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A brief history of the T-16 Carrier

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 Copyright 1999-2015
H.L. Spoelstra
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Page created: 12-Aug-2002
Last revision: 01-Oct-2015
 

A brief history of the T-16 Carrier

As originally published in 2001 on The Carrier Platoon web site (now defunct)

 

The US T16 Carrierhttps://web.archive.org/web/20020309114810/http:/www.universalcarrier.org/images/t16logo2.gifhttps://web.archive.org/web/20020309114810/http:/www.universalcarrier.org/images/t16logo3.gif

 

The U.S. response to a British request to manufacture carriers was the T-16. Re-engineered by Ford USA, it was a different beast in many ways.

Universal Carrier under loadThe U.S. T-16 Carrier was an interesting answer to some of the known design problems inherent in the initial British genus and derivatives. After several years of hard use in varying climates and environments, the inherent weaknesses in the basic carrier design had become known: rear axles prone to failure under sustained load, a steering system which required constant adjustment and which wore out brake shoes at a prodigious rate, and suspension and track failures under high loads. In addition, it had been found that the original 221cubic inch Ford engine and its six volt electrical system was not reliable or strong enough to perform the tasks demanded of the carrier under battlefield conditions. For example, the weight of towing a six-pounder antitank gun and the carriage of its crew and stores frequently wore out drivetrain components and made for unsafe handling.

All of these shortfalls were addressed when the engineering staff at Ford of U.S.A. were tasked with creating an 'all-American' version of the now-ubiquitous universal carrier. The result was a fascinating hybrid!

Please read below the history, evolution and employment of the T-16 Universal Carrier:

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE T-16 CARRIER by Hanno Spoelstra

Click to enlarge all thumbnails

The 48th Highlanders only T16Despite the fact that no vehicle like the Universal Carrier was ever adopted by nations other than Britain and the Commonwealth, the type remained immensely popular with those armies and to meet the continuing demand the United States was drawn into the production programme. The US Tank Committee, after discussion with industry, agreed to produce the vehicles to the same performance specs, but with US engineering. A Ford Motor Company design was accepted and the (Joint) British Tank Mission placed orders under the Lend-Lease Agreement for 30,000 carriers under the American designation T16. As it was procured strictly for Lend-Lease, and since there was never any intent for US use, the "T" designation was retained instead of an "M" number being assigned.

Ford's expertise in mass-production techniques was applied to the full during WW2. Production engineering improvements ranged from redesigning parts to facilitate easier manufacture and reduction of assembly time, and purpose-designed tooling to save time on manufacturing and assembly operations. Surprisingly, most of Ford's war production was non-automotive, but the basic carrier design was a prime candidate to be re-engineered for mass-production and reliability. As a result, Ford's Sommerville plant won the Army/Navy 'E' Award for production efficiency displayed on the Universal Carrier contract.

The principal changes to the design involved a controlled differential steering system (discarding the track warping system devised by Vickers-Armstrong), the Ford Mercury engine, a different bogie system (with an extra road wheel added), a longer, redesigned and simplified welded hull structure, and refinement of the track and suspension (like pressed steel disk road wheels). A Fighting Vehicle Proving Establishment report on six pre-production models revealed problems with oil-cooling, failure of the tapered roller bearing in the suspension at 2,200 miles, and a loss of efficiency in the steering brakes due to the ingress of mud. These were all corrected in the next six vehicles, and it was subsequently stated that 3,500 production machines had left the factory and were awaiting shipment.

From March 25, 1943 until 1945, Ford's Sommerville plant near Boston, Massachusetts, produced a total of 13,893 T16s. Production seems to have been slow in getting under way and many weredelivered (too) late in the war to see action.

Royal Canadian Regiment T-16However, during WW2 T16s were allocated to British and Commonwealth formations in Northwest Europe, where they were designated the Carrier, Universal, T16, Mark I. By June 1944 Canada had put the T16 into use towing the 6-pdr AT gun and as a 4.2-inch Mortar Carrier. Its benefit as a heavy load carrier/tower lay in its more robust controlled differential rear axle and suspension, as well as its more reliable Ford Mercury engine. Great Britain received only a modest number, most of which saw service in post-war years. It seems they were not popular in the UK. The US showed no interest in the type, although it was said that they were considering a lighter, narrower version for use in jungle warfare. Lend-Lease supplies of Universal Carriers to the Soviet Union included 96 T16s from the USA, but no details are known about their use.

Canadian Scottish Regiment T-16

October, 1944 -- a T-16 of the Canadian Scottish Regiment on the outskirts of the ruined town of Breskens during the Scheldt Estuary campaign.

LSR T-16 Carrier in Holland

June, 1945 -- a T-16 of the Canadian Lake Superior Regiment, with a couple of 'the guys' hamming it up for the photographer.

After WW2 the T16 saw service with various countries such as The Netherlands, Switzerland and Argentina. In 1951 The Netherlands army stock included nearly 200 Loyds, 180 T16s and 40 Windsors (out of a grand total of 1,740 tracked carriers). Two-hundred of all types were in use by Dutch units, including T16s, which in some cases seem to have been mis-identified as Windsor Carriers. In the early post-war years the UK sold a lot of AFVs (and CMP trucks) to Argentina, including the T16.

Swiss T16In Switzerland,  the T16 was known as Pz Begl Fz UC (which probably stands for Panzer or Panzergrenadier Begleit Fahrzeug Universal Carrier). After the introduction of the AMX-13 light tank in 1951 raised the need for a vehicle for accompanying infantry, the Swiss selected the T16 as their first armoured infantry vehicle. A total of 302 were bought from the manufacturer in England [sic] for a unit price of 7.400 Swiss Francs. The vehicle was used by the Dragoons and armoured infantry in the service of the armoured troops from 1953 until 1963. They were crewed by a driver, commander and six panzergrenadiere

The Swiss Panzer Museum states that 300 T16s were sold to Biafra via a dealer in Toronto in 1965. However, it is likely this deal did not materialize as sometime in the 1980s a large number of surplussed Swiss T16s were sold off to Southeastern Equipment Company in Augusta, Georgia, USA. This company's primary focus is on converting surplus army vehicles into logging machinery, but many T16 were sold to private collectors. Thus, almost all of the T16s currently in private ownership in the United States are ex-Swiss carriers.

SPECIFICATIONS

T16:

Engine: Ford V8 petrol, model GAU370, 239 cid, 100 bhp at 3,800 rpm. 
Gears: 4 forward, 1 reverse 
Speed: 33 [30] mph 
Length: 155 inches [12 feet 11 inches] 
Width: 83 inches [6 feet 11-1/2 inch] 
Height: 62 inches [5 feet 1 inch] 
Ground clearance: 10-1/2 inch 
Weight: 7,756 lbs (gross 9,500 lbs [10,500 lbs with a 1,200 lbs load]) 
Ground contact length: 71 inches 
Ground pressure: 7.4 lb/sq in 
Armour: 6 to 7 mm 
Tracks: T79, 10 inch wide, 1-3/4 inch pitch 
Climb: 18 inch high vertical wall; 60% grade 
Cross: 30 inch ditch 
Turning radius: 32 foot 
Fuel capacity: 23.6 gal 
Range: up to 150 miles


T16E2: 

a Mark II version, the T16 E2, was authorized to replace the T16 in production in 1945. It was an elongated vehicle designed for improved stability and better bogie loading without major change in the spare parts required. The front bogie was moved back 6 inches, the rear bogie was moved back 9 inches and reversed, and the drive axle was moved back 8 inches. It also featured disc road wheels with synthetic rubber tyres. The only noted problems in Aberdeen Proving Ground tests related to tracks and bogie wheels (too much maintenance and wear) and the brake linings (sort life span). The T16E2, however, was cancelled before production began. Characteristics were the same as for T16, except:

Length: 13 ft, 6 in 
Ground contact length: 77 in 
Ground pressure (gross weight): 6.8 lb/sq in 
Armour, hull, front: 9/32 and 25/64 in 
Fuel capacity: 27.8 gal


Publications:

  • Technical Manual: TM 9-746, Universal Carrier T16. Washington: War Department, 11 August 1943.
  • Ordnance Supply Catalog: Standard Nomenclature List No. G-166, Part II. Ford Motor Company (USA) service parts catalogue for Carrier, Universal T-16 s/n FS-1 through FS-1000; 1001 through 1735. (September 1943).

SOURCES

  • Crismon, Fred, U.S. Military Tracked Vehicles
  • Fletcher, David, The Universal Tank. London: HMSO, 1993.
  • Gregg, William, Canada's Fighting Vehicles: Europe 1943-45.
  • The American Arsenal: The World War II Official Standard Ordnance Catalog of Small Arms, Tanks, Armored Cars, Artillery, Antiaircraft Guns, Ammunition, Grenades, Mines, Etcetera(introduction by Ian Hogg). London: Greenhill Books; and: Pennsylvania: Stackpole books, 1996. ISBN 1-85367-254-8
  • Vanderveen, Bart, Ford at War: a brief survey of the American Ford Motor Co's war effort, part 1. Wheels & Tracks, issue No. 7, p. 18-28.
  • Vanderveen, Bart, Ford at War: part 2 of a brief survey of the American Ford Motor Co's war  effort. Wheels & Tracks, issue No. 8, p.22-29.