As General Motors’ Buick nameplate celebrates its 110th anniversary, what better way to mark the occasion than to draw attention to its highly celebrated M18 tank destroyer, also known as the Hellcat. Production of the M 18 Hellcat commenced in mid-1943 and ended in October 1944. At the time, the project was a big secret and the press ran the new tank destroyer story only a month before production concluded. This apart, Buick factory workers were pressed into service to create war good for WWII including 20,000 powertrains, cartridge cases, and 9.7 million 20-mm shells, among others things.
Its design was formulated in the studios of Harley Earl who were credited with design of the Hellcat, right down to the logo on the vehicle’s front corner while patches worn by the crew were designed by Earl’s staff. The Hellcat was accompanied with a byline, ‘Seek, Strike and Destroy’ giving an idea just what this high performance tank destroyer was capable of where enemy tanks were concerned.
Weighing a total of 20 tons, Hellcat was one of the fastest tanks with a travel capacity of 60 mph. It was powered by a 9 cylinder, 450 hp radial aircraft engine mated to a three speed hydramatic transmission. Testing of tanks was akin to that of passenger cars at the General Motors Milford Proving Ground, which was specially designed at the time to be a worthy tank test ground.
Bill Gross, a historian who restored an M18 now on display at the Sloan Museum in Flint, Mich., said, “The Hellcat was considered the hot rod of World War II.” “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.” “The men and women who developed the Hellcat and assembled them on the Buick line in Flint contributed a great deal to the war effort and to military engineering history.” “These people were instrumental in bringing such a great conflict to a close and their innovations are still in use today – the M18’s suspension remains a common design inspiration for modern military vehicles.”