The Thomas B. Jeffery Company was funded in 1902, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It replaced the Gormully & Jeffery bicycle manufacturing company and was active until 1916, when the company was bought by Charles W. Nash, and renamed Nash Motors. A large array of models was built from 1907, including the famous Rambler model A. The Jeffery No.1 became, in effect, the first armored car built by the U.S. Government for the Regular Army. However, several were already in service with the National Guard.
The Number 1
Since the company was known, at that stage, for its all-wheel drive vehicles, it was the earliest provider of chassis to the US Military for tests. The single Jeffery No.1, produced for evaluation in 1916, weighed 5.3 tons (empty), had 4×4 steering, a 28 ft (8.5 m) turning radius. The metallic wheels were covered with rubber bands. It was towering and quite intimidating at 2.5 m (8ft2) in height, armed with four .30 cal (7.62 mm) Benet-Mercie machine rifles, with another two in reserve. They could fire from the two fully revolving turrets, from the roof of the main fighting compartment and from behind, on a compartment seated above the rear axle, each with a -10 to +80 degrees elevation.
Access was granted by side doors. The front engine compartment was ventilated from below, as the radiator had no front louvers, but could be reached through a front and two side hatches. The engine was a Jeffery Gasoline -U Buda with 4 cylinders in line, liquid-cooled giving 25 hp at 25 rpm (21.4 kW). It was coupled with a manual 6 speed forward/6 reverse transfer case. There was also a 6V electric system for lighting and equipment. The Jeffery could ford an estimated 16 in (40 cm) deep river.
The vehicle joined other models (Mack, Locomobile and White) in General John Pershing’s 1916 punitive expedition against Pancho Villa in Mexico, which was preceded by a training session in Columbus, New Mexico. The expedition stayed on the border of Mexico and there is no record of fighting. After 1917, the Jeffery N°1 spent the rest of its active life in Maryland, prior to retirement. A single replica exists at the Pancho Villa State Park.
At roughly the same time, the Jeffery-Russel armored car was developed in Canada based on the same Jeffery quad chassis. The vehicles were lower, lighter, had a single turret armed with a Vickers .303 (7.7 mm) liquid cooled machine gun. The rear turret was replaced by a fixed observation post and barbettes with pistol ports were fitted on the sides front and rear. Other modifications included wire-cutters on the nose, toolboxes at the rear and sides, no side doors and many hull details.
40 such vehicles were built by the Russel Motor Car company in 1915, serving with the Eaton Motor Machine Gun Battery. However, later during the same year they were shipped to Great Britain, where they would languish in a depot until 1917. The vehicles were split, and 20 or 22 were stationed in Ireland. However, it seems they were not involved in the fighting during the Irish War of Independence, and it seems they were scrapped when the English withdrew in 1922. The rest were sent to the British India Command, used for the “Field Force” deployed against the Mohmand rising of Haji Mullah, India’s North West Frontier. The Indian Jefferies mostly patrolled unpaved tracks, which rapidly highlighted the vehicle’s limited off-road capabilities due to the narrow solid tires. Speed was maintained below 12 mph (19 km/h). However, the ship carrying the spare parts, the SS Shirala, was torpedoed and sunk in July 1918. Maintenance was difficult, but the vehicles remained in service until 1928.
Jeffery No.1 specifications
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||216 x 76 x 96 in(5.48 x 1.93 x 2.45 m)|
|Total weight, battle ready||5.3 tons empty, 5.7 fully loaded|
|Crew||4 (driver, co-driver/commander, gunners)|
|Propulsion||4-cyl. Jeffery liquid cooled gasoline engine, 29 hp|
|Top speed (est.)||20 mph (32 km/h)|
|Operational range (est.)||150 mi (240 km)|
|Armament||1x Benet-Mercie machine-gun|
2x M1895 Colt-Browning machine-guns
|Suspension||4×4 leaf springs|
|Armor||0.15-0.20 in (3.8 to 5.1 mm)|
Jeffery number one, Mexico, 1936. It was designed and built at the Rock Island Arsenal with armor plates provided by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, ranging from 0.15 to 0.2 inches (4-5 mm) and armed with one Benet-Mercie and 2 Colt “Potato Digger” machine guns.
Jeffery-Russel armored car, based on the Quad chassis, in a camouflaged livery. This Canadian version differed from the previous through several details, the absence of rear turret being the most distinctive one.