Land Rovers have been used by military forces across the world and many different conversions have been tried and utilised. The most radical conversion of a Land Rover for military purposes was the Centaur half-track back in 1978. It was based on a Series III with a V8 engine and a shortened belt drive from the Alvis Scorpion light tank. A small number was manufactured, and they were used by Ghana, among others.
This video is from the Tank Museum at Bovington who have one in their collection, though I didn’t see it on my last visit there.
The Laird Centaur was the brainchild of Laird (Angelsey) Limited and was the result of intensive engineering development combining the Land Rover and the Alvis designed tracks of the FV101 Scorpion light tank. The Alvis Scorpion was developed to meet a British Army requirement for the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T).
In 1967, Alvis was awarded the contract to produce 30 CVR(T) prototypes. The Centaur made use of a shortened version of the tracks.
The proposed design offered unique advantages in both performance and cost-effectiveness. In addition maintencena nd spares, as well as support could have been based on existing arrangements and mechanisms in place to support Land Rovers and the CVR(T) family of armoured vehicles.
What was interesting were the proposed variants for customers and these were detailed in a pamphlet from Laird (Angelsey).
They included armoured versions that could be used as an APC, reconnaissance and as a command vehicle. Their pamphlet also had weaponised versions including the Milan AT system and even one with a 106mm gun!
It was extensively tested by the British Army, I quite like this winter version that you can see on Flickr.
It’s a Land Rover Centaur on trial in Norway with the British army in the early eighties and with a special projects registration.
Here is a video of that vehicle undergoing testing in Norway.
Half track vehicles likes the Centaur have some advantages, it is not difficult for someone who can drive a car to drive a half-track, which is a great advantage over fully tracked vehicles which often require more specialised training.
The main disadvantage is the increased maintenance to maintain track tension, and the reduced life span of the tracks. In addition they perform less well cross country than fully tracked vehicles and perform less well on roads that fully wheeled ones. As a result they are a compromise across both and these disadvantages usually outweigh the advantages. As a result you don’t really see many hard tracks now in modern military service.
The Laird Centaur makes for an interesting what if vehicle and, well that story is for another time…