Entrance Hall


Tank Museum

British 6x4 lorries 




Following lengthy discussions the war office issued a specification for a six wheeled lorry with a rigid chassis and a 6x4 layout in the early 1930s. To stimulate interest amongst commercial vehicle manufacturers a subsidy was offered to produce the vehicle as was the free use of a patented 1928 pattern W.D. articulated rear bogie mechanism.

Four manufacturers produced prototypes in 1932 namely; Leyland, Crossley, Karrier and A.E.C. Firm orders were placed in 1933 for the three ton, forward control, open cab vehicle. Seven companies ultimately manufactured vehicles to this specification and these became the

A.E.C Marshall

Crossley IGL8

Albion BY3 (and later BY5)

Leyland Retriever

Karrier CK6

Thorneycroft Tartar


The vehicles’ design was extremely conservative, almost antiquated in appearance in comparison with civilian vehicles of the period. The main detail differences between the manufacturers were in the design of the radiator grill and in the style of the front wheel hubs, though there were many other more subtle variations. In performance they were all similar. Later vehicles were also produced to the W.D. specification by Austin, the K3YF and Fordson, the WOT1, but these were of a normal control layout.

In peace-time the 6x4s would carry G.S. bodies but in the event of a war specialist bodies would be fitted and civilian impressed vehicles could then be used for general duties. This happened in 1939 and consequently a large number of 6x4s were lost at Dunkirk. These vehicles with their specialist bodies numbered amongst the 100,000 vehicles of all types lost in the French campaign.

Immediately after Dunkirk British manufacturers were again called upon to produce replacement 6x4s. However, military thinking had now changed and the increasing value was placed upon vehicles with 4x2 and 4x4 wheel arrangement as this offered more flexibility and better off- road performance than the 6x4 arrangement. By 1940 the whole of the British Motor Industry was solely involved in military vehicle production and the major vehicle manufacturers; Bedford, Ford and Austin, were building militarised versions of their civilian lorry ranges in quantity, all of which were of a 4x2 and 4x4 arrangement. These were supplemented by 4x2 and 4x4 vehicles produced under C.M.P. programme. There was, therefore, little point in all of the smaller manufacturers continuing to produce limited quantities of 6x4 vehicles. It is likely that some were asked by the War Department to concentrate on the production of a single type of vehicle such as, for A.E.C. the Matador and for Crossley, the Q series. After 1941 production for the Army was standardised on only three types of 6x4 these were the

Leyland Retriever

Karrier CK6

Albion BY3/5 series.

These vehicles were still needed as the specialist bodies would not fit on to a 4x2 chassis, in particular the workshop and pontoon bodies. In the C.M.P series a 6x4 chassis was also produced and was primarily used for the specialist bodies. The R.A.F. continued to receive 6x4 vehicles though these were mainly the Fordson WOT 1 and later the Austin K6, off- road performance was not such an issue for them. Consequently some 6x4s with their specialist bodies had particularly long lives, in some cases lasting into the 1960s.  



Were they good vehicles? It seems they were reliable and that is probably why the Leyland , in particular, was so long served.

By the standards of the day they were probably at the bottom end of the performance scale along with the Scammell R100 but like that vehicle they would keep going when the more modern stuff failed as both types of vehicles were produced to pre-war W.D. specifications rather than be civilian vehicles modified for military use.

Their cross-country performance was adequate.  They certainly were not fast - probably about 30mph flat out - and had a 55ft turning circle, so were tricky to drive. They had 5.9 litre petrol engines giving about 71 BHP the Bedford OYD engine produced around the same BHP and that was fitted in a 4x2 (My car produces 115 BHP on a 1.8 litre diesel engine) We have not heard the horror stories to compare with those about the Bedford engines which were very poor indeed (500 Bedford 3 tonners failed in Normandy just before Market Garden due to duff pistons, and all units operating Bedfords carried large stocks of spare engines).  



Modelling the 6x4s: colour schemes


The 6x4 s were initially painted in deep bronze green and probably stayed that way in France 1940, some may have been painted a mid green with either black or dark green disruptive camouflage and those captured by the Germans seemed to stay in a single colour - probably field grey though this could easily be the green that they were captured in. We have no evidence of the three colour scheme  - however they probably did not last that long. In home service vehicles would most likely be in brown or possibly mid green.

North Africa - Tunis - Italy.

The 6x4s certainly went to North Africa.  There are plenty of pictures of them there  in Portland stone No1, no disruptive markings, and also in the Caunter scheme. They even sent bridging units to North Aftrica – apparently they were used to bridge dry wadis!! The Trux pontoon manual refers to this. There are photos of bridging units in the victory parade at Tunis in 1943 so they were there until the end. As 8th Army took its vehicles to Italy the 6x4s would have gone - certainly Monty's caravan went, though we have no photographs. 


Normandy and NW Europe :

Plenty of pictures exist of 6x4s in Mickey mouse schemes and also in probably mid green (possibly brown) with no disruptive scheme in the NW Europe campaign.


The Far East :

We are very unsure about as all of the softskins we have photos of are: CMPs, Matadors, Bedford; MWDs, QL and OYDS and Morris Commercial C8s. I would have thought that the units involved would have used a lot of American vehicles and Australian produced Fords in preference to British vehicles so we have yet to find a photo of a 6x4 in the Far East .  We would be interested to hear from anyone who knows of one.


Post War:

We have a photos of a Leyland machinery wagon serving with 4 RTR in the Canal Zone around 1953 in Portland Stone  and of  a Leyland retriever crane at Old Sarum airfield in 1964 in R.A.F. Blue. R.A.F 6x4 vehicles were almost certainly Brown in wartime. 


Long and short chassis

Chassis lengths were 12ft 6ins and 13ft.  Vanderveen quotes the Crossley as having a 12ft 10ins chassis but in 1:76 we felt it safe to standardise on two lengths rather than three. The Karrier and the Guy had the 12ft 6ins chassis whilst the others had the 13ft chassis.


What body?

The Leyland and Crossley could carry all of the bodies but the Guy and Karrier could only carry the shorter ones i.e. the SBG. All could carry the G.S. The Albions tended to be Bridging lorries and machinery wagons, there is no hard and fast rule, refer to photos to be safe.


According to our photographs (other combinations almost certainly existed):


Albions - SBG, TSB and pontoon. 

Crossley - Pre-war: Searchlight, G.S., Derrick and Breakdown. 

Karrier  - S.B.G.

Leyland Retriever - all bodies.

Thorneycroft - G.S.


Guy - Radio and G.S. (not yet available) 


We have plans to extend the Matador range of 6x4s, but not in the immediate future.



With thanks to Nigel Robins.

A series of 6x4s was produced by Trux models.  Matador bought the masters and they have been completely re-worked by Nigel.  

While we have retained the (extremely good) cabs the chassis and detail is almost entirely new.