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Classic Cars

Buick Remembers the Tank It Built During WW2

Also celebrating the end of World War 2 in Europe on May 7

 
 
Slideshow
Buick built the Hellcat tank during World War 2

BuickBuickBuickUnited States of America, 1903 > present68 models
484 photos
1 video
is looking back on an often forgotten part of its 110-year history - when it built tanks during World War II. The M18 Hellcat tank was novel for the time because it used an automatic transmission. It was also one of the fastest tanks in its class. 

Buick stopped building cars in February 1942 so that the factory could be converted to build aircraft engines, ammunition and later the M18. 

The M18's concept was to build a light, fast tank with as large of a gun as possible. Its role was exclusively to take out German tanks.

The designers did not have much experience building tanks, but they did know things like transmissions and suspension. The Buick engineers created a torsion bar suspension to give the tank a level ride. Power came from a nine-cylinder radial engine with 450hp and a three-speed GM Hydramatic transmission that has just been introduced to cars in 1940. It gave the M18 a top speed of 60mph. 

“To give perspective, most German tanks of the day were capable of just 20 mph and even today’s M1 Abrams tank is outpaced by the Hellcat," said Bill Gross, a historian at the Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan.

General MotorsGMGMUnited States of America, 1998 > present8 models
240 photos
tested the tanks its built at its proving grounds in Milford, Michigan. They used some of the same stretches that were used for its cars including the banked oval and ride quality tests. The tanks also had to ford six feet of water, climb walls and ram through obstacles. Production began in mid-1943.

Buick built 2,507 M18 tanks through October 1944.

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