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US Army Sterling T26 8 x 8 12-ton Heavy Truck

The Sterling T26

She was a big beast by any standard - but then she had a big job to do.

And although technically extinct, the memory of the US Army Sterling T26 8 x 8 12-ton heavy truck lives on, through a book researched and written by Tony Gibbs

Called “Sterling T26 Discovered”, Tony will be signing copies of this limited edition work at the War and Peace Show, at The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, in July.

He is also working on a model of this historic military vehicle.

“The T26 was designed to take over from the M26 Dragon Wagon, at a time when the Americans were building super-heavy tanks, capable of taking on the German Tigers,” said Tony, an industrial designer before he retired 10 years ago.

“Powerful though the M26 was, it was just not up to lugging the 70-ton T29 tank nor the turretless T-28, which weighed in at no less than 95 tons.”

Tony’s book is a tribute to the brilliant designer Lieutenant Steve Hodges, who led the T26 design project. He visited Hodges at his home in California and the two became friends.

When Steve Hodges died, Tony was given access to his entire archive, and was able to scan copies of all the documentation, photos and technical drawings relating to the project.

“One of the problems Steve faced was that the quality of steel available during the Second World War was just not tough enough for conventional gears on a truck this size,” said Tony.

“The solution he came up with was to create a system whereby power was delivered individually to each of the eight wheels, using sprocket and chain for the final drives. So they were reverting to older technology as a way of dealing with wartime constraints.

“The vehicle was steered by rotating the entire front bogie, which gave it a very tight turning circle. Coupled with the much shorter T58 semi-trailer this arrangement would have helped on the narrow lanes encountered in Normandy. However the war ended before it could be shipped to Europe.”

The T26 was initially powered by an American LaFrance 300E V12 engine, which had a capacity of 754 cubic inches (12,356 cc), which generated 280 bhp at 1800 rpm and 518 foot pounds of torque. This was upgraded on later variants.

Three manual gearboxes gave a choice of 20 forward and three reverse gears.

Later models were powered by the Ford GAA V8 tank engine with the Ford GAC V12 projected for the ulitmate version.

Steve Hodges, who was awarded the Legion of Merit for his design work, went on to develop further 8 x 8 trucks, including the Lockheed Twister and the Lockheed Dragon Wagon, the essence of which was embedded in the Oshkosh LVS military truck series, used to good effect in Operation Desert Storm.

Tony Gibbs began researching the T26 as a retirement project, after a career in industrial design during which he worked on projects ranging from a Royal Mail pillar box to a complex spacecraft control console.

His interest in military vehicles was sparked in the days before D-Day when as a child he watched endless convoys heading south to the embarkation points.

Even then it was the massive American transports that most captivated his interest, together with the cool and relaxed GI crews that operated them.



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