M1 Combat Car

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Not to be confused with the turn of the 20th–21st century M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.
M1 Combat Car
Light Tank M1
M1 Combat Car.jpg
M1 Combat Car
Type Light tank
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1937–1943
Used by United States
Production history
Manufacturer Rock Island Arsenal
Produced 1935–?
Number built 113
Specifications (M1)
Weight ~10 short tons (9.1 t)[1]
Length 4.14 m (13 ft 7 in)
Width 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)
Height 2.26 m (7 ft 5 in)
Crew 4

Armor 6–16 mm
.50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun
.30 cal (7.62 mm) machine gun
.30 cal (7.62 mm) machine gun
Engine Continental R-670 7-cylinder air-cooled radial gasoline
250 hp (190 kW)
Suspension Vertical volute spring
161 km (100 mi) on roads
Speed 72 km/h (45 mph) on roads

The M1 Combat Car was a light tank used by the U.S. Cavalry in the late 1930s.[2] Developed at the same time as the infantry's very similar M2 Light tank. After the Spanish Civil War, most armies, including the U.S. Army, realized that they needed tanks armed with cannons, not merely vehicles armed with machine guns,[3] and so the M1 became obsolete.

History and development[edit]

The National Defense Act of 1920, set tanks as the responsibility of the infantry and the General Staff defined the purpose of tanks as the support of infantry units.[4] Light tanks were defined as weight 5 tons or less – so they could be carried by truck – and medium tanks no greater than 15 tons to meet bridge weight limits. With very tight restrictions on spending, tank development in the US was limited to a couple of test vehicles a year. The mechanization of the army was promoted by General Douglas MacArthur (Chief of Staff of the US Army) who believed that the cavalry should have tanks for an exploiting role rather than act in support of the infantry. [4] To allow U.S. Army cavalry units to be equipped with armored fighting vehicles, the tanks developed for the cavalry were designated "combat cars".[note 1]

In the mid 1930s, the Rock Island Arsenal built three experimental T2 light tanks inspired by the British Vickers 6-Ton tank. At the same time they built a light tank similar to the T2 for the cavalry – the T5 Combat Car. The only major difference between the two was that the T5 used vertical volute suspension; the T2 had leaf springs as on the Vickers. The T5 was developed further and the T5E2 was accepted for production as the M1 Combat Car.[4]

The M1 entered service in 1937. A change to the suspension so that the idler wheel rested on the ground ("trailing") increased the length of track in contact with the ground and improved the ride. Together with a different engine and improved turret, this gave the M2 Combat Car.[4] In 1940, the distinction between infantry and cavalry tank units disappeared with the establishment of the Armored Force to manage all tanks in the US Army. The 'Combat Car' name was superfluous, and the cavalry unit tanks redesignated: M1 Combat Car as the Light Tank M1A1 and M2 Combat Car as Light Tank M1A2.[5][4]


The M1 and M2 Combat Cars were not used in combat by the US Army during World War II; some were used for training purposes.[4]


  • M1 – The original variant. 89 built.[2]
  • M1E2 – prototype for M1A1
  • M1A1 – New octagonal turret instead of a D-shaped one; increased distance between the wheel bogies. Constant mesh gears. 17 built in 1938.[4]
  • M1A1E1 – Prototype of M2 Combat Car. Engine was replaced by Guiberson T-1020 diesel.[4]
  • M2 – New Guiberson diesel engine and trailing idler. 34 built.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The same legal sleight of hand was used for Japan's Type 92 Heavy Armoured Car, a light tank for the cavalry.
  1. ^ Yeide (2006), p. 31.
  2. ^ a b Ogorkiewicz (2015), p. 84
  3. ^ Zaloga (2008), pp. 4–5
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Chamberlain & Ellis (1969), p. 84.
  5. ^ "Combat Car M1", AFV Database, 24 November 2002 
  6. ^ Chamberlain & Ellis (1969), p. 85.

Further reading[edit]

  • Foss, Christopher F., ed. (2002). The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles – The Comprehensive Guide to Over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles From 1915 to the Present Day. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press. ISBN 9781571458063. 

External links[edit]