Not technically a 4×4 but this little truck is definitely worth a history lesson due to being the first vehicle in the world to cross the Himalayas back in the 1920’s! Part’s of the route involved blasting roads through and even dismantling the vehicles to carrying by hand over some sections then reassembling to continue. Check out the original film footage at the bottom of the page.
The Citroën Autochenilles was the first type of off-road half track vehicle produced by French automaker Citroen to go into mainstream production in the early 1920’s.Adolf Kegresse developed semi-tracked vehicle as early as 1913 and a few years later constructed a half-track car for the Russian Tsar. Later there was a meeting between Andre Citroen and Adolf Kegresse. Citroën showed interest in the half tracked automobiles and the potential for the possibility of use with the army.
They were designed for extreme conditions, snow, mud, sand and steep slopes with the ability to tow and carry large loads or people.
To promote the revolutionary vehicle design there were several expeditionary trips organised by Citroen, one being the first cars in the world to pass through Africa over the Himalayas to China and on to Hong Kong.
A total of approximately 6,500 units were made but unfortunately accurate records were not retained.
In October 1920, Citroen created the first model of the vehicle called the Type A K1. Unlike tank metal tracks the automobile had a flexible belt with a band of rubber-like material. The belt was then fitted with blades or vanes for agricultural vehicles. The rubber band was stretched between two main wheels and among them were placed several support wheels for better surface adhesion. This drive was named Citroën-Kegresse-Hinstin system.
The car was first demonstrated in the French Alps in 1921, with good interest the vehicle had already started to be produced en mass. The car reached the top speed of 45 km/h, which was very impressive at that time for a tracked vehicle.
The early models power was only a 1,452cm3 engine developing 20bhp @ 2,100 rpm, a 3-speed gearbox connected to the twin rear caterpillar tracks.
Previously, many researchers had attempted to cross the Sahara by car. In 1919 a semi-tracked vehicle with tank like tracks was used, but the expedition ended in disaster. In response to this event, Citroën decided to move the new car to the half-track drive system. With this drivetrain he successfully managed to cross the Sahara desert back and forth.
The military versions were created between 1923 and 1928. Several models with the engines of standard cars listed as the C4 and C6.
Cars used as the platform were the P107, P17 and P19. Not forgetting the armored anti-tank version with a turret and C6 motor. Semi-tracked vehicles became the basis for the later production of the US military M3 half track, used in World War II and the German HKL called the “Hakl”. However both of those were equipped with full metal tracks.
A B2 truck was used in the Sahara expedition and the expedition of La Noire Crosier.
The C4F P19 and C6F Autochenilles participated in the Croisière Jaune from April 1931 and February 1934 – two teams, one starting in Beirut and the other in Beijing covered a total of 12,115 km and crossed the Gobi desert as well as the Himalayas.
Final production ceased when France became occupied by Germany during the war, the last model off the line was the P107 who’s production ran from 1934 to 1940 approx.
Check out the original overland footage of these vehicles …