there are two types of vehicles called armored car: one is a light truck, modified with armored plates, bulletproof glass, gun ports and other security measures. It is used to transport precious stuff, like money and stamps.
The other, and possibly more interesting, is a war vehicle born before the tank, consisting basically of an armored and beweaponed light truck able to move offroad.

The first war armored car was the Ehrhardt Panzerautomobil zur Verfolgung von Luftballons (armored car for the pursuit of balloons). Built around a truck chassis and protectected by 3 mm steel plates (quite thin, probably good only for stopping shrapnel) and armed only with a Rheinmetall 50 mm cannon, this was definitely a specialized weapon.
Subsequent developments saw the armored car fitted with machine guns, and used in recon roles during both wars.
The armored car shone particularly in the desert war (read about it in Lawrence of Arabia's Seven Pillars of Wisdom), where its speed and agility allowed it support infantry well.

The armored car spawned the APC, and it should not be confused with the light tank; an armored car always has wheels, a tank has treads.

The armored car, as a military vehicle, although it has been overshadowed by its larger cousin, the Main Battle Tank, probably is used in much greater numbers and in much greater frequency in many of the world's armed forces. An armored car can be defined as a wheeled (as opposed to tracked) vehicle that has armor thick enough to guard against at least shrapnel and small arms fire. Of course, as a military vehicle, the armored car almost always carries arms, usually of a light nature.

The armored car's military service actually dates back further than the tank, with the Royal Navy using them to patrol its air bases at the outbreak of World War I, making it a sort of army for the air forces of the navy. However, with the exception of some reconassiance missions, the armored car did not play much of a role on the Central Front during that war. It was used quite gainfully in the Middle Eastern front, however, being well suited for desert warfare.

The 1920s saw much usage of Armored Cars, not in military action, but in police action. The British found them very useful in Ireland, India and Palestine, and in their occuptation army in Germany. Other countries also begin building armored cars, usually for the purpose of reconaissance units.

In World War II, the usage of the armored car was parallel to their usage in World War I. Besides for some reconaissance missions and some desert fighting, armored cars were never used en masse in battles. World War II was perhaps the last war between large nation states, so since that point there has not been many chances to test the idea of armored cars as being an important part in conventional warfare.

At the front of this writeup, however, I said that armored cars played a larger role in warfare than tanks. I say this because conventional warfare between the regular armies of nation states makes up a very small percentage of what goes under the heading of warfare. As I alluded to above when discussing the interwar usage of the armored car by the British, one of the main usages of the military armored car is in police actions. Personally, I find such usage to be morally questionable at best, but from a purely objective military viewpoint, it makes perfect sense.

On any kind of conventional battlefield, an armored car would not survive long. Especially in the modern days with attack helicopters and depleted uranium rounds, an armored car doesn't have the neccesary armor to live for long. However, advanced armor piercing weapon aren't even neccesary to take out an armored car. Even a well trained infantry squad armed with LAWS and a .50 calibre machine gun would have a fair chance of disabling most armored cars now in service.

However, how much the armored car is dwarfed on the battle field is also how much it would dwarf normal people in a riot control or counter-insurgency situation. On the battlefield, a machine gun is considered a rather light weapon. In a riot control situation, a fully automatic assault rifle is considered a heavy weapon, and modern armored cars are bulletproofed against them. On top of that, even in areas of the world with cohesive rebel militias with some training, the size and armament of an armored car are intimidating. For that reason, many countries, from Great Britain to Israel to Brazil to South Africa range a force of armored cars armored and armed to deal with irregular warfare operations ranging through the spectrum from riot control to counter-insurgency. The United States has traditionally forsaken the usage of armored cars, besides a small number of military police vehicles used to patrol United States Navy and United States Airforce bases. This is perhaps seen as a good sign that the Pentagon doesn't have many plans for engaging in warfare against the United States population.

So, moral objections aside, the basic reason the armored car is kept in service by so many armies around the world despite its low battle field survivability is its ability to conduct irregular warfare.

Name: Armored Car
Format: Arcade
Developer: Stern Electronics
Year: 1981

From Chris Oberth:

"Armored Car was the first game I made for Stern after being hired by Al McNeil (Berserk/Frenzy). I don't recall how we split up the programming tasks, probably just a free for all. Before working for Stern I was at Marvin Glass designing/prototyping handheld electronic games, such as Finger Bowl.
Armored Car was partly inspired by TARG. I remember coming up with the idea for the TNT truck, and thought it worked quite well".
- from the MAME history.dat

Armored Car is essentially what Pac-Man would have been like had it been set in a car. Sort of.

Ok, so it's not as bad a game as that makes it sound. To his credit, Chris Oberth has managed to add plenty of original elements to the basic idea of moving a character round a maze grid, avoiding enemies, picking up certain bonuses, and generally trying not to die.

The first, and probably the most significant change gameplay wise from the Pac formula, is that the grid is no longer an interesting maze with little nooks and crannies. This game is set in a car, which is driving round in a city. Because of this, the game playing field was a simple grid of square shaped blocks of buildings. The player could drive around these blocks in the regular grid of streets. This could be seen as a little disappointing, but some interesting elements added to the basic concept of driving around blocks of buildings which were all the same shape and size.

For one, the idea of the game wasn't to move around one screen and collect all the power ups. In fact, the screen scrolled to the right, and the idea for players was to collect as much cash as possible (cash pick ups were scattered about with about the same frequency as power pills from Pac-Man) and proceed to the right, avoiding all hazards, until they reached the Bank. This heralded the end of the level, and, amazingly, the start of a new one.

Naturally, there was plenty out to stop our plucky Armored Car driver. Numerous other vehicles would drive around the streets too, and if the player touched another vehicle, death was the only result. Curiously, these cars are much easier to avoid than the ghosts in Pac-Man, making playing the game an oddly easy experience in that respect. The problems come with the arrows which exist on many of the crossroads in the game. They are pointed at each end, so they might point both up and down, or both left and right. If there is an arrow at a crossroad, it then limits the directions you can travel to leave the crossroad. So if there is an up-down arrow at a junction, and you drive on from the left hand side, your only options are to move up or down. Trying to move left or right will result in you not moving at all.

This is all well and good, and a reasonably solid basis for a decent enough game, if not a particularly complex one. To add a little variety, some additional difficulties like a fuel tank are added (this is effectively a time limit, but it can be replenished at a gas station, which you find every so often on your quest ever rightward). And to keep people from learning the game well enough to play it blindfold (like everyone did with Pac-Man - this lead to the development of Pac-Man Plus) the arrows at crossroads mentioned above simply change their orientation from time to time. This is fair enough. The problem comes from when they change when you are on top of them.

This means you approach from the left, plan to go up from teh junction (since the arrow is pointing up/down). But when you get there and try to go up, you find that you are unable to. By the time you realise what has happened, one of the CPU controlled enemies has crept up on you and trapped you.

Perhaps hardcore Pac fiends will find this a reasonably easy game. As for me, I'd say it's very difficult. But then, I was always rubbish at Pac-Man.

The rest of the game is average, as you might expect. Graphics are just what you'd imagine, being that it came out over 20 years ago. Music and sound effects are similarly so-so. However, for an example of how someone decided to make a game kind of like a really popular franchise, but also added his own stuff in, with a reasonable degree of success, then look no further.

The ROM of the game is playable perfectly in MAME and probably some others (Vantage, I believe). The ROMset is incredibly small, but it's such an obscure game that finding it might be difficult. Your best bet is finding a site which has a full MAME set, as any small sites will probably not bother carrying it.


Romset information:
MAME parent ROM filename: armorcar.zip
Parent ROM full name: Armored Car (set 1)
Parent ROM zip file size: 17.78 KB

Files in Parent ROM:

  • cpu.2c - 4096 bytes
  • cpu.2e - 4096 bytes
  • cpu.2f - 4096 bytes
  • cpu.2h - 4096 bytes
  • cpu.2j - 4096 bytes
  • sound.5c - 2048 bytes
  • sound.5d - 2048 bytes
  • cpu.5f - 2048 bytes
  • cpu.5h - 2048 bytes
  • 82s123.6e - 32 bytes

MAME clone ROM filename: armorca2.zip
Clone ROM full name: Armored Car (set 2)
Clone ROM zip file size: 12.63 KB

Files in Clone ROM:


Technical Specifications:


Sources:

Playing both the parent and clone rom in MAME32 0.67
history.dat
www.mame.dk

Thanks to TehBesto and BlakJak for some corrections.

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