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08 May 2013

Restored Buick M18 "Hellcat" tank





In February 1942, the last civilian car left a Buick facility before full attention was placed on engineering and producing aircraft engines, ammunition and the M18 tank destroyer, better known as the "Hellcat". The M18 originated in the design studio of Harley Earl, whose team also worked extensively on early camouflage paint. Even the Hellcat logo on the M18's front corner and patches worn by its crew was designed by Earl's staff. Flanked by the words "Seek, Strike, Destroy," it depicts a wildcat biting down on crushed treads, signifying the Hellcat's mission of targeting enemy tanks. Buick engineers developed an innovative torsion bar suspension that provided a steady ride. Though it weighed about 20 tons the Hellcat was designed to be one of fastest tanks on the battlefield and was capable of traveling upwards of 60 mph. Its power came from a nine-cylinder, 450-horsepower radial-type aircraft engine paired with a three-speed Hydramatic transmission. "The Hellcat was considered the hot rod of World War II", said Bill Gross, a historian who restored an M18 now on display at the Sloan Museum in Flint, Mich. "To give perspective, most German tanks of the day were capable of just 20 mph and even today's M1 Abrams tank is outpaced by the Hellcat". Production of the M18 Hellcat began in mid-1943 and ended in October 1944.

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