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Tradition of London

Minerva Armored Car with Three Crew

Minerva Armored Car with Three Crew

Regular price $330.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $330.00 USD
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This is toy soldier set 0830 "Minerva Armored Car with Three Crew"

Please allow 2-3 week delivery.

This all-metal model, complete with colourful crew, depicts one of the first generation of armoured vehicles to see action in World War One.

Even in the early 20th century, with its emphasis on standardisation, the officer classes of the Great Powers remained responsible for many articles of their personal equipment. Swords, pistols and binoculars were a matter of personal preference, as was the trusty stead to carry them forward. While still the preserve of the wealthy in 1914, the growing popularity of motoring meant a number of officers could choose to take both horse and horsepower to war.

Powerful luxury vehicles, such as the Rolls Royce and Lanchester, found their way to France with the well-heeled British officers of the BEF, while their French and Belgian counterparts soon discovered their immaculate garages to be within easy drive of the action. The rapid advance of the German armies through Belgium, and the subsequent ‘Race to the Sea’, created the ideal war of movement for wheel vehicles, far removed from the static trench struggle that followed.

Being at the sharp end of the Schlieffen Plan, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Belgians were the first to mobilise their automobiles for armoured warfare. In August 1914, with the conflict less than one month old, Lieutenant Charles Henkart placed his own vehicles at the Belgian Army’s disposal. They were taken to the works of Cockerill & Co. in Hoboken, and rapidly fitted with improvised open-topped armoured bodies, before being let loose on the advancing Germans.

Though the majority of subsequent Belgian armoured cars would use Minerva’s sturdy chassis, recent research suggests that these first prototypes were based around a German-built Opel and a Belgian-made Pipe. The metalled roads and flat terrain of the Low Countries were ideal operating conditions for armoured cars to employ speed and surprise. Raiding and skirmishing behind enemy lines, like mechanised cavalry, the daring exploits of Henkart and his aristocratic comrades soon attracted the attention of the Germany Army command.

On the 5-6th September 1914, some 450 German cavalry set an ambush for the armoured motorcade, and after a fierce two-hour battle, Henkart was killed and his command destroyed. In keeping with the elite nature of military motoring, the roll call of the dead read like a guest list for a society ball, including a count, a baron, and Prince Henri Louis Baudiuin de Ligne, who was fatally wounded.


Despite the untimely loss of Henkart, the armoured cars he pioneered would become a permanent fixture in the Belgian Army, seeing service as far afield as Russian. The official pattern was quickly standardised around the powerful 16CV chassis of a Minerva tourer. Founded in 1897 by the young Dutchman, Sylvain de Jong, the firm of Minerva began life manufacturing bicycles and motorcycles, before expanding into automobiles in 1902. The cars’ performance and build quality soon ranked them as one of the most luxurious marques available, being sold to the discerning British motorist through the dealership of a certain Charles S. Rolls.

The naming of de Jong’s company would prove prophetic, as Minerva was the Roman Goddess of both wisdom and strategic warfare. Together with the products of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, these powerful playthings of the elite were to become the first aristocrats of the armoured era.

Around 30 Minerva armoured cars were constructed before the Belgian factory was lost in the fall of Antwerp on 9th October 1914. Unlike their British counterparts, (with their fully enclosed Admiralty-pattern bodies and rotating turrets), the Minerva’s crew were left crucially exposed. A simple open-topped ‘bath tub’ configuration was adopted, both for ease of production and to provide a rigid structure. Having no doors, the crews were obliged to clamber ‘over the top’, and duck down to avoid incoming fire. The lockers on the sides and running boards made for convenient mounting blocks, but baling out under fire was a hazardous undertaking.

The cars were armoured with 4mm plates, and armed with an air-cooled 8mm Hotchkiss machine gun, fitted with a shield to provide some protection for the gunners. With no shortage of eager volunteers, the cars would have resembled small personnel carriers, with bulging crews as big as six when sharpshooters were on board. Off-road performance remained limited, despite the double wheels fitted to the rear axles to spread the load.

The cars were revised in 1916 to have armoured tops and turrets, but by then war of movement was long gone, and the baton of armoured warfare had passed to an even greater innovation: the tank.

Modelled by Andrew Stadden, the masters for this mighty Minerva were created with a combination of traditional figure sculpting and 3D printed components, generated from a custom computer model. A blend of precision and artistry, it is a striking record of the war where the internal combustion engine came of age.


Text: Paul Cattermole for Tradition of London

All hand painted Toy Soldier sets packed in the Classic Tradition Red Boxes. All Toy Soldiers cast in quality white metal, and individually hand painted in gloss enamels. 


Cast in quality white metal, hand painted gloss enamels.



Care information

These are not play toys. They are collectables. Recommended for 14 yrs old and older.

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