AEC Armoured Car

The AEC Armoured Car was the largest British armoured car of the Second World War to be produced in large numbers, and was often used to provide fire support for lighter armoured cars.

Front view of AEC Armoured Car Mk.I Front view of AEC Armoured Car Mk.I

The AEC Armoured Car was built on the chassis of their Matador 4x4 artillery tractor. The central part of the chassis frame was lowered to give more space for the fighting compartment, and the diesel engine moved to the rear. It could be used as a 4x4 or on roads in 4x2 mode, with the drive and steering on the front wheels only.

A high sided but narrow armoured hull was placed on top, fitting between the wheels. The centre part bulged out slightly, while the front sloped down and narrowed towards the nose. When the vehicle was fully closed up for combat the driver had to use periscopes for vision. Out of combat the driver’s seat could be raised up to bring his head out of his hatch.

It was given a 2-pounder turret from the Valentine tank, which was available as those tanks were being converted into bridge layers. It had a maximum of 30mm of armoured, making it one of the better protected armoured cars – indeed it was as well armoured as the Cruiser Tank Mk IV, which saw combat in North Africa in 1941. It was slightly taller than the Humber Armoured Car or Daimler Armoured car at over eight feet, and rather heavier than either at eleven tons.

The AEC Armoured Car had been developed as a private venture, in response to reports of the fighting in North Africa. In order to bring it to Churchill’s attention AEC unofficially added a brightly painted example of the vehicle into a parade of British armoured vehicles being held in front of the Prime Minister on Horse Guards Parade. This ruse was successful, the vehicle was spotted by Churchill, and an order for 122 examples placed in June 1941. Delays with getting the Valentine turrets meant that the first examples didn’t enter service until 1942, when they were issued to units in North Africa.


Although the AEC was rather too large for the reconnaissance role, its thicker armour, powerful engine and more powerful gun made it good for special roles, often serving in the heavy troops of armoured car regiments to provide fire support for Daimlers and Humbers

The AEC entered service in North Africa in 1942. Although it was difficult to drive, could get stuck in soft sand and had a high profile, it proved to be rather popular. Initially two were issued to each armoured car regiment, and they were used to protect transport columns from German raids. They were especially useful when the Germans started to use captured Stuart tanks on these raids, as the 2-pounder on the AEC Mk I made it the only armoured car capable of defeating the Stuarts.

A.E.C. Armoured Car Mk II from the right-rear A.E.C. Armoured Car Mk II from the right-rear

As a result of this experience work began in South Africa on the AEC Griffin, which carried an artillery type 6-pounder in a large but thinly armoured turret. One was tested by the Mechanisation Experimental Establishment in North Africa, but plans to convert thirty AEC Mk Is into Griffins appear not to have been carried out.

It was also used in Tunisia, and during the Italian campaign, where the Mk III was used as fire support for the armoured car regiments.

The Mk II served in Italy, where it was less popular than the Mk I had been in North Africa. Its size was the biggest problem, which made it difficult to hide and caused problems driving through the more cramped landscape of Italy. However it was very reliable compared to the other armoured cars in service, and the 6-pounder gun was popular.

In Tunisia an attempt was made to equip the Mk I with a 3-in howitzer, to allow it to serve with a heavy troop in the armoured car regiments to provide fire support in the mountainous countryside. This effort was soon abandoned in favour of American M3 (75mm) Half Tracks.

AEC Armoured Car Mk.II from the left AEC Armoured Car Mk.II from the left

Some Mk IIIs were used in the campaign in north-western Europe, mainly serving in the support sections of armoured car regiments. Each armoured car regiments had four Sabre fighting squadrons, and each of them had a support section armed with two 75mm self propelled – either on half tracks or the AEC Mk III.

The AEC was used to test out a type of minesweeping roller that had been developed in the Middle East. This was a concrete drum with spikes built into the concrete. In use the driver of the vehicle moved into an armoured cylinder to protect them from the resulting explosions. This was tested on a range of lorries, Valentine tanks, and the AEC armoured car.

A number of AEC armoured cars were sent to Yugoslavia in 1944 to be used by the partisans.

After the war the AEC armoured car was issued to the reconnaissance regiments of the reformed Belgian army.

A total of 629 AEC armoured cars were built, in three versions.

Mk I

The Mk I was armed with a 2-pounder gun carried in turrets taken from Valentine tanks that were being turned into bridge layers

119 of the 2-pounder version were accepted in 1942.


AEC Armoured Car Mk.II from the right AEC Armoured Car Mk.II from the right

Work on the Mk II began as a result of experience in North Africa, where the 2-pounder armed Mk I been a success, but bigger guns were required. The Mk II was given a larger turret that carried a 6-pounder anti-tank gun and a Besa machine gun. It also had a more powerful 155hp engine which raised its top speed to 41mph. Both the Mk II and Mk III both had electrically powered traversing gear to cope with the heavier turrets.

293 of the 6-pounder version were accepted in 1943 and seven in 1944.


The Mk III was armed with the British version of the American M3 75mm tank gun. A trial vehicle underwent tests at Lulworth in the summer of 1943, where it was discovered that the new gun produced more fumes than the 6-pounder. As a result a second electric extractor fan was added to the roof. The last 200 A.E.C. armoured cars under production were completed as the Mk III.

200 of the 75mm armed version were accepted in 1944.

Hull Length: 5.18m
Hull Width: 2.70m
Height: 2.55m
Crew: 3
Weight: 11 tonnes
Engine: 105hp
Max Speed: 36mph/ 58 km/hr (road)
Max Range: 250 miles
Armour: up to  30mm

Engine: 158hp six cylinder AEC diesel
Hull Length: 5.18m (Mk II), 5.61m (Mk III)
Hull Width: 2.70m
Height: 2.69m
Crew: 3
Weight: 11 tonnes
Engine: 155hp six cylinder diesel
Max Speed: 41mph/ 66 km/hr (road)
Max Range: 250 miles
Armour: up to 30mm

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 December 2023), AEC Armoured Car ,

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