Buick Built The World’s Fastest…


…TANK! Yes indeed, Buick was the sole builder of the M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer which was introduced as a prototype at the battle of Anzio in Italy early in January of 1944, but it wasn’t until the invasion of France that the M18’s really hit their stride. The Hellcat had the distinction of being the fastest tank in the world until the turbine powered M1 Abrams was introduced in 1980. That’s 36 YEARS of being the fastest armor on tracks!

Over 2500 M18’s were built, with every single one built by Buick. They saw service all through the European theater from January 1944 until the end of the war, as well as on mainland China and throughout the Pacific, although with the lack of Japanese armor the M18’s were more used as direct fire support for the infantry in demolishing bunkers and as mobile armored shields.

Now a word about their speed. They were the only tank in any army to be able to reach up to 57mph. They achieved this by sacrificing weight in armor, meaning they were sitting ducks in a stand-and-fight slugging match with other tanks. Where they absolutely shined was in fast hit-and-run ambushes where they could use their speed to outmaneuver slower German tanks and bring the M18’s stout 76mm cannon to bear very successfully against enemy tanks lightly armored sides and rear.

After the war they remained in service, and saw action in the Korean conflict. The Yugoslavian army used them after they were refurbished by Brown and Root in the 1950’s and even saw service in the 1990’s during the Croation/Serbian/Bosnian/Hertzogovinian wars. I mean, Venezuela STILL has 75 M18’s in service or reserve!

Ask any engineer, it’s hard to beat a winning power/weight ratio. With it’s 450hp radial aircraft engine, brilliant suspension system designed by Buick, and the lowered weight of less armor than it’s counterparts the M10 and M36, the M18 was the sportiest vehicle on tracks. Heck, it’s still the sportiest thing on two tracks powered by a reciprocating engine! I dare say the M18 has a chance to see it’s 100th birthday and still see examples in operational condition, a very big tribute to the men and women at Buick who designed and built the Hellcat as well as the men who served inside them.