The Canadian Military Patten Truck was a series of military trucks that were made by a variety of manufacturers, in Canada during World War II. What is interesting to note is that these trucks were made to British Army Specifications as they were intended for use by the armies of British Commonwealth allies. These trucks motorized the armies of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries, and even the Soviet Union following the 1941 Nazi invasion.
It all started in 1937 when Ford Canada and General Motors Canada were invited to the Canadian Department of National Defense and asked to produce a 15-cwt (roughly equivalent to ¾ of a US ton) payload light infantry truck. The interest briefly waned as attention shifted to heavier trucks before a renewed interest in 1939 which resulted in a production run spanning 1940 to 1945 and producing over 500,000 vehicles (some estimates put the figure nearer 800,000). By the end of the war, the statistics stood at roughly one vehicle for every three soldiers in the field!
Ford-built trucks used a 95bhp 3.9L Ford Flathead V8 engine, while General Motors trucks were built as Chevrolets and used an 85bhp 3.5L straight-six. Both engines ran on petrol. All trucks used a “cab forward” profile that gave them a distinct “pug-nosed” attitude from face-on. Of course, right-hand-drive was a prerequisite and is one of the unique features of this North American-hailing vehicle.
There was a large array of body styles, including troop carriers, water and fuel tanker, recovery vehicle, field ambulance, dental clinic, mobile laundry, wireless radio station, machine shop, boat transporter, artillery tractor, anti-tank gun, armoured truck…the list goes on. Four and six wheeled variants were produced, with all or some wheels driven.
While Ford and Chevrolet were the major producers, Dodge also produced an estimated 180,000 vehicles. All Dodge models came with the 95bhp Chrysler straight-six flathead engines, and were rear-wheel-drive unlike the Ford and Chevrolet variants which came in 4x4 and even 6x6 forms. Dodge variants offered a “dually” rear axle and a gunner’s hatch in the roof.
The pattern trucks while predominantly built in Canada was also shipped to Britain in part assembled, knocked-down form, and chassis and production kits licensed to a variety of builders in Australia. The part assembled form consisted of the cab and exterior superstructures being separately carried to the chassis and powertrain, and re-married at the final destination.
This example is a Ford F15A which is a 4x4 configuration on a 101-inch wheelbase and driven by the Ford 95bhp engine. It is a common sight at Classic Car rallies and shows, and is owned by Rhamzi Ahamed. Rhamzi recalls how he went to see the vehicle on 27th March 2017. It was owned by a collector who also owned many luxury hotels and had constructed a special garage to park the vehicle. “It was kept well” says Rhamzi. “It was love at first sight, and I spent a few days and many back-and-forth phone calls before I was able to purchase it”. This truck was manufactured in 1941 and had its first civilian registration in 1950 when it arrived on Sri Lankan shores. It is not known for how long it was used by the Sri Lankan military. “It is one of a rare group of RHD vehicles manufactured in North America” adds Rhamzi.
Rhamzi wanted to obtain a set of catalogs and manuals which was very rare, nevertheless he managed to secure a maintenance catalog and illustrated parts catalog from US Military collectors’ auctions. This vehicle was the sole reason he got his heavy vehicle driver’s license too.
Rhamzi has added two hidden cameras with screens (in period green, no less) to allow him to monitor the blind spots in real time while driving the vehicle. He also purchased a few items such as side mirrors from military surplus auctions. “The 4WD and virtually zero overhang make it very easy to drive over dunes, logs, etc…” he says. Furthermore, the bobbins on the wheels are to be used as a winch. Simply spin a rope around them, secure the other end of the rope to a stout object and when the wheel spins, the vehicle winches itself out. A simple, yet practical solution.
The body is fabricated with thick steel, and both windscreens can be tilted open for ventilation, but in wartime the more practical application was to allow the gunner to shoot forwards while the driver drove on. Oh, and the throttle pedal is in the centre, flanked by the clutch to the left and brake to the right. It’s an odd layout at first but quickly becomes second nature. The shock absorbers are friction-type.
Rhamzi loves the attention the vehicle gets on the road. “People stop and admire it, and it is a fun vehicle to drive because of all the attention”.
LIFE AFTER THE WAR
1945 saw the end of the war and newly manufactured plus military surplus trucks saw their lives changed overnight. Many European armies such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Portugal and Spain adopted them, as did some other countries’ armies such as South Africa, Argentina, Jordan, Vietnam and Malaya (now Malaysia).
The trucks also saw civilian use as forestry trucks, grain transporters, snow ploughs, fire fighting vehicles, log transporters and construction site trucks.