Tank Evolution: The Ford 3-Ton M1918 – examining specifications and operations

The Ford 3-Ton M1918, a lightweight tank created during World War I, sought to diversify American tank forces through cost-effective design. It was equipped with a.30-06 machine gun and two Ford Model T engines producing 45 horsepower each.

The Ford 3-Ton M1918 was one of the early tank designs created by the United States during World War I. The 3-Ton, which began development in mid-1917, aimed to diversify American tank forces and depended mainly on British or French tank models. It was designed as a two-man tank and was modelled after the Renault FT, but it was positioned as a more cost-effective alternative. The tank was powered by two Ford Model T engines, with the driver at the front and a shooter beside them. The gunner was in charge of a.30-06 (7.62×63mm) machine gun with a limited-traverse system, carrying around 550 rounds of ammunition.

The 3-Ton’s initial production run consisted of fifteen vehicles, one of which was tested in France. Despite a future deal for 15,000 units, the U.S. Tank Corps discovered that the tank fell short of their required criteria. The deal was prematurely cancelled due to the Armistice, and only the original fifteen vehicles were produced.

While the French Army rated the Ford 3-Ton tank as inferior to the domestic Renault FT, they recognised its potential as a low-cost, lightweight all-terrain artillery tractor. A later order for 1,500 3-ton tanks was placed with Ford; however, the Armistice intervened before any deliveries could take place, resulting in the order being cancelled.



The Ford 3-Ton M1918, a military vehicle constructed during World War I, weighed three tonnes and measured 14 feet long, six feet wide, and six feet tall. With a small driver and gunner crew, the vehicle was a flexible and manoeuvrable platform for its day.

The Ford 3-ton M1918 was armed with either the M1917 Marlin machine gun or the M1919 Browning machine gun, emphasising its duty as a support and reconnaissance vehicle. During operations, the two-man crew worked in a limited yet functional environment to ensure optimal communication and coordination.

The vehicle’s power came from two Ford Model T engines, each producing 45 horsepower, for a power-to-weight ratio of 10.4 horsepower per tonne. This arrangement improved the Ford 3-Ton M1918’s capacity to negotiate varied terrains with relative ease, making it a dependable asset on the battlefield.

With an operational range of up to 55 kilometres (34 miles), the Ford 3-Ton M1918 struck an ideal balance between mobility and endurance. Despite its limited speed of 12.8 kilometres per hour (8 mph), the vehicle’s design and capabilities made it an important component of military operations during its time.



The Ford 3-Ton M1918 was primarily designed for tank-versus-tank combat. This light tank was developed to fight armoured vehicles of similar form and function on the battlefield. Its armament and mobility made it an invaluable asset in direct combat with enemy armoured troops.

The Ford 3-Ton M1918 tank was versatile in its operations and capable of traversing a variety of terrain. Its design enabled it to function efficiently in a variety of terrains, from broad fields to more difficult conditions such as urban areas or wooded regions. This versatility made the tank well-suited for a multitude of combat circumstances, giving allied troops a reliable and responsive asset in varied situations.