“Tanks, Jeeps, & Armor… Oh My!” RIAC Military Vehicles
By Joel Kolander
Unless you’ve been completely ignoring our social media accounts, you’re probably aware that we have some pretty fantastic military vehicles coming up for auction, beginning in the September 7 – 9 Premiere Firearms Auction. We have tanks, armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), Jeeps and lots of other items with a “cool factor” high enough that anyone can appreciate – not just the military vehicle collectors. Perhaps what most people can’t believe is that these vehicles can be owned in the private sector by regular, ordinary civilians.
While each of these items could easily fill their own blog (or video) with their specs, service history, and quick peek inside, those will come in the weeks that follow. Since all these items are so fascinating, what I wanted to do is quickly list them all right here. That way when the catalog is released in early August, you’ll know everything that’s being offered in this category – not just the highlights. So without further ado, here are the military vehicles of the 2018 September Premiere Firearms Auction.
Seeking air superiority during World War 2, the demand for radial engines grew radically and the days of the M3 Stuart, which used such a radial engine, were numbered. In came the M5 Stuart, using dual Cadillac V8 engines mated to a smooth and quiet Hydra-Matic transmission. It was not only a stealthier tank, but also much roomier inside, and now easier to drive as an automatic. The Army was also fond of the M5 as the main hull, tracks, suspension, and turret were derived from the M3A3, so very little changes were required on the initial assembly line at the GMC plant in Detroit. The M5A1 brought with it necessary changes as well, but none as dramatic as the changes between the M3 and M5. It offered a previously unheard of level of reliability and performance, and many a GI was pleased to be driving a “Cadillac.” Even the Brits loved it and gave it their own affectionate nicknam, “Honey.” In an era when many tanks did not enjoy high levels of reliability, and the potentially mortal consequences that could entail, this reliability and trust cannot be understated. The cherry on top? It ran on automobile grade gasoline. It would be succeeded by the M24 Chaffee, which would improve upon its predecessor in nearly every way imaginable.
The M3/M5 Stuarts were replaced by the M24 Chaffee in 1944 which served until 1953 (though they served for decades in other countries). The M24 was eventually replaced by the next tank on our list, the M41 Walker Bulldog. Both subsequent designs gave a substantial increase in firepower, but due to the Walker Bulldog’s introduction between armed conflicts (1951-1954) its use was nowhere near as prolific as the M5. Originally planned as a replacement to the aging fleet of surplus M24 Chaffee tanks, the Bulldogs were rushed into production in 1951 at the outbreak of the Korean War. The M41, despite being too heavy for air deployment, incredibly noisy, and with a less spacious interior than the M24, still offered improvements of its own. Its 76mm primary gun was longer, more powerful, and fully stabilized. Much like the Chaffee, it remained simple to operate, maintain, and quite reliable. For these reasons, despite their short life in the U.S., they were exported to many other allied nations who put them in service for decades to come. The M41A1 designation was a variant introduced in 1954 that changed the electric traverse system to a hydraulic one, which conserved interior space allowing for an additional 8 rounds.
If you’re from the Midwest (especially Wisconsin), you likely were introduced to this vehicle a long time ago as a “Wisconsin Duck.” These amphibious military vehicles have been used in the Wisconsin Dells vacation area since 1946 to give tours down the Wisconsin River and through some beautiful and scenic terrain. Initially the brain child of a yacht designer and a sailor, the DUKW is a six-wheeled vehicle originally intended to resupply military personnel who had just performed a beach landing. These are rugged vehicles, not only capable of traversing rougher seas than more traditional water craft, but are also seaworthy enough to have crossed the English Channel. They were produced from 1942-1945 with approximately 21,147 made in total. In addition to many other military operations, DUKW vehicles were used on D-Day to resupply landed troops and transport casualties. With that kind of history and the potential for impressive riverside recreation, owning a DUKW seems like a dream for many a collector.
The M3A1 Scout Car was a barge of destruction for you and up to 7 friends. Manufactured from 1940 until 1944, and armed with one .50 caliber machine gun and two .30 cals mounted on skate rails, the M3A1 was designed for scouting and patrol, but also ended up serving as an ambulance and command vehicle after it was replaced. In total 20,918 were built and these things look beefy. Four wheel drive and power brakes via vacuum assist, means this armored car is still fun to drive. It comes with a number of appropriate accessories.
5. Impressive and Desirable World War II U.S. Bofors 40 mm Automatic Gun M1 on Anti-Aircraft Carriage M2A1
OK, so I know this one isn’t a vehicle, but since we’ve been towing it behind the M3A1 Scout Car it just seems right to list it here. After all the M3A1 did also serve as an artillery towing vehicle. This is a remarkably cool piece that’s fun to look at and figure out how it works. You would not believe how easily the traverse and elevation cranks move this entire gun – it can be done using only two fingers!
The militarized version of the CJ-5 is the M606A2. They were manufactured from 1965-1967 as both radio cars and with the gun as offered here. When paired with the M70 106mm recoilless rifle, they served in the Six-Day War as anti-tank vehicles – not a role I can imagine as particularly desirable. Accompanied also by a .50-cal spotting rifle, both mounted weapons have been demilled.
Despite the Jeep taking the public image as the quintessential military vehicle, the Dodge WC series of vehicles, in both their 4 and 6-wheel versions, were produced nearly 50% more than the Jeep totaling approximately 376,170 in all its variations. This WC-51 cargo truck is 3/4 ton and one of 123,541 built, making it one of the more widely used of the series. Made for three short years in the midst of WWII, 1942-1945, these trucks moved supplies and men in any number of conditions. They were as beloved as the Jeep by the men who used them, and their rugged reliability helped them see service even into the Korean War.
As someone who thinks the Korean War is still truly the “The Forgotten War,” I love seeing the pieces of history from that period. The M43 is the natural progression from the WC Series (mentioned in #7), to the wildly popular Dodge M37 – the M43 ambulance being a variant of the M37 cargo truck. While M37 production as a whole ran from 1951 – 1968, the M43 production only lasted from 1951-1954 (its successor the M43B1 continued production until 1959-1968). This is an absolutely amazing looking truck, sure to give much in the way of pride of ownership.
The follow-up to the Willys MC (M38 or “quarter ton”) was the M151 Jeep, and what a follow-up it was. Their service life was longer than that of the GPW, M38, and M38A1 combined! Over 100,000 were built from 1959-1988 until they were eventually replaced with the AM General HMMWV (Humvee) trucks. That is a baffling length of service for a single vehicle design.
The P170 is a neat piece of equipment that, via a pair of arms, sits about 15-feet in front of the Jeep and looks largely like a rectangular riding lawn mower deck of sorts. When used in its “auto-braking” mode the vehicle would automatically activate its brake actuator to stop once a mine was detected. From there the passenger could lift the apparatus, the driver would reverse, and the position of the mine could be pinpointed by the passenger using a pair of rotary levers to move the P170 to the right or left using a winch and a system of cables. This device is extremely rare and less than a handful of Jeeps in this configuration are thought to exist.
Known affectionately as the “mechanical mule” the M74A5 was essentially a military ATV that hauled supplies wherever soldiers needed them. Four different companies (Willys, BMY, Baifield Industries, and Bruswick Corp.) produced six different versions between 1959 – 1970. This final version, the A5, was the only one to utilize an electric starter; all previous versions requiring a pull-start motor mounted at the rear. The A5 was also the only one made out of aluminum, previous versions being crafted of magnesium. Either choice resulted in top speed of 15 – 25 mph depending on which source you read. Of the 11,240 “M274 Truck, Platform, Utility, 1/2 ton” vehicles produced, roughly 5,000 were destroyed or left behind in Vietnam. This particular example was manufactured by Baifield Industries, has a June 1968 delivery date, and comes hauling a demilled M40 recoilless rifle, a demilled M8C spotting rifle, and 4 dummy rounds in the ammo rack.
It’s six wheel drive, amphibious, four wheel steering, and so off-road capable it earned the nickname “Goat.” What more could you ask for in a military vehicle? Originally nicknamed the “Gama” for its inventor Robert Gamaunt, it quickly became the “Gama Goat” by those who came to love its ability to manhandle the rough and sloppy conditions during the Vietnam War. In photos it may look like it’s hauling a trailer, but that is the articulated chassis, allowing the vehicle to pivot near its center, as seen in many public transit city buses today. Combining the articulated chassis with the steering ability of the front and rear-most wheels and you also have a vehicle that’s surprisingly nimble. 14,274 Gama Goats were created between 1962-1965 at a cost of $8,000 each (equivalent to $66,752.05 in 2018). Unfortunately, they were not without their problems (required smooth water for amphibious use, no propeller, operators required hearing protection, difficult to lubricate, etc), and so after their initial contract, the Army elected not to order additional Goats.
As someone who rode for 12+ years, it’s taking everything I have not to take this bike out for a cruise. Made from 1927 to 1955 it was the most produced British military motorcycle during World War II and became its longest serving. As one would expect, it was intended primarily as a dispatch and escort vehicle. A single cylinder, 496 cc, cast iron engine did not make for the fastest vehicle on the road, but it was extremely reliable and easy to maintain, thus ensuring that resulting surplus models saw a long life in the civilian market. BSA was important enough to the war effort that its factory in Small Heath, Birmingham was bombed by the Luftwaffe on November 19, 1940. Two bombs were dropped which killed 53 workers and injured 89. Thankfully, BSA had 67 other factories(!), so impact to production was minimal for the British war effort. This bike offered by RIAC was manufactured in 1941.
Condor Werke might be a Swiss company, but the engines in these well-known European bikes is the single cylinder Ducati 350 Scrambler (340.2 cc), which was shipped as a complete unit from Italy. The most notable modification that the Swiss made to the bike was to “de-tune” it for reliability and so it would run better with lower quality gas. Between 1973 – 1978 about 3,000 were made with the Ducatti engines that generated a max of 16.6 hp. This example was made in 1976 and features dual gun mounts intended for SIG 57 rifles.
A military version of the civilian CJ-5, the M38A1 succeeded the M38 and was built for various military branches and foreign governments from 1952-1971. It introduced many of the design features and lines that we still expect in Jeeps today, such as the classic round fenders. The military version was beefed up significantly from the CJ-5 for its military duties, most notably with a stronger frame and suspension, plus reversed front spring shackles. Variations also existed for the mounting of a 106 mm recoilless rifle (as seen in #6 of this article). This version is equipped with special radio gear: a SN39 command radio protected by a CY-731 waterproof radio cabinet.
Our previous item, while also an M38A1 Jeep, was manufactured by Kaiser after the 1953 merger of Willys-Overland and Kaiser Motors. In contrast, this one has a November 1952 delivery date, and thus is a true Willys. Since production began in 1952 and the merger happened in 1953, M38A1 vehicles manufactured prior to the series of ownership changes are relatively few.
Whether you’re a serious collector of military vehicles or just find them fascinating, please subscribe to our YouTube Channel. We’ll have several brilliant videos hosted by Nicholas Moran from the YouTube Channel, The_Chieftan and host of popular tank program “Inside the Chieftan’s Hatch.” Not to mention that future auctions will also be featuring incredible military vehicles and you wouldn’t want to miss that.
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