Thornycroft Antar

Last updated

Thornycroft Antar
Mighty Antar Trekker 2.jpg
Antar Mk2 tractor and DAF trailer with Centurion tank load
TypeHeavy duty tractor
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1951–1984
Production history
VariantsMk 1, Mk 2, Mk 3
Mass44,220 lb (20,060 kg) [lower-alpha 1]
Length332 in (843 cm)
Width111 in (282 cm)
Height123 in (312 cm)

Engine Rover Meteorite Mk 204 [lower-alpha 2]
1,099 cu in (18.0 L) petrol V8
260 hp (190 kW)
Suspensionwheel 6×4
Maximum speed 28 mph (45 km/h)

The Mighty Antar was a heavy-duty 6×4 tractor unit built by Thornycroft from the late 1940s onwards. For some decades it was the standard tank transporter of the British Army and was also used by other nations. It was powered by a shortened V8 land version of the V12 Merlin Aircraft engine modified to run on diesel and known as the Rolls-Royce Meteorite.



Antar tractor & DAF trailer (Dutch Army) Mighty Antar Trekker 1.jpg
Antar tractor & DAF trailer (Dutch Army)
Mk1 Antar ballast tractor (Dutch Army) Mighty Antar Truck front.jpg
Mk1 Antar ballast tractor (Dutch Army)
Ballast tractor body (Dutch Army) Mighty Antar Truck rear.jpg
Ballast tractor body (Dutch Army)


The civilian version of the Antar was developed in the late 1940s as an oilfield vehicle for transporting pipes over rough ground. [1] They were of 6×4 layout (i.e. six wheels, four of them driven), with the front (steering) axle undriven and with twin wheels on both driven (rear) axles (technically ten wheels, eight of them driven, as each rear axle has four wheels). The vehicle was designed for cross-country use, like the earlier Scammell Pioneer and unlike the road-going Diamond T it was eventually to replace.

The engine, the Rolls-Royce Meteorite, was a cut-down V8 version of the V12 Rolls-Royce Meteor used in tanks, itself a terrestrial version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin and made under licence by the Rover Company. Early Antars used the petrol version made by Rover and by the early 1950s the Rolls-Royce-manufactured diesel versions of the engine. [2]

The name

Antar was a reference to Antar Ibn Shadded, a pre-Islamic Arab poet-warrior. The intended lead customer for the Mighty Antar was the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, previously the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

Introduction into Army service

In 1951, the first Antars entered British Army service. These were fixed-body steel-built ballast tractors and were given the design number FV 12001 and the designation Tractor 30-ton GS 6x4. [1] They could haul the new 50-ton Dyson FV 3601 trailers that were being used to carry the new and heavier Centurion tanks. [3] A 20-ton winch was fitted behind the cab, although just provided for loading the trailer rather than for recovery.

At this time, the intention was that the even heavier Conqueror tank would be transported by a whole new transporter of equally large capacity, the Leyland FV 1000. [4] This was 2 feet (61 cm) wider than the Antar, as the Antar had in turn been 2 feet (61 cm) wider than the Diamond T. They were to be equipped with a semi-trailer of 60 tons capacity, given the design number FV 3301. This design was ungainly and top-heavy when loaded, being high at the rear to clear the wheels and sloping downwards towards the front to better place the weight of the load.

Partly inspired by this semi-trailer, a new FV 12002 version of the Antar was developed as a tractor unit to haul it. This was a graceful swan-neck design and had only a small hump over the rear wheels, making loading by the rear ramps simpler. The trackways on which the tank sat were carried outboard of the trailer frame itself, which rose up between them at the front to form the swan neck, sloping only gently to clear the tank's hull. This gave a stronger and yet more compact layout than the ungainly step of the FV 1000 project's. The first version of this was the 16-wheeled FV 3001 of 60 tons capacity. This was later refined as the FV 3005 with smaller wheels, then the 50-ton-capacity FV 3011 (when using the Taskers/Sankey trailer) for carrying the Centurion. [1]

As the semi-trailer Antars entered service through 1953 to 1955, and after the abandonment of the FV 1000 project, they replaced the American Diamond T that had served during the Second World War as the British Army's main tank transporter.

Recovery vehicles

The Antar tractor itself was heavier, at 20 tons, than any available recovery vehicle could lift for a suspended tow. There had been plans in the super-heavy FV 1000 and FV 1200 series for recovery vehicles, but these were cancelled with the rest of the project. As an ad hoc measure in 1952, an RASC officer devised a bolt-on recovery jib that could be fitted to one Antar to make it capable of the suspended towing of another, although this modification was never approved for mass production. [5]

Later service

In the early 1960s the Mark 3 entered service, to support the increasing weight of later Centurion models and also future plans for the Chieftain tank. These were the last Antars in service, remaining until the mid-1980s. [6] The Mark 3 is visually distinct from the earlier models, the use of an 8-cylinder inline engine, the Rolls-Royce C8SFL; without the wide vee of the Meteorite the bonnet was much narrower.

The Mark 3 used either a 50- or 60-ton semi-trailer (numbered as FV 12004) or could be converted to the FV 12006 ballast tractor configuration for hauling the 50-ton Dyson full trailer.


By the late 1960s, it was clear that the Antar, even when re-engined, was an old design and replacement would be needed. There was also concern over the spares situation, as they were out of production and Thornycroft had been absorbed, via AEC, into the vast mass of Leyland. The Antar was replaced by the Scammell Commander in 1986. [7]


Antar Mark 1B

1B denotes ballast body for Dyson trailer.

Antar Mark 2A & B

2A denotes articulated for Dyson 50-ton semi-trailer or Sankey 60-ton semi-trailer.

Basically the same as the Mk 1 but for relocation of the twin 100 gallon fuel tanks stacked the rear of the cab. These were moved to the saddle in the centre of the vehicle. A Dowty 20-ton winch was then located at the rear of the cab and a PTO-driven hydraulic pump added to serve the Sankey semi-trailer loading ramps and wheel changing jacks.

One Mark 2 was converted with an AEC diesel engine for army trials in 1963 and sold off in 1971. [6]

Antar Mark 3 and Mark 3a

Antar Mk 3, with narrowed bonnet in RAF Air Force blue colour scheme RAF Thornycroft Antar Lorry - tank transporter.jpg
Antar Mk 3, with narrowed bonnet in RAF Air Force blue colour scheme


Totally new, narrower, body and cab. [8] The inline engine permitted a much narrower bonnet than the Meteorite's wide vee. The gearbox was similar but the main stick (gear lever) gave six speeds (5 plus overdrive) with a single stick for all winch and PTO control functions.

A third differential (inter-axle) was fitted to the second axle, with a cab-operated control.

Max speed 35 mph (56 km/h).

With the Chieftain MBT the all-up weight was 101 tons; they were road-tested at 126 tons. [9]


  1. All dimensions are from Mk 1 FV 12001
  2. Mk 3s had Rolls Royce C8SFJ/843 diesel engines

Related Research Articles

Conqueror (tank) Type of Heavy tank

The FV 214 Conqueror, also known as "Tank, Heavy No. 1, 120 mm Gun, Conqueror" was a British heavy tank of the post-World War II era. It was developed as a response to the Soviet Joseph Stalin IS-3 heavy tanks; its 120 mm gun was larger than the 20-pounder (83.8 mm) gun carried by its peer, the Centurion. The Conqueror's role was to provide long range anti-tank support for the Centurion. Conquerors were issued at nine for each regiment in Germany, usually grouped in three tank troops. In the British Army both the Conqueror and the Centurion were replaced by the Chieftain.

Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement Type of Family of 6x6 tactical trucks with 7-ton payload (U.S. tons)

The Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) is a series of vehicles, based on a common chassis that vary by payload and mission requirements. The MTVR is a purpose-designed military vehicle, although a small number of vehicles have been sold commercially for specialized operations such as wildfire fighting.

Alvis Stalwart Type of

The Stalwart, formally classified by the British Army as Truck, High Mobility Load Carrier (HMLC), 5 Ton, 6 x 6, Alvis/Stalwart and informally known by servicemen as the Stolly, is a highly mobile amphibious military truck built by Alvis that served with the British Army from 1966 until 1992.

Thornycroft automobile manufacturer

Thornycroft was an English vehicle manufacturer which built coaches, buses, and trucks from 1896 until 1977.

Scammell Lorries Limited was a British manufacturer of trucks, particularly specialist and military off-highway vehicles, between 1921 and 1988.

Six-wheel drive type of drivetrain with six driven wheels

Six-wheel drive is an all-wheel drive drivetrain configuration of three axles with at least two wheels on each axle capable of being driven simultaneously by the vehicle's engine. Unlike four-wheel drive drivetrains, the configuration is largely confined to heavy-duty off-road and military vehicles, such as all-terrain vehicles, armored vehicles, and prime movers.

M19 Tank Transporter Type of 45-ton Truck-trailer

The M19 Tank Transporter was a heavy tank transporter system used in World War II and into the 1950s. It consisted of a 12-ton 6x4 M20 Diamond T Model 980 truck and companion 12-wheel M9 trailer.

Tractor unit characteristically heavy-duty towing engine that provides motive power for hauling a towed or trailered load

A tractor unit is a characteristically heavy-duty towing engine that provides motive power for hauling a towed or trailered load. These fall into two categories: heavy and medium duty military and commercial rear-wheel drive "semi-tractors" used for hauling semi-trailers, and very heavy-duty typically off-road-capable, often 6×6, military and commercial tractor units, including ballast tractors.

Rolls-Royce Meteorite

The Rolls-Royce Meteorite was a British V8 petrol or diesel engine of 18.01 litres (1,099 cu in) capacity, and was derived from the Rolls-Royce Meteor, which was itself based on the Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engine. The Meteorite was, in essence, two-thirds of a V12 Meteor and it shared the Meteor's 60° vee angle. Meteorites were built for vehicles, for marine use and as stationary power units.

The Diamond T Company was an American automobile and truck manufacturer. They produced commercial and military trucks.

Scammell Pioneer Type of Tractor unit

The Scammell Pioneer was a British 6×4 tractor unit used in World War II as an artillery tractor, recovery vehicle and tank transporter.

Tank transporter combination of a heavy tractor unit and mating semi-trailer used for transporting tanks

A tank transporter is a combination of a heavy tractor unit and a mating full trailer or semi-trailer, used for transporting tanks and other AFVs. Some also function as tank recovery vehicles, the tractors of which may be armored for protection in combat conditions.

M25 Tank Transporter Type of 40 ton (36,287kg) 6x6 Tank recovery truck-trailer

The M25 Tank Transporter (G160) was a combination 6x6 M26 armored heavy tank transporter/tank recovery tractor and companion 40-ton M15 trailer introduced into US Army service in Europe in 1944–45. Manufactured by Pacific Car & Foundry Co., it was a substantial upgrade over the Diamond T M19 transporter/trailer duo introduced in 1940.

Thornycroft Hathi Four wheel drive artillery tractor

The Hathi was an early four wheel drive lorry built by Thornycroft in the 1920s. It was used by the British Army as an artillery tractor.

The Rolls-RoyceC range was a series of in-line 4, 6 and 8 cylinder diesel engines used in small railway locomotives, construction vehicles, marine and similar applications. They were manufactured by the Rolls-Royce Oil Engine Division, initially at Derby and later at Shrewsbury, from the 1950s through to 1970s.

M123 and M125 10-ton 6x6 trucks Type of 10‑ton 6x6 trucks

The Mack M123 (G792) was a 10-ton 6x6 semi-tractor introduced in 1955; the Mack M125 was a heavy cargo truck version of the M123. The M123 was used to tow tank transporter trailers while the M125 towed field artillery pieces.

Oshkosh M1070 Type of 8×8 heavy tractor

The Oshkosh M1070 is a U.S. Army tank transporter tractor unit. In current service in A0 and A1 configurations, the M1070 is coupled to a DRS Technologies M1000 semi-trailer. The primary purpose of this combination is the transport of the M1 Abrams tank.

Leyland L60

The Leyland L60 was a British 19-litre (1,200 cu in) vertical six-cylinder opposed-piston two-stroke multi-fuel diesel engine designed by Leyland Motors in the late 1950s/early 1960s for the Chieftain main battle tank (MBT). The engine was also used in the Vickers MBT and its Indian-built derivative, the Vijayanta.


  1. 1 2 3 Baxter, Breakdown, p.71
  2. "Tractor 30 ton 6 × 4 Tank Transporter Thornycroft Antar (Acc 1991.3573)". REME museum. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.External link in |publisher= (help)
  3. "Trailer 50 ton Tank Transporter (Acc 1991.3579)". REME museum. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008.External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. Baxter, Breakdown, p.70
  5. Baxter, Breakdown, p.73
  6. 1 2 Baxter, Breakdown, p.85
  7. Baxter, Breakdown, p.95
  8. "Antar Mk3, showing narrower bonnet and rounded cab". Tank Transporter Network. Archived from the original on 28 August 2009.External link in |publisher= (help)
  9. 15 years experience of overhauling Antars at the contract repair workshops "Fazakerly Engineering Company" Field Lane, Fazakerly, Liverpool.

Further reading