From the latest Woodpile Report:
In the 1930s, Britain produced a light tracked vehicle, open top, about three tons, twelve feet long, a boxy welded affair powered by a V8 gas engine. Road speed was thirty miles an hour. The intent was to field a general purpose, lightly armored vehicle mounting various weaponry, and capable of towing a field piece. In 1940 the various configurations were blended into one, hence the name “universal”. About 113,000 were built and fielded, as late as 1960. See an excellent YouTube video here [above].
The Universal Carrier evolved from a mini-tank typical of the 1920s, a development that did much to shed its antique appearance. But underneath it was the same basic machine and therein lay its advantages. They were cheap, for one. And everything that made it work was simple, accessible and repairable. Hammer-and-wrench repairable, no electronic diagnostics or finely calibrated gadgets, just bolts and springs and levers.
Needless to say, the UC became less universal through field modifications and special applications using the platform, but the concept remained largely intact. They were exported to Russia under Lend Lease, copied by Canada and Australia, captured and used by Germany and, after the war, distributed all over the world. The Universal Carrier is the resounding success of WWII most of us have never heard of.
Neither tanks, armored cars or APCs, the Universal Carrier was as beloved by the Brits as was the Jeep by the Yanks. By way of the ultimate homage, as the M3/M5 Stuart light tank became ineffective toward the end of the war, the Brits made “super” Universal Carriers out of them by removing the turret and other topside encumberances. See this YouTube video for excellent footage of one, beginning at the 20 second mark. The thing looks downright contemporary.
The Universal Carrier would be a worthy project for garage mechanics with home machine shops, and even a little thought conjures up some interesting variations. In a shtf scenario, a community home defense outfit could find a use for these. The fear factor for the bad guys would peg the needle. Until then they’d be useful around the homestead.
Or did you plan on being purely footborne infantry?