Buick has been making cars for as long as most can remember, and today it’s trying to shake its reputation for being somewhat of a boring car. But for a short time in 1942, that changed as Buick became known for making one of the most badass vehicles to date: the M18 Hellcat. In celebration of its 110th birthday, the automaker takes the time to remember the vehicle once referred to as the “hot rod of World War II.”
The M18 was designed in the studio of Harley Earl, where camouflage paint was also developed. The Hellcat logo on the M18′s front corner was made into patches designed by Earl’s staff and worn on the crew operating the tank destroyer. The logo depicts a wildcat biting down on treads, signifying its mission to destroy enemy tanks. The image is followed by the words, “Seek, Strike, Destroy.”
“The Hellcat was considered the hot rod of World War II. To give perspective, most German tanks of the day were capable of just 20 mph and even today’s M1 Abrams tank is outpaced by the Hellcat,” said Bill Gross, a historian who has restored an M18 that is currently on display at the Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan.
The Hellcat weighed as much as nine modern-day Buick Enclaves, around 20 tons, but was capable of traveling upwards of 60 miles per hour. Thanks to a nine-cylinder engine that was paired with a 450-horsepower radial aircraft engine and a three-speed Hydramatic transmission, the M18 was never short on power to overtake enemy tanks.
Production for the Hellcat began in 1943 and ended in October 1944. More than 2,500 M18 Hellcats were produced during this time, as well as nearly 20,000 powertrains, 500,000 cartridge cases, 9.7 million 20-mm shells, among other war necessities.
Source: General Motors