permission, I will insert a photo of this German. And the fact that it was created specifically for the Airborne Forces is news to me.
                1. Mister X
                  Mister X 7 March 2021 16: 53
                  Quote: Sea Cat
                  With your permission, I will insert a photo of this German

                  And Sd.Kfz. 2 rollers staggered, like many German tanks.
                  For repair and maintenance is more dreary.
                  1. hohol95
                    hohol95 7 March 2021 21: 57
                    And Sd.Kfz. 2 rollers staggered, like many German tanks.

                    Maybe it all started with a family of semi-tracked tractors?
                    All these chassis with the staggered arrangement of the rollers "brainchild" of Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp - Head of Department No. 6 (Waffenprüfamt 6) of the Armaments Directorate of the Land Forces of the Ministry of Arms and War Industry of the Reich.
                    He "did not digest well" other constructions. Especially the "brainchild" of the "Krupp" company - Pz.Kpfw. IV.
              2. Mister X
                Mister X 7 March 2021 16: 51
                Quote: Richard
                Grokhovsky's armored vehicle was a small single-seater armored car on a half-track chassis with a motorcycle-type front swivel wheel.

                Look at him and think?
                - Who was the ancestor of the snowmobile?
                1. Catfish
                  Catfish 7 March 2021 17: 08
                  Hi Michael! hi
                  - Who was the ancestor of the snowmobile?

                  Is very similar. smile
                  1. Mister X
                    Mister X 7 March 2021 20: 18
                    Quote: Sea Cat
                    Hi Michael!

                    Hi Constantine! hi
                    Quote: Sea Cat
                    Is very similar

                    I hastily tugged at milestones. The snowmobile did not touch Sikorsky, they were more comfortable, but not the first.

                    1903 engineer Nezhdanovsky (Russia)

                    Ski car
                    1907 engineer Meller (Russia)

                    Caterpillars Kegresse
                    1914 Adolph Kegresse develops the original track system called "Kegresse Tracks".
                    He developed them in Russia, especially for the cars of Tsar Nicholas II.

                    The Russian-Baltic Carriage Works acquires Kegress's patent, and on the basis of the car they produce, Russo-Balt is setting up the production of car sleighs.

                    On a snowmobile, he drove Nicholas II for the last time on January 15, 1917.
                    In the diary of the king there was a record about this:
                    - “At 2 o'clock I went with all the children on Kegress's snow motors to Pulkovo; We drove through different ravines, descended from the mountain, drove straight through fields and swamps along the Gatchina highway and returned through Babolovo. We are not stuck anywhere, despite the deep snow. "

                    In August 1916, Adolf Kegresse introduced the world's first half-track armored car.
                    Having passed the cross-country tests, it was soon adopted for service.
                    Over time, for military purposes, the "Kegress system" is tried to be installed on a motorcycle.
                    This is how the first snowmobile is born, which will later return to us from abroad.

                    Immediately after the abdication of Nicholas II, the engineer took his family to Finland from the tsar's garage on a tracked car.
                    From there - to France, where he got a job at Citroen.

                    Karl Eliason from Wisconsin (USA)
                    Invents a toboggan (useless sled) with a caterpillar drive.

                    Bombardier (Canada)
                    Correctly assessed the prospects for the snowmobile market after World War II, and began to produce snowmobiles for winter recreation, designed for one or two people.
                    In fact, he created this snowmobile market himself.
                    1. Catfish
                      Catfish 7 March 2021 20: 42
                      As a child, I was on the roller coaster with my parents and I remember this Leninist Rolls-Royce.

                      1. Mister X
                        Mister X 7 March 2021 23: 16
                        Quote: Sea Cat
                        I remember this Leninist Rolls-Royce.

                        Most likely the same Adolf Kegress upgraded this Rolls Royce
                    2. Maximillian von Adelheid
                      Maximillian von Adelheid 17 May 2021 10: 27
                      Okay! laughing
                      Nicolas the Bloody "lost" even more than he was capable of ... good
                      Nothing personal! wink
        2. Bolt cutter
          Bolt cutter 7 March 2021 14: 22
          Ferret seemed close to me like a toy, he is so small.
      3. Richard
        Richard 7 March 2021 09: 06
        Thanks to the author for the rare material.

        I join Igor
        Even I. Moshchansky "Armored vehicles of Great Britain 1939-1945 part 2" gives very scant information about this armor.
        Morris Light Reconnaissance Armored Car "Salamander" Model 1941
        COMBAT WEIGHT ~ 3000 kg
        CREW, people 2
        Length, mm?
        Width, mm?
        Height, mm? Clearance, mm?
        ARMAMENT one 7,92 mm Bren in the turret
        Ammunition kit?
        body forehead - 14 mm
        board - 8 mm
        feed 8 mm
        roof - 8 mm
        tower - 8 mm
        TRANSMISSION mechanical type
        wheel arrangement 4х4,
        single wheels, pneumatic tires, leaf spring suspension
        COMMUNICATION FACILITIES were not established
    2. Mister X
      Mister X 7 March 2021 08: 50
      Quote: Kot_Kuzya
      A motor with a capacity of 30 horses per 3 tons of weight is extremely small ...
      ... even tanks must have a ratio of at least 15 horses per ton

      I agree.
      Even in the Polish TKS wedge, the power density was 17/18 l / s per ton.
      Although it is not entirely correct to compare a tracked vehicle with a wheeled vehicle.

      The company had another project.
      Compact 1-seater vehicle with 2 fixed machine guns.
      Like an airplane or something ...
      The one-seater car was named Glanville fighter car (pictured on the right).
      The series also did not go.

      1. Kot_Kuzya
        Kot_Kuzya 7 March 2021 10: 04
        Quote: Mister X
        Compact 1-seater vehicle with 2 fixed machine guns.
        Like an airplane or something ...

        At that time there was a fashion for fixed course machine guns, suffice it to recall the M3 "Stuart", on the early modifications of which there were two fixed course machine guns on the body. Or the Soviet T-44, where a fixed course machine gun was also installed, since there was no longer a radio operator in the crew. But as practice has shown, such machine guns were not needed due to their absolute uselessness, since the mechanic drive, with its yaw to the sides to defeat the enemy from stationary machine guns, knocked down the gunner's sight in the tower, and this is deadly in a battle against enemy artillery and tanks.
        1. Mister X
          Mister X 7 March 2021 11: 13
          Quote: Kot_Kuzya
          Soviet T-44, where a fixed course machine gun was also installed

          Nothing in the world is perfect.
          A solid compromise.
          So, having abandoned the ball mount of the course machine gun, we got:
          Increased strength of the frontal plate, good visibility of the driver, and as a result - improved control of the machine in the stowed position.
          True, the stationary machine gun became fake, like a stick in the rear hemisphere of a single IL-2.
          1. Kot_Kuzya
            Kot_Kuzya 7 March 2021 11: 27
            I read the memoirs of the tankers, they all scolded the review of the course machine gun, said that there was no visibility, it was possible to see only in an extremely narrow range of the sight, and the radio operator did not have any observation devices. The radio operator was more involved in setting up and maintaining the radio, since they were then extremely capricious and complex, and then by the end of WWII, when the development of radio made it possible to make them less capricious and complex, a separate radio operator simply became unnecessary, and therefore there was no the position of a radio operator, the tank commander could already serve the tank radio himself, since it became much more reliable and not capricious.
    3. Intruder
      Intruder 8 March 2021 01: 10
      Whereas even tanks should have a ratio of at least 15 horses per ton
      like the BTR-40, 15,1 hp / ton, or the GAZ-40P "BRDM": 15,2 - 16,1 !?
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  3. Alien From
    Alien From 7 March 2021 21: 36
    I want to say thank you to the author and all members of the forum for the excellent information, it was interesting hi