FWD Model B Four Wheel Drive Truck

Accession Number REL33289
Collection type Technology
Object type Vehicle
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1918
Maker Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing Co
Place made United States of America
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

FWD Model B 4 x 4 Truck as used by Allied forces on the Western Front during the First World War. The vehicle is in operational condition, but has been extensively restored and now bears a non-original cabin, tray, and canvass. The vehicle is painted in 'service colour', a drab khaki equivalent, based on extant contemporary samples from vehicle components in the AWM collection. It wears the rising sun badge of the 4th Australian Division on its sides and rear tail gate. Engine is a four cylinder Wisconsin, producing 36hp from 6735cc.

History / Summary

The Four Wheel Drive Model B was one of the first four wheel drive vehicles to enter production. The original manufacturer of the vehicle, the FWD Auto Company of Clintonville Wisconsin, was unable to meet the demands for its vehicles during the First World War, and other firms were engaged to manufacture the vehicle under licence. The Memorial's vehicle was one such vehicle, being built under licence by the Mitchell Motos Company of Racine Wisconsin.

First purchased by the British Army in 1914, the type was used primarly on the Western Front for heavy haulage of artillery, ammunition, and pontoon bridge supplies. A total of 2925 vehicles were purchased by the British army, and 1599 used in France. The survivors were returned to England and subsequently some were brought to Australia for civilian use after the War.

The engine was installed under the cab floor, and drive was transmitted via a three speed constant mesh gearbox to a chain-driven transfer case and centre differential. The vehicle could be driven using either front, rear, or four wheel drive mode. The vehicle could also be used to provide a power take-off from the rear of the gearbox output shaft. The driver’s position over the engine gave good visibility, increased the area available for cargo, and provided warmth. Its disadvantage was that in warmer weather the engine was said to be prone to overheating, and using four wheel drive gave poor petrol consumption.

Only one photograph (AWM E04686) is known to show the FWD in Australian Service – this shows vehicles towing limbers and 18 pounders of the 4th Divisional artillery.

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