U.S. M8 Light Armored Car Greyhound
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII


The 37mm M3 anti-tank gun was the the U.S. Army's standard anti-tank weapon at the beginning of WWII. At that time, Army doctrine for confronting with enemy tanks was to form a separate branch of armored forces, the Tank Destroyers. They were to be held in reserve, and should a breakthrough take place they would take care of the enemy tanks. Friendly tanks were intended to be used as infantry support, not for tank vs. tank combat.

There were two versions of tank destroyers, towed and self-propelled (SP). There were several designs developed and produced for the SP types, and these incorporated all types of guns. The 37mm was mounted in the back of a Willys Jeep, in the back of a Dodge WC51, and fitted in the turret of this vehicle, the M8 Armored Car.

Work on armored cars had already begun as early as 1916. The designs were often unsuccessful, as they lacked the ruggedness needed for the battlefield. The experiences passed on by British forces in 1941 led to a change. First, the U.S. Army issued requirements for light, medium, and heavy armored cars, paralleling the tank development. The British took over the development of the medium and heavy armored cars and the US Army focused on the light class.

In July 1941, Ford and Fargo were given orders to develop a vehicle which incorporated a low silhouette, 37mm gun, six wheel drive, high mobility, and good speed. Studebaker joined with a privately developed vehicle. All three vehicles bore remarkable resemblance to each other.

While the vehicle was intended as a tank destroyer, battlefield reports indicated that the 37mm gun was no longer successful against thicker German armor. Reconnaissance units still needed a fast vehicle, however, so development continued. Eventually the T22 made by Ford was selected. Some improvements were made, and it went into production as the M8 light armored car.

Augmenting the 37mm main gun was a .50 M2 HB machine gun on a simple pintle mount at the rear of the turret. The cavalry squadrons wanted a full 360 degree arc of fire, so a M49 ring mount was installed. The crew of the M8 consisted of the driver and assistant driver in the front hull, and gunner and commander/loader in the turret.

Tamiya released this kit back in 2000. I have the companion M20 Armored Utility Car earlier, on most comments apply to this kit as well. Rather than repeating myself, I'll take a look at the different parts in this kit. The M20 review is found <here>. However, it's good to note that you best avoid using the stowage boxes that go between the wheel arches when building a WWII vehicle. The stowage boxes were not in production before November 1944, and few vehicles manufactured that late in the war made it to the ETO. So use the mine racks, and leave the first aid box off as well.

The turret is the main difference between the M8 and the M20. Also, the role both vehicles had, means the interior configuration is slightly different. This has mostly to do with the turret, ammo stowage and radio's.

The turret comes in two halves, with a turret basket. At the front goes the mantlet of the 37mm gun, which has casting marks included. Inside the turret shell is a very nicely molded 37mm main gun, with a .30 cal coaxial machine gun. There are some seams here you need to take care of. They can be fairly prominent, so take your time. The gun has the elevation gear and hand wheel included. Turret traverse has the later double speed hand wheel. According to sources, the M8s used in the earlier stage of the European campaign had single speed traverse, with a simpler wheel mounted. ABER provides this in their update set.

Tamiya provides us with a fairly standard .50 M2 HB machine gun. It's basic in detail, but does the job. The gun can be mounted on the ring mount, as was often done. Or you could use the folding pintle bracket. Tamiya's mount is not useable, but the mount AFV Club provides in their M18 kit is good.

The sponson houses the same SCR-508 radio as provided in the M20 kit on one side, and an ammunition rack on the other side. This has some consequences to modeling the M8, as has been pointed out in the build article by Steve Zaloga (Military Modelling, Vol 32, No 1, 2002).

The cavalry units for which the M8 was intended, wanted two radios in their vehicles. Since the turret was rather small, the only option was to put in the sponson, necessitating the removal of the ammunition bin. This would leave the M8 with only the two ready racks in the turret with a total storage of 16 rounds! This was barely enough, so Ordnance started working on some solution. The best one, which was authorized in July 1944, was to install a 43-round bin utilizing part of the sponson area behind the driver's seat. A smaller, 20-round bin was fitted between the turret seat supports. The 43-round bin can be found in both the ABER and the Verlinden update sets. Verlinden's PE is far worse in quality than ABER's, but Verlinden does provide some resin parts in his set, including the necessary second radio. So it's up to the individual as to what choices you make.

M8s used in tank destroyer battalions used a different layout, and M8s in the MTO used yet another turret-mounted ammo storage setup.

Markings for the kits are typical Tamiya quality: good printing and colors, varied and good subjects, but some thick carrier film. Gloss varnish is the keyword!

The probably best known M8, C-30 Colbert, of the 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, 2nd Armored, is one of the subjects. Other units include 4th Armored Division, 25th Cavalry Recon Squadron, A31, Czechoslovakia, Spring 1945; 7th Armored Division, 87th Cavalry Recon Squadron, A10 France, August 1944; Free French Army, 5th Armored Division, 1st Recon, 5th Squadron, 2nd Platoon, France, 1944. Of these, the French vehicle is quite colorful, with the red-white-blue marking on the wheel covers.

To sum up, this is a really good kit. There are several detail issues, and it's a pity not to have the ammunition storage as used in the field. Tamiya does provide a good solid basis, which we can happily adapt to our desired layout. I'd personally rather have it this way, than needing to remove wrong or unneeded details.

It is, however, a letdown that no exterior stowage has been provided. This is particularly strange as Mr. T has got a nice set of Allied accessories, and the series of Sherman kits comes with some stowage, if only a bit basic. By comparison, the Italeri M8 and M20 kits do come with a lot of bags and packs, and at a lower price. They don't have the finesse of the Tamiya kit though. Again, it's up to the individual.

-Martin Dogger


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter