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Thursday, February 9, 2017

The "M29 'Lady Luck'" Vehicle" Story

The M29 Weasel at Horsepower Enterprises.
It was an ordinary day.  Finally stopped at Horsepower Enterprises on Prince Street in Lancaster, Pennsyl- vania to talk to Dave, a former student of mine, who works at the auto-restoration business about the rather unique vehicle that has been in the showroom window for over a month.  Walked into the showroom and saw Dave in the work area holding a fresh cup of coffee.  I waved and in no time we were standing in front of the vehicle known as a M29 Weasel.  
"Lady Luck" hand-painted on the side of the vehicle.
Hand painted on one side of the Army green vehicle in perhaps five-inch high white paint was "Lady Luck".  Evidently it worked since this tracked vehicle is a survivor of World War II.  The vehicle was produced in 1945 by the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, later doing business as Studebaker Automobile Company in South Bend, Indiana.  It was after the German Invasion of Norway in April of 1940, during WWII, that British inventor Geoffrey Pyke came up with the idea of a small tracked vehicle large enough to ferry commando-type elements across Arctic environments.  Eventually in 1941 the vehicle went into production with a Canadian/American effort with Studebaker making the two-seat vehicle which used a twin bogie, four-wheeled track system.  
The M29 in action.
The original version was known as the M28 Weasel with the M29 coming into existence in 1943.  The M29 had the engine located in the front of the hull which allowed for two more seats in the vehicle.  The running gear was completely revamped to include sixteen road wheels and a new suspension assembly.  The four-person vehicle weighed close to two tons and was 10 feet, 6 inches in length and 5 feet wide with a height of 4 feet.  Some Weasel's had 50mm machine gun turrets on them while others may have had 75mm cannons which were known as tank killers.  Power was served through the Studebaker Model 6-170 Champion 6-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine of 70 horsepower which provided the vehicle with road speeds of 36 miles per hour and operational ranges of 165 miles.  The Weasels could climb high grades with some able to cross water sources.  It could manage trenches of 36 inches and obstacles as high as 24 inches.  
Here you can see the dual rudder control on the rear of the Weasel.
When it was not transporting personnel it could be used to haul 3,800 pounds of goods into battle.  The M29C was a dedicated amphibious form with internal float tanks and dual rudder control.  The M29 was meant to be used in combat action in Norway, but ended up in combat service in mainland Europe.  The model I am standing in front of does have the rudder control, but I'm not sure where the float tanks might be located.  Dave explained some of the workings of the vehicle and gave me a chance to take photos before he was off to work on another project.  Horsepower Enterprises sees some of the most interesting vehicles pass through its doors on their way to restoration at the hands of Dave and the other workers at the building that at one time was called Mohn Bros. Buick in the late 40s and 50s.  I lived half-a-block from the garage while a child and even had my 1955 Ford painted at the place. My friend Jerry's dad was a member of the work force at Mohn Bros. in the mid-1900s. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Here you can see the multi-wheeled track system.
Front view showing the light. 
The rear seats of the four-passenger vehicle.
Small plaque telling the specifications of the vehicle.
I am standing on the "driver's" side looking toward the center console with gauges in the center.  To the left is the "steering" mechanism which is a straight bar with small knobs on the ends.
Final view shows the ground clearance of the M29 Weasel.

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