M20 Armored Utility Car

The M20 Armored Utility Car was a combined command car and personal and cargo carrier based on the M8 light armored car, but with the turret removed and replacing with an open topped crew compartment.

When the M8 was first being developed, one of the requirements was that it would be adaptable for other uses. Work on turning that into practice began late in 1942, after the M8 had already been ordered. On 29 October 1942 an order was placed for the purchase of a number of armoured command cars and armoured personal and cargo carriers. This was followed on 17 December 1942 by an official recommendation from the Ordnance Committee, which was approved on 31 December, designating the two vehicles as the Carrier, Personnel-Cargo, T20 and Car, Command, Armoured, T26. A third design, the Carriage, Motor, Multiple Gun, T69 was also included in this document.

The initial plan was for these vehicles to be rather different from each other. The T26 was to keep the turret of the M8, but with the gun and gun mount removed and communications equipment installed. The T20 was to lose the turret and the roof of the fighting compartment, and have raised sides installed instead, producing a space with seats for six men. Some work began on the T20, and a mockup was produced with plywood sides for the personnel compartment and a mount for a .50in machine gun at the front.

It was then decided to combine the two roles into a single vehicle, which was given the new designation Armored Utility Car T26. This would use the basic design of the T20, with the turret removed and replaced with a higher sided open topped compartment. The new plans were approved on 18 March 1943, by which  point the prototype T26 was already complete, having started its trails at the Aberdeen Proving Ground on 10-18 March 1943. These went well, and on 1 April 1943 the new vehicle was recommended for standardization as the Car, Armored, Utility, M10. This was approved on 6 May, but one week later the number was changed to M20 to avoid confusion with the M10 3in GMC, an early tank destroyer.

The pilot T26 had been completed in February 1943. It kept the basic layout of the M8, with the armoured driver’s protection at the front, twin hatches over the engines at the rear, and fenders down the sides of the wheels, but replaced the normal fighting compartment with a new open topped crew compartment. The compartment was protected by a low armoured shield around all four sides. A M49 ring to carry a .50in calibre was mounted over the rear of the new compartment. It could carry seven men or 3,000lb of cargo. The T26 had wooden benches along the sides of the compartment and a radio at the left-rear. There was no barrier between the crew compartment and the driver’s compartment. The T26 underwent tests with the Tank Destroyer Board at Aberdeen in March 1943. It was possible to access the sponson storage space from within the compartment, and a series of radio sets were tried out during tests at Camp Hood in May 1943.

On 23 March 1943 Ford was given a contract to produce 5,522 of the new M20s, with production to be concentrated at their Chicago plant. Production peaked at 320 vehicles in November 1943 and 3,790 had been built by the time the contract ended on 17 August 1945.

The M20 underwent many of the same changes during production as the M8, including the removal of the anti-personnel mine racks between the first and second set of wheels, and their replacement with an extra storage box, and the addition of a storage box for the removable windscreens on the front of the glacis.

US Service

Tank destroyer battalions with self propelled tank destroyers each had 30 M20s for use as command and utility vehicles. Those with towed anti-tank guns only had ten M20s.

The eight tank destroyer battalions in Italy slowly received the M8 and M20, but by July 1944 there were only 185 M8s and 50 M20s serving with the Fifth Army. By the end of the war 111 M8s and 72 M20s had been lost in combat in Italy, mostly during the fighting in the north in 1945.

A total of 446 M20s were lost in Normandy, but the numbers available still peaked in May 1945 at 1,445 vehicles

The M20 could be used in roughly the same way as the M8, as its .5in machine guns gave it useful firepower and it had the same mobility. However it was also used as a command vehicle, carrying two radios to give more flexibility, and as a fast transport, although its relatively poor mobility reduced its effectiveness in that role.

Free French

The Free French received 205 M20s, and used them in a similar way to the Americans.

Post War

The M20 remained in US service into the Korean War, as the M38 armored car, which was meant to replace it, never entered production. However not many actually saw combat in Korea, and it was retired from the army soon afterwards.

Hull Length: 197in
Hull Width: 100in
Height: 90in
Crew: 4
Weight: 12,250lb
Engine: 110hp Herculies JXD 6 cylinder engine
Max Speed: 55mph
Max Range: 250 miles
Armament: .50in machine gun,  .30in machine gun, .50in anti-aircraft gun

Ford M8 and M20 – The US Army’s Standard Armoured Car of WWII, David Doyle. A pictorial history of the M8 armoured car and M20 utility vehicle, both of which saw service in Italy, Normandy and north-western Europe and to a lesser extent in the Pacific. Very good material on the development of the vehicle, and close up pictures of development and test vehicles as well as modern survivors, along with a useful chapter of pictures of the vehicle in service. Probably aimed more at the modeller than the historian, and will provide many useful details of otherwise hard to examine areas (Read Full Review)
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 December 2022), M20 Armored Utility Car , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_M20_armored_utility_car.html

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