AEC Matador (1938)

British ww2 Artillery Medium Tractor Truck, 9,000 produced
The standard medium artillery tractor towing the 5.5 in gun
The AEC Matador was designed to fill a niche between light and heavy artillery tractors, tailored to carry in particular the standard British 5.5 in gun. A sturdy 4x4 vehicle with good off-road caracteristics it was found versatile and became one of the most prolific and well-used truck by all British Royal Artillery units in WW2 (after the Morris "quad").

About AEC

Associated Equipment Company (AEC) was a British vehicle manufacturer specialized in rather heavy and specialized vehicles such as buses, motorcoaches and trucks, in activity from 1912 until 1979. AEC became a brand acornym, and the vehicle was also manufactured under the ACLO brand. The company origins are drawn from the 1855 London General Omnibus Company (LGOC), amalgamating and regulating horse-drawn omnibus services in the capital. In 1912, after the success of the X-type bus, LGOC was taken over by the Underground Group in London and a specialized branchwas created which became AEC. Its first produc was naturally another bus, base don the X-Type and in 1916 the 3-ton Y-type lorry, widely used by the army.

Matador at War and Peace show, UK

In 1927 the company moved to a new, larger plant at Southall. The next year, a new team of designers was consituted around G. J. Rackham, appointed Chief Engineer and Designer (previously in Leyland Motors). Under hos supervision, AEC models became evern more reliable and appreciated. Next, from 1929 onwards, AEC produced its famous "M" (Majestic, Mammoth, Mercury...) lorries serie, and its "R" (Regent, Regal, Renown...) Bus serie. The "M-models" saw their production goine don until the war, while diesel engines were introduced in the 1903s. Until 1938, AEC partnered also with English Electric for trolleybuses and in 1932 took a controlling interest in the British subsidiary of the American Four Wheel Drive (FWD) company, enaling more off-road capable components in its range, but marketed under the Hardy brand until 1936.

Development of the Matador

The company in 1938 had all the cards in hands to participate in army contracts, with a 4x4 truck, from 1938. Already at that date, the company proposed the commercial 4x2 Matador lorry using Hardy FWD components. Soon, it was converted to a full 4x4, made sturdied, using a bigger engine, stronger flatbed, and proposed to the Army. Its early planes were derived from the 4-ton 4 x 4 truck designed by Charles Cleaver and produced by Hardy Motors and FWD, in the early 1930s already. Hardy Motors was absorbed by AEC in 1932. By 1937, the first prototype was ready. The next year, the Matador 853 received a more powerful 7.431 cm3 petrol engine, and was presented and tested in 1938. However late that year, the War Office wanted a diesel, while placing an order for 200 vehicles, all with a medium tractor body.

Its first prototype was delivered on January, 9th, 1939. In between AEC reingineered the chassis for the new diesel engine which was adopted for production: It was called O853, and delivered in November 1939. For the ordnance it was known as the medium artillery tractor (MAT), assigned to the 5.5" gun (140 mm). In the Royal Ordnance it was well placed beteen Morris Quad Field Artillery Tractor (light) and the Scammell Pioneer Heavy Artillery Tractor. The first was towing the ubiquitous 25 pdr, while the second was used for towing the 7.2" gun (182 mm).



These efforts culminated in prototype released in 1939, answering War Ministry guidelines for towing the 114mm, 140mm and 152mm howitzers (4, 4.5 and 5 inches) when needed. It was to be capable also of transporting the gun team and ammunition at the rear. The cabin roof of the first models was shape in a certain way, with a peacetime shape, but in production it was much simplified as a curved roof with flat front, while the last models, Mark IV, had a circular hatch cut for aerial observation, covered with a small tarp.

The cabin was very simple and sturdy. It used a wooden frame, covered with steel plates to spare strategic materials. The body itself was made of lumber, but with a folding rear drop side. Side doors for the crew were used. Special slides were installed on the flatbed to facilitate loading and unloading of shells.

Powerplant and mobility

The engine was a AEC 7.58 1 6-cylinder, which developed an output of 95 hp. Top speed was 58 km/h light. The vehicle of course was a true 4x4, with independent suspensions on leaf springs, for off-road runs. The 1950s batch was given a more powerful 105 hp AEC A187 diesel engine. The AEC 6-cylinder diesel type A173 was very reliable. It developed 7.581 cm3 (462 cubic inches) of displacement. Its output was 95 horsepower at 1.780 rpm, best served by a 4 speed transmission with 2 speed transfer case. Its electrical system was Hybrid, up to 12/24 volt. As for brakes, it had two Hydraulic, air-assisted ones only for the early production, Mark I-II and full air brakes for late production, Mark III-IV. It had generous tyres, 13.50 - 20. For achieving its 575 km (360 miles) range, it had a fuel capacity of 182 liter (40 gallons).

Other characteristics

Due to it's excellent traction and output, the Matador was often used as recovery tractor. As for options, the Matador coukld receive an additional 5/7 ton Turner winch. It came with a 76 m long cable () suitable for example, to tow itself out of trouble, another truck, or an artillery piece stuck in the mud. This appreciable feature made the vehicle able to be at ease on any terrain, even the most unforgiving. It could could tow also a standard single axle trailer, to carry more shells for example in supply role; AEC 6-cylinder 95 HP

Matador specifications

Lenght6.32 m (249 inches)
Width2.39 m (94 inches)
Height3.10 m (122 inches)
Total weight, battle ready7.132 kg (15.850 lb.)
Crew2 (Driver, co-driver) +artillery team
SuspensionLeaf springs
Speed (road)50 kph (60 mph)
Range575 km (360 mi)
ArmamentNone (personal weapons)
Production9,000 1938-45.

Production & variants

Scenery showing a Matador in 1944 and crew operating the Royal Ordnance 5.5 inches howitzer

Civilian production of the Matador ceased in 1941 while production was focused entirely for the army. About 1944, AEC managed to deliver close to 10,000 vehicles, a considerable industrial effort by British standards. AEC produced the 4x4 Matador artillery tractor, which also provided a trusted basis for the Deacon a self-propelled 6-pounder anti-tank gun, an armoured command car, and even a wheeled tank. Production reached a total of 8,612 Matador, not including the conversions and 1950-51 batches.

General Load Carrier

The General Load Carrier had a special all-steel body, with folding sides for facilitated loading. Large sections of the tarpaulin could be also removed. Some sub-variants had a platform box to carry heavy equipment like compressors.

6x6 AEC Marshall

A 6x6 version was designated as the "AEC Marshall" but almost always called the Matador. Its official royal ordnance name was "Armoured Command Vehicle, A.E.C., 6 x 6" and it was propelled by a more powerful 6 cylinder 150 H.P. diesel. The layout wa completely different and it was more roomy as a command vehicle. Only 151 were made before the end of the war. More. Another of these 6x6 variant called O854 was used as tanker and mobile crane for the RAF.

AEC Dorchester

Four hundred AEC Armoured Command Vehicle, popularly known as the "Dorchester" (after the hotel), were built on the Matador and Marshall chassis for the 6x6 variant. Production of the AEC Armoured Car started in 1941. Three Marks were built, with guns from 40 mm to 75 mm, totalling 629 vehicles. They remained in use post-war. They were given several sets of medium and log range (high and low power radio sets and transmission equipment), plus a staff tent mounted on the outside. They became nomadc HQs by default for the British army during the war.

AEC Armoured Car

Churchill entrusted the studry chassis to be converted into a wheeled tank, large enough to carry tank turrets. It was not answering any specification for a heavily armed reconnaissance vehicle, but was designed and tested on the Matador chassis as a private venture. The company however managed to show its prototype publicly at the Horse Guards Parade in London in 1941. Of course it made quite an impression on Winston Churchill. He immediately pressed for an order. In total, 629 vehicles would be built in three variants until 1944, using more powerful guns and larger turrets.

The Matador in action

Matador in Libya-Tunisia
Matador in Libya-Tunisia, towing a 4.5 in gun, note the removed cabin top
Matador in action in Normandy
Matador in action in Normandy, 1944

Dutch and British troops trying to clean a Matador
Dutch and British troops trying to clean a Matador from a village stream on 25 November 1944

Matador landing from an LCT
Matador landing from an LCT with supplied for the Balkan air force in Italy, 1944 (IWM)

Matador towing a captured German 88mm gun on Germany
Matador towing a captured German 88mm gun on Germany, 1945

In the desert, the Matador was very popular, praised by its crews for its reliability, and often the latter would removed altogether the cabin roof. It proved also very useful to pull out of the sand others transports or trailers, when no suitable tractors were available. Since the Matador was best suited for towing artillery it was generously attrubited to British Royal Artillery regiments throuhgout WW2, finding action at each deployments, overwhelmingly however in Europe. Possible use of these in Burma in 1945 after reinforcements is also possible.

A further requirement for trucks led to a further order of 200 Matadors produced in 2 batches in 1950 and 1951. It was done as a stopgap measure pending the arrival of the Militant and Leyland Martian military trucks. The Matadors soldiered on until the early 1970s until disposed of. An amazing legacy for an amazing military truck.

The British Air Force became the main users of the Matador, with 400 in service from different versions. They were generally painted grey and were used for towing heavy bombers and carrying bombs and other loads. The RAF ordered also nearly 1.000 vehicles in 1950, probably drawn from stocks and refurbished by AEC instead of newly built. The RAF used its Matador many more years after this, as drawbar tractor, 5 ton cargo truck (with steel body sides) and generator vehicle for airfield equipment.

Matador of the RAF at Maynard Field exhibit
Matador of the RAF at Maynard Field exhibit

AEC 854 6x6 fueld truck at RAF Henson
AEC 854 6x6 fueld truck at RAF Henson 1944

Read More/src
Archive - On More photos On

Video documentary

AEC Matador Mark.I

AEC Matador Mark.I (early production) in 1939

Matador I in North Africa
Camouflaged Matador I in North Africa, 1942. Note the enclosed rear compartment

Matador Mark.II in Egypt
Matador Mark.II in Egypt, late 1942

Mark.I towing a 25-pdr gun

Matador Mark.I towing a 25-pdr gun

Matador Mark.I in service with the RAF

Lend-lease Matador II in Soviet service, winter 1943

AEC Matador Mk.IV with a brown livery

"Gazala" Mark III in Normandy, summer 1944

Matador III in 1945, typical northwestern European camuflage

AEC Matador Mk.III towing a 4.5 inches howitzer

Matador of 1944 in Holland

Armoured Variants

AEC Armoured Car Mark I. The largest, heaviest British armored car in WW2 and early example of what a "wheeled tank" should be.

AEC GC Mark I (gun carrier) in North Africa. In late 1942 and early 1943 the "Deacon" armoured 6-pounder anti-tank gun was produced on a Matador chassis by Royal Park, for the North African campaign.

AEC Dorchester armoured command car, Normandy 1944. A 6x6 variants was also produced.

Additional photos

AEC Matador "the old lady"

Matador 6x6 truck

Derivative Mark I heavy cockatrice armoured truck

Matador with a beige livery

WW1 Vehicles

British ww2 WWI trucks
FR: Berliet CBA, Berliet Type M, Châtillon-Panhard, Latil TAR, Panhard-Genty 24 HP, Renault EG

allied ww2 Allied ww2 Vehicles

British ww2 British Vehicles
-AEC Armoured Command Vehicle (415)
-AEC Matador
-Albion CX22S
-Albion FT15N
-Albion WD.CX24
-Austin K2/Y Ambulance
-Austin K3
-Austin K4
-Austin K4 Dropside
-Austin K5
-Austin K6 GS
-Austin K6 Gantry
-Bedford MW
-Bedford OXA Armoured
-Bedford OXC Semi-trailer
-Bedford OXD GS
-Bedford OYC Tanker
-Bedford OYD GS
-Bedford QL series (QLD, QLR/QLC QLT TC)
-CMP Truck
-Commer Q2
-Crossley Q-Type
-Diamond T tank transporter
-Guy Quad-Ant FAT
-Guy Lizard ACV
-Humber FWD
-Karrier KT4
-Karrier K6
-Leyland Hippo Mk I/II
-Leyland Lynx
-Leyland Retriever
-Mack EXBX
-Morris 15cwt
-Morris CDSW
-Morris ML Ambulance
-Morris C8 GS/FAT
-Morris Commercial CD series
-Morris Commercial CS8
-Morris C9
-Morris GS Terrapin
-Morris PU
-Scammell Pioneer SV1S/SV2S
-Thornycroft Hathi (1924)
-Thornycroft Nubian
-Thornycroft Tartar
French ww2 French Vehicles
-Berliet DGRA
-Berliet GDC
-Berliet GDM
-Berliet VDCA
-Berliet 30
-Bernard fuel carrier
-Citroën Kégresse P14 .
-Citroën Kégresse P17
-Citroën Kégresse P19
-Citroën Type 23
-Citroën 32U
-Citroën T45
-Fiat France 38R
-Ford France
-Hotchkiss PKW Type 680
-Hotchkiss 686
-Hotchkiss 686 PNA
-Isobloc W843M medical bus
-Laffly S15R
-Laffly S15T
-Laffly V15T
-Laffly V15R
-Laffly W15T/R
-Laffly 20TL
-Latil TAR H2
-Latil M2Tl6
-Matford F917
-Panhard K113
-Panhard K113
-Peugeot 202
-Peugeot 402
-Peugeot DMA
-Peugeot DK
-Peugeot DK5
-Renault AHS
-Renault AHN
-Renault AHR
-Renault AGC
-Renault ADK
-Renault ADH
-Renault AHSs
-Saurer type 3CT
-Simca 5 staff car
-Simca 8 staff car
-Somua MCL
-Somua MCG
-Talbot staff car
-Unic TU1
-Unic P107
-Trippel SG6
-Willeme DU10
Soviet ww2 Soviet Trucks
-GAZ AA M1927 M1932 M1941
-GAZ AAA M1937
-GAZ AAA M1940
-Ford Marmon HH6 Katiusha
-SU C-6
-Yag-10 SPG
-ZIS-33 HT
-ZIS 41 HT
-FN-Kégresse T3

Soviet staff cars
-GAZ M1 "Emka"
-GAZ 11-73
-GAZ 61-73
-GAZ 67 Amphibious armoured cars
US ww2 US Trucks
-Ford B3000 S
-Ford V3000S
-Ford V3000A,
-Ford BB
-Ford V8-51
-Ford m1931
-Ford V8 M1937
-T1E1(M1) half-track
-T5 half-track
-T7 half-track
-T9 half-track
-G8T 2-1/2 ton 4x2 Truck
-International B2
-International model 1937
-Chevrolet m1931
-Chevrolet m1936
-Chevrolet G-506 ​1 1⁄2-ton 4x4
-Chevrolet G-7107 4-1/2 ton 4x4
-Chevrolet 3116 1-1/2 ton 4x2
-Studebaker US6x4 U7
-Studebaker US6x4 U-6
-Studebaker US6x6 U-5 6x4
-Studebaker US6 U4 bz35S 2-1/2 ton 6x6 truck
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Ambulance
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Carry-all
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton (Radio) Command Reconnaissance
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Truck, Closed Cab
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Truck, Open Cab
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton (Radio) Panel Van
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Telephone Service (K50)
-Dodge 1⁄2-ton Truck, Emergency Repair
-Dodge WC-51/52 (3⁄4-ton Trucks, Weapons Carrier)
-Dodge WC-53 (3⁄4-ton Carryall)
-Dodge WC-54/64 (3⁄4-ton Ambulance)
-Dodge WC-55 (3⁄4-ton Truck, M6 Gun Motor Carriage)
-Dodge WC-56/57/58 (3⁄4-ton (Radio) Command Reconnaissance)
-Dodge WC-62/43 (G-507, 11⁄2-ton, 6x6 truck)
-Dodge M6 GMC
-GMC CCKW Cargo Truck
-GMC CCKW 353 2-1/2 Ton Truck
-GMC 1939 ACKWX 353 3 ton 6x6 truck
-GMC AFWX-353 3 ton 6x4 truck
-GMC DUKW 353 2-1/2 ton 6x6 truck
-Diamond T Model 980/981 12-ton 6x4 trucks (G159)
-Diamond T Model 968 4-ton 6x6 truck (G509)
-Diamond T Model 967
-Diamond T Model 970
-Diamond T Model 972
-Diamond M26 Dragon Wagon
-Diamond M19 Tank Transporter
-Diamond T Model 980
-Diamond T 4-ton 6x6 truck
-Autocar U8144T 5/6-ton 4x4 truck
-Brockway/LaFrance 6-ton 6x6 truck, G512, 514, 547, 569
-White/Corbitt 6 ton 6x6 Prime Mover
-Ward LaFrance
-Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD) SU-COE 5-6 ton 4x4
-White Motor Company
-Inl KR-11 5 ton 4x2 dump truck
-Inl M5-6 318 2-1/2 ton 6x6 swb
-Mack NR15 10-ton 6x4
-Reo 28 XS 10-ton 6x4

US ww2 Small truck/car & Misc.
Bantam Reconnaissance Car
Ford GTB
6x6 Willys 'MT-TUG' ("Super-Jeep")
-Willys MB light truck
-Ford GPA ("Seep")
Buick Century Series 60
1941 Plymouth P11 Staff Car
Ford Fordor 1942 Staff Car
Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycle

Axis ww2 Axis Trucks

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Sd.Kfz 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were half-tracks designed just before the war as prime movers, to carry supplies, ammunition, personal, and tow artillery. Many were also converted during the war as armored versions carrying AA FLAK guns (Flakvierling, 37 mm, or the legendary 88 mm Rheinmetall als used as tank hunters), or were converted as nebelwerfer (rocket launching armored vehicles). They were built by Hanomag, Steyr, Mercedes-Benz, Bussing and many other manufacturers until 1945, over 20,000 half-tracks.

German ww2 German Military trucks
-Opel Blitz
-Opel Maultier
-Mercedes-Benz L3000
-Magirus A3000
-Krupp Protze Kfz.19
-Krupp Protze Kfz.21
-Krupp Protze Kfz.68
-Krupp Protze Kfz.69
-Krupp Protze Kfz.70
-Krupp Protze Kfz.81
-Krupp Protze Kfz.21
-Krupp Protze Kfz.83
-Borgward B 3000
-Skoda Rad Schlepper
-Ost RSO Porsche 175
-Steyr Type 2000A
-Einheits Lkw Kfz.62
-Krupp LKW L3
-Bussing-Nag 4500
-Opel Blitz Omnibus
-Bussing-Nag L
-Mercedes-Benz L1500
-Beute Studebaker
-Krupp L3H
-Hanomag SS-100
-Beute Ford B3000 S, V3000S, V3000A
-Beute Ford model BB
-Beute Ford model V8-51
-Beute Tatra 111

German ww2 German Staff Cars

-Horch 81
-Horch 108
-VW 182 Kübelwagen
-VW Schwimmwagen
-Sd.Kfz.2 Kettenkrad
italy ww2 Italian Military trucks
L. Trucks (Autocarro Leggere)
-ОМ-32 Autocarretta da Montagna
-Camioneta SPA TL.37
-Camioneta AS.43
-Fiat 618

Med. Trucks (Autocarro Medio)
-Alfa Romeo 430RE
-Alfa Romeo 800RE
-Breda Dovunque-41
-Bianchi Miles
-FIAT-626 NM
-Isotta Fraschini D65
-Isotta Fraschini D80
-SPA Dovunque-35
-SPA Dovunque-41
-SPA AS.37
-Autocarro Dovunque SPA 41/42

H. Trucks (Autocarro Gigante)
-Fiat 661
-Lancia Ro
-Lancia 3Ro
-Lancia EsaRo
-ОМ Taurus
-ОМ Titano
-Autocarreta Mod.35
-Autocarri Unificati Ursus

italy ww2 Artillery tractors
-Breda 51
-Breda 52
-Breda 61 (licenced SdKfz-7)
-Fiat-SPA T.L.37
-Pavesi Р4.31 (L140)
-Fiat 727 - half-track artillery tractor
-SPA TM40 - wheeled artillery tractor

italy ww2 Staff Cars -Alfa Romeo 6С2500 Coloniale
-Fiat 508M/CM Ballila
-Fiat 1100 (1937) (Balilla-1100 Coloniale)
-Lancia Aprilia Coloniale
-Bianchi VM 6C
-Fiat 2800 CMC

italy ww2 Motorcycles
-Benelli 500 M36/VLM
-Bianchi Supermil 500
-Gilera 500 LTE
-Moto Guzzi Alce/Trialce
-Volugrafo Aermoto 125
Japan ww2 IJA/IJN ww2 vehicles
-Toyota 4x4 Su-Ki (Amphibious truck)
-Isuzu Type 94 truck
-Type 94 6-Wheeled Truck
-Type 95 Mini-truck
-Type 97 4-Wheeled Truck
-Type 1 6-Wheeled Truck
-Type 2 Heavy Truck
-Toyota KB/KC Truck
-Nissan 80 Truck
-Nissan 180 Truck
-Amphibious Truck "Su-Ki"

Japan ww2 Tractors
-Type 92 5 t Prime Mover "I-Ke"
-Type 98 6 t Prime Mover "Ro-Ke"
-Type 92 8 t Prime Mover "Ni-Ku"
-Type 95 13 t Prime Mover "Ho-Fu"
-Type 94 4 t Prime Mover "Yo-Ke"
-Type 98 4 t Prime Mover "Shi-Ke"
-Type 96 AA Gun Prime Mover
-Type 98 20 mm AA Machine Cannon Carrier
-Type 98 Half-tracked Prime Mover "Ko-Hi"
-Type 98 20 mm AA Half-Track Vehicle
-Experimental Heavy Gun Tractor Chi-Ke
-Experimental Crawler Truck
-T G Experimental Crawler Truck
-Fordson Prime Mover
-Pavessi Gun Tractor
-50 hp Gun Tractor
-Komatsu 3 ton Tractor
-Light Prime Mover
-Clarton Prime Mover
-Holt 30

Japan ww2 Staff cars
-Toyota AA/AB/AC
-Type 93 6/4-Wheeled Passenger Car
-Type 95 Passenger Car "Kurogane"
-Type 98 Passenger Car
-Model 97 Nissan Staff Car, Nissan 70

Japan ww2 Motorcycles
-Rikuo Motorcycle
-Rikuo Type 97 Motorcycle
-Rikuo Type 93 side car

Japan ww2 Misc.
-Type 94 Ambulance
-Type 94 Repair Vehicle

Cold War