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A fascinating piece of historical military hardware – The Simms Motor War Car was the first armoured car ever built

Simms' 1902 Motor War Car. Source
Simms' 1902 Motor War Car. Source

At the beginning of the 20th century, the first military armored vehicles were manufactured, by adding armor and weapons to existing vehicles.

The first armored car was the Simms Motor War Car, designed by the British inventor and businessman Frederick Richard Simms, inventor and founder of the RAC and SMMT. A single prototype was ordered in April 1899 It was built by Vickers, Sons & Maxim of Barrow on a special Coventry-built Daimler chassis with a German-built Daimler motor (with the Simms-Bosch magneto-electric ignition and timing gear).

The Motor War Car was designed with the vision of potentially being deployed to the British-controlled South Africa Colony to help the then-raging war effort against the Boers during the Second Boer War. Unfortunately for F.R. Simms, the Motor War Car had a very long production time and because of difficulties, including a gearbox destroyed by a road accident, the vehicle was not finished by Vickers until 1902 when the Boer War was over.

Simms' 1902 Motor War Car. Source
Simms’ 1902 Motor War Car. Source

It was a development of Simms’ earlier design for a “motor scout”, a petrol-powered quadricycle with a machine gun and front iron shield. The vehicle had Vickers 6 mm thick armour, shaped into a ram at each end and it was 8 feet wide and 10 feet high, covered by a 28 foot-long detachable metal shell that somewhat resembled an upturned bathtub, capable of running on very rough surfaces.

Simms' Motor War Car at the Crystal Palace, London, April 1902. Source
Simms’ Motor War Car at the Crystal Palace, London, April 1902. Source

The Motor War Car was powered by a 16 horse-power four-cylinder engine provided by the German Daimler company, giving it a maximum speed of around 9 miles per hour (14.5 km/h), although this could be increased by 25 per cent with the accelerator on. The car was topped by two quick-firing Maxim guns and a “pom-pom”, an automatic cannon named for the sound it made when fired, and required four people to operate it, although several riflemen could also be accommodated.

The Simms’ Motor War Car was put on public show in April 1902 at the Crystal Palace, London.

David Goran

David Goran is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News