The Holt Gas-Electric Tank
- The first American tank

  On the Real Thing

No American-built tanks ever saw service in the Great War, but big efforts were made in the USA to develop these new types of vehicles - quite apart from the British and French designs the Americans themselves were using on the Western Front. The first tank built in the USA was the so called Holt Gas-Electric, an effort by the Holt Tractor Co. of Peoria, Illinois

Like the French S:t Chamond, it had a combined petrol-electric propulsion. Hence the name: gas (i.e. petrol) electric. A Holt 90 h.p. 4-cylinder motor produced power for a G.E.C. generator, which in it’s turn provided current to drive two electric motors, one motor for each track. (The electrical units were built and supplied by the General Electric Co.) Special attention was paid to ventilation and engine cooling, using a forced water cooling system with a radiator placed immediately above the generator. Air was drawn in through a louvre above the engine and foul air was emitted through big louvres in the left hull rear.

The rear drive sprockets were driven from these electric motors by a worm gear to a roller pinion which meshed with the sprocket. Steering was achieved mainly by varying the current to the respective electric motors. When sharp turns was needed this could be effected by braking the drive shaft on the side of the turn. Track and suspension was of the standard Holt type with two sprung bogies, each with six rollers, on each side, covered with light steel plates.

The engine, generator, and drive units were all at the rear of the vehicle leaving the roomy box-like fighting compartment free for the armament. (The exit and entry door was also placed at the rear.) The main armament was a 75mm Vickers mountain howitzer, which was placed low down in the V-shaped nose. The secondary armament consisted of two Browning 0.30in machine guns in sponsons on each side. The tank was to be serviced by a crew of six men.

Only a prototype was built of the Holt Gas-Electric Tank, and work on the vehicle was abandoned after tests. One of the problems with the tank was it’s weight: because of the rather complex propulsion and transmission systems this had been pushed up to some 25 tons, which in its turn lowered the speed to some 9 km/h.  in favour of a design with all-round tracks. One can also surmise from the design, that trench crossing would have been tricky with this machine, because the Holt type suspension was used as is.


holt_electric_col1.jpg (67422 byte)

The bad-air vents are opened

The man hides the howitzer

Notice the low position of the howitzer

The howitzer used in the tank



  Technical Information
Motor Holt 90 hp (67.1 kW) petrol engine
Maximum speed 9.6 km/h
Weight 25.402 kg
Length 5.03 meters
Height 2.37 meters
Wide 2.76 meters
Main armament 1 x 75mm Vickers Mountain Howitzer
Secondary armament 2 x 0.30in MG:s
Maximum armour 15mm
Minimum armour 6mm

holt_electric_col2.jpg (67185 byte)


  How to Model this Tank

To tell you the truth: you can't. Not if by modelling you mean buying a kit in plastic or resin or white metal and putting it together. Because there exists no kits of this AFV. You will have to scratch-build it yourself. Which can be done! 

Click here to find out more about scratch-building the Holt Gas-Electric Tank.

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