Vehicles - Shorland SB301 Armoured Personnel Vehicle

The Shorland armoured patrol car was first manufactured in 1965 by Shorts Bros and Harland with considerable input from the RUC. It had a strengthened Land Rover chassis with differentials from a Series IIB Forward Control supporting an armoured body with a Ferret-type turret. These turrets were not actually from Ferret, but were manufactured by Shorts themselves. The Shorland, however, was a patrol vehicle and, with a crew of three, was cramped and not suitable for transporting personnel. Troop carrying vehicles to hand offered little in the way of protection or were so well protected that they were considered too aggressive and incompatible with domestic environments.

So Shorts, encouraged by the success of the Shorland with the RUC and with foreign buyers, saw the need for a small economical armoured vehicle to transport troops. Again a Land Rover seemed to be an ideal basis as it was cheap and easy to service, driver training was minimal and could look fairly unthreatening in tense situations. Experience gained with the Shorland led to a drawing board concept of the Shorland Trooper which was a Shorland with no turret but an extended rear, to carry a total of ten men. Apart from the commander and driver there was no armoured roof and the troops in the rear were vulnerable. It was too cramped to expect to carry ten troops with their associated helmets, shields and weapons etc.

A complement of driver, commander and six troops seemed a more realistic prospect in terms of payload and space within the vehicle. So a Shorland body was modified to provide an extended rear compartment with a raised thin steel roof (the turret being omitted) and double doors at the rear to aid rapid debussing. This prototype had a number of provisional features which would change when production commenced or on the requirements of a customer. There is a pic of it here: www.shorland.info/variants/apv/apv-prototype.html

As this was to be an armoured bus rather than a fighting vehicle the armoured visors on the windscreen were omitted and a standard Land Rover split windscreen provided. Room was provided, however, for a thick laminated windscreen, the side and rear windows merely being Perspex to give the effect of laminated glass. Although the side panels are clearly armoured as a Shorland, the front section actually lacks the armour 'underwear' beneath the standard Land Rover panels. There is also provision for the slatted armour to protect the radiator but again this was not fitted. The reason for the incomplete armour of the prototype is simple. The vehicle was taken to arms fairs to trigger an interest and enable further development or tailoring to the requirements of a particular customer. There was no point in fitting all the unseen armour on what was a show vehicle. It seems the likely market was the Middle East as, apart from being left hand drive, the vehicle was painted in sand colours on three occasions. Carefully sanding down through successive layers of paint revealed (excluding various primers) yellow, dark grey, battleship grey (three times) and dark blue, the latter colours possibly suggesting an attempt to appeal to police usage. The many paint jobs suggest marketing for anticipated theatres of operation at successive shows or demonstrations. The appropriate colour would endear the vehicle to the potential customer being wooed.

The prototype had a 4-cylinder 2286cc petrol engine, no heating and no ventilation at all! The owner will testify to the discomfort of a hot day although the SB301 can be driven with the back doors open. These were never fitted with a handle on the inside which all suggests that this was a vehicle put together to demonstrate a concept. By the time the production vehicle came along a number of improvements had been made. The vehicle now used the new one-ton SIII chassis with the six cylinder 2.6-litre petrol engine instead of the strengthened 3/4 ton SIIA chassis. The SIII already had the headlights in the wings to conform to new lighting regulations, the prototype headlights had to be moved from the radiator grille to the wings to allow for the slatted armour in front of the radiator. The new model now had a thicker roof and more substantial doors. The large rear windows were replaced by small pistol ports, also fitted to the vehicle sides, these seemed to provide ventilation on early models. With a crew of eight it was soon obvious that an extractor fan was needed and this was mounted in an armoured cowl on the roof. The roof now carried a spotlight and a wide range of smoke dischargers were available for roof mounting. The side doors had hatches, and the windscreen was fitted with visors and vision blocks identical to Shorlands, although it is interesting to note that those supplied to the RUC dispensed with all of these and reverted to armoured glass in an arrangement similar to the prototype.

Clive's prototype ended its working life as a general runabout ferrying materials and personnel around the Shorts factory complex, it then passed to a nearby scrap yard. In the early nineties Clive became the fourth private owner and by now, age and abuse had taken their toll. All the road springs were broken, the footwells, door frames, base of bulkhead and rear cross member were rotted through. Replacement outriggers had been welded incorrectly and all inside lining and upholstery was ruined or missing. It had also been converted to RHD, subsequently returned to the original LHD by Clive to preserve such a unique vehicle. The inside lining had to be replaced with new foam and Dunlop 'Trakmark' vinyl. This required over 20 litres of adhesive! The interior has been painted with the original colour, matched up from a mix of Light Stone tinted with red oxide primer. The external body colour is a close copy of the original, made up from 50% white, 25% Olive Drab and 25 % Royal Blue. The colour was based on that found under the petrol filler flap, untouched with all the resprays.

The production SB301 went on to be sold to the RUC, Army, RAF Police, US Navy, Lebanon, Syria, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Mauritius, Indonesia, and Brunei.

The vehicle featured here is a unique one-off prototype used for sales exhibitions that still carries its original Belfast registration. It is the mother of all the Land Rover-based armoured personnel vehicles that we have seen so much of in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. It is currently up for sale and is advertised on our Sales And Wants page. It would be great if someone could give this vehicle a good home.