The T17 Staghound armoured car originated from a specification drawn up by the US Armoured Forces in mid-1941, prompted by the successful use that the British had made of armoured car in the Western Desert, which had shown the good use that could be made of such vehicles in this sort of terrain. The US Army therefore put out their requirement for tender and this resulted in designs being submitted by the Ford Motor Company and the Chevrolet Motor Car Division of General Motors. Both designs were generally similar in layout and appearance - both being rear engined and equipped with a 37mm gun turret (somewhat like that fitted to the M3 Grant medium tank). The principle difference between the two designs was that the Ford design (given the designation T17) was of six-wheeled configuration (6 x 6) whilst the 12-ton Chevrolet design (designation T17E1) was four wheeled. With little to choose between the two designs the US Army decided to issue production orders for both types.
In June 1942 however, by which time some 3,760 T17 and 3,500 T17EI were on order, the US Special Armoured Vehicle Board had had a change of heart, and consequently decided to cancel both vehicles - the T17 on the grounds that it was too heavy and the T17E1 on the grounds that tracked vehicles were their preference for most combat tasks, including reconnaissance. The 250 T17s already manufactured were allocated to Internal Security Duties within the US, and the T17E1 order was cut back to just 250 machines, but was ultimately saved by the intervention of the British Army Staff in Washington who made a specific request for the entire production order to be diverted to British and Commonwealth forces.
The standard T17E1, named Staghound by the British, was without a chassis as such, the automotive components being attached direct to the armoured hull. The power unit consisted of two 97 b.h.p. six-cylinder G.M.C. Model 270 engines mounted in the rear and driving all four wheels through a Hydramatic (automatic) transmission. The roomy turret carried a 37-mm. M6 gun with 103 rounds and a 0.30-in Browning machine gun, mounted coaxially. The Staghound's driver, who enjoyed the luxury of power steering, sat at the left with his co-driver, who had responsibility for operating another Browning machine gun in a ball mount was in the glacis plate, to his right.
Deliveries of Staghounds to the British forces arrived too late for them to be employed in the North African campaign where they would have been ideal. Initially, despite being easy operate and maintain, the Staghound was not particularly well received by the armoured car regiments who considered it to be too large and lacking in the manoeuvrability of the smaller British Daimler armoured cars for reconnaissance duties in European terrain. Nonetheless the Staghound fared well when it was first committed to combat in Italy in 1943 and was soon highly regarded by the crews, who rapidly appreciated its speed and surprising nimbleness. Many Staghounds found useful employment at squadron and regimental headquarters, where their roominess and provision for a crew of five were a significant advantage for use as Command vehicles.
A total of 2,844 T17E1s were built by December 1943, all of which were supplied to Britain or Commonwealth countries. In addition a Staghound Anti-Aircraft armoured car (T17E2) was built for Britain by the Norge Division in Detroit, with 1,000 of these manufactured. This version had an open top turret, designed by Frazer-Nash in England, mounting twin 0.50-in. anti-aircraft machine-guns. British modifications of the Staghound I included the Staghound II, in which the 37-mm. gun was replaced by a 3-in. howitzer for close support work, and the Staghound III, in which a British Crusader cruiser tank's 6-Pdr or 75-mm. turret was mounted in place of the original turret (a popular modification since the British AEC armoured car was universally detested because of their height). Other variants included a mine-clearer and a command car.
The popular Staghound remained in service with the British Army for several years after World War II, and when finally disposed of were quickly snapped up by a number of other countries, continuing their useful service life for many more decades.
Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Philip Trewbitt, Dempsey-Parr, 1999)
Tanks and other Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1942-45 (B.T. White, Blandford Press, 1975)
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Military Vehicles (Ian V Hogg & John Weeks, Hamlyn, 1980)
Rude Mechanicals (A J Smithers, Grafton Books, 1989)