The A7V Sturmpanzerwagen (loosely translated as "Storm Armour Vehicle" or "Assault Armour Vehicle") was Germany's answer to the first British tanks to emerge in World war I.

German tank development began in 1911 when an Austrian Oberleutenant named Gunther Burstyn first proposed the Motorgeschutz ("Motor Vehicle Gun"). The original design was patented in 1912 but development of the A7V didn't begin until 1916 after several other failed attempts at tank construction. It was the introduction of the first British tanks to the battlefields of WWI that eventually prompted the production of the A7V and the first prototype was completed in April 1917. The specifications put foward by the German war ministry are as follows:

  • Gross weight = 30 tons
  • Capable of cross country travel
  • Able to span a 1.5m ditch
  • Able to reach 12kph road speed

The tank was based on the Austrian built Holt tractor chassis and used two inline 4 cylinder Daimler engines, each producing 100hp @ 1600rpm. The A7V had a crew of 18 which consisted of gunners, a driver and mechanics. The driver's job was quite complex as the A7V's control system was less than intuitive. The various control components are listed below:

  • Engine speed control wheel
  • Two clutch pedals
  • Speed control selector (set for 3, 6, and 12kph)
  • Two brake levers (one per track)
  • Two drive levers (for forward or reverse drive; one per track)
  • Starter handwheel
  • Steering wheel
Each tank had 6 heavy machine guns and either the Russian Sokol or Belgian Maxim Nordenfeld turret mounted gun. At one stage side mounted Flame throwers were tested but never saw actual combat. Once the A7V was introduced to the battlefield several shortcomings became apparent - The tank was unstable and had poor trench crossing abilities due to its low ground clearance. Also disapointing (from the German point of view) were lack of climbing ability and constant mechanical problems. The armour plating left much to be desired despite its extra thickness as it wasn't hardened and was generally low quality. The A7V saw its tank vs tank debut on March 21, 1918.

Basic specs - Production version:

  • Crew: 18 (Driver, commander, mechanic, signaler, 12 machine gunners 6 gunners, 6 loaders, 2 cannon gunners gunner and loader)
  • Length: 24ft.1in. (7.34m)
  • Width: 10ft.05in. (3.07m)
  • Height: 10ft.10in. (3.3m)
  • Weight: 30 to 33 tons
  • Power To Weight Ratio: 6.8hp/ton
  • Speed: 6mph (9kph)
  • Tankage: 500 liters
  • Range: 20-50 miles
  • Trench: 7ft. (2.3m)
  • Ground Clearance: 15.75in. (40cm, sometimes as low as 20cm)

Althought 100 were originally ordered only 20 were ever produced due to steel shortages and the project's low priority (and general ineffectiveness). Today only one example survives. Mephisto (all were given names) was captured in Villers Bretonneux, France by Australian troops of the 26th Battalion in 1918 after it toppled over in a shell crater. The tank was returned to Australia as a war trophy and currently resides at the Queensland museum in Brisbane. There is a full scale replica (built after the original Mephisto) at the Panzermuseum in Munster, Germany.


Thanks go to Albert Herring for help with the name translation.