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The Shorland Site - By Clive Elliott

The History of Shorland

Armoured Cars

Shorland History Armoured Patrol Car Armoured Personnel Vehicle
Modelling the Shorland   Other References

The History of the Shorland Armoured Patrol Cars


The stimulus for the development the Shorland armoured car came in the early 1960's from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) for the internal security duties and border patrols. The Shorland was based on a strengthened Land Rover chassis, and it's name is often stated to be derived from an amalgam of the two company names. I am more inclined to believe it was based on a contraction of the original name of the manufacturer at the time, which was Shorts Brothers and Harland.


The first experimental armoured body was fitted to a long wheel base Series II Land Rover, bearing Belfast registration number 4471 AZ, signifying 1960-61. The sides of the vehicle had flat armour and later acquired a turret based on the turret of a Ferret scout car. Consultation between the RUC and Rover brought further improvements including sloped armour on the upper part of the body. The same vehicle in this second stage of development provided sloped armour around the lower part of the body, a flatter boot section which now housed the spare wheel, and an armoured partition separating the spare wheel and fuel tank from the crew compartment. This third mark of the RUC prototype became the Mark I production vehicle. This may account for the different interpretations of armour thickness. It is often stated that the difference between the production Mk I and Mark 2 is an increase in armour thickness from 7.25 mm to 8.25 mm. (In fact, some references say this change was between the Mk 2 & 3). I own a Mk 1 and it is confusing that the armour is a mixture of both types. The most significant change was the the compression ratio on the 4-cylinder petrol engine was modified to increase the power from 67 hhp to 77 bhp at 4100 rpm.


Paint scheme


My Mark 1 Shorland (3547 PZ) was one of a batch of the first ten production vehicles. It was made in November 1965 and delivered to the Ministry of Home Affairs in May 1966. Battleship grey seems to be the standard colour for many RUC vehicles, but the Shorlands were not painted grey. Although my Shorland was built on a grey Land Rover, the basic colour of the completed vehicle was a satin finish emerald green.. Shortly after the Army moved into Ulster, the RUC were disarmed of weapons and armoured vehicles. My vehicle was withdrawn from police duties in January 1970 and placed into storage. After the formation of the Ulster Defence Regiment on the 1st April 1970 it was liberally painted (including the leaf springs) with high gloss deep bronze green and matt black disruptive stripes.  I got a little tired of being told at shows that my own vehicle was painted incorrectly as 'they never would have used matt black on gloss green'.


The original Belfast 3547 PZ registration was now inappropriate and all the requisitioned Shorlands were issued with military xxBTxx registrations, signifying that a normal wheeled vehicle contract had not been raised.  These requisitioned vehicles were removed from service in 1977 but did serve alongside the new Mark 3 Shorlands for a time. The new Shorlands were originally painted olive drab and allocated xxFLxx and xxGFxx registrations. They were fitted with a pair of turret mounted triple smoke dischargers, these had always been available as an optional extra, but were not fitted to RUC Shorlands.

Some prototypes had the headlights in the grill just as it would be on the Series 2 Land Rover they were based on. On later vehicles the whole of the radiator grill was armoured and civilian type headlamps were mounted on the wings. Production vehicles used the familiar 'FV' type headlight. It is commonly believed that Mark 3 Shorlands were built on Series 3 Land Rovers
. This is due to the fact that most Mark 3 Shorlands that collectors see are ex-UDR vehicles made from 1972 onwards. In fact the Mark 3 had been for sale from 1969 when the 2.6 litre 6-cylinder engine became available. Initially both the Mark 2 & 3 were sold side by side, the only difference being the engine size. Some books state there was an increase in armour, although the quoted weight of the vehicles remained the same. Customers could choose to either standardise with the 4-cylinder engine or have the 6-cylinder engine where difficult terrain would demand extra power. Engine power increased further with the Mark 4 Shorland being provided with a V8 engine.


It is often impossible to determine the mark of a Shorland or of the underlying Land Rover chassis by the external appearance alone. Headlights that have been moved to the wings could indicate a Mark 1, 2 or early 3. However, headlights in a manufactured recess in the wing would mean a Mark 3 Shorland but it could be on a Series 3 or late 2A Land Rover chassis. The Mark 4 with it's still larger engine had a radiator grill level with the front of the headlights, Mark 5 Shorlands, which now get called Series 5 are quite obvious as they are based on a series 110 Land Rover which have a more modern style to the wing armour.


Shorts Personnel Carriers


There is a belief that Shorts personnel carriers are not called Shorlands (i.e. it is only a Shorland if it has a turret). Yet Shorts themselves in sales literature have always referred to their personnel carriers as Shorlands. Further confusion comes from the original Shorland being described as an Armoured Patrol Car (APC), yet to most people, APC means Armoured Personnel Carrier. Shorts refer to their personnel carries as Armoured Personnel Vehicles (APV).


The Shorland APV, more usually just called the Shorts SB3OI, was introduced in 1974. Books state that the first prototype was ready in 1973. Well I own the first prototype and the chassis dates it to 1968. The vehicle is still registered with its original Belfast registration, and a member of Shorts staff recalls the development of my vehicle at the time. It seems that this demonstration vehicle was intended to entice an interest in production for which at the time, surprisingly, there was no demand. It ended its working days at Shorts as a general-purpose runabout carrying materials and personnel around the factory complex.


The Shorland Trooper was an APV which never went into production, and only one book acknowledges the vehicle, albeit in one line. I have managed to obtain a copy of a sales brochure for this curious vehicle. It resembles an early Shorland APC, but with no turret and sides that extend back along the full length of the vehicle. The front seats as usual accommodate a driver and commander, but in the rear, bench seats were provided for either 8 personnel with no rear door or 7 personnel but with a 5mm thick armour steel door. The driver and commander had a narrow 5mm thick steel roof, but the remainder of the roof was merely a canvas or metal canopy to provide protection from the weather or projectiles. Two photographs are provided, the front view shows what looks like a pre-production Shorland. The clues being civilian type headlights mounted on Series II/early IIA Land Rover wings, a flimsy diamond mesh grill in front of the radiator armour, which in production was a more substantial square mesh. But between the windscreen visors and roof there are holes for periscopes. On early prototype Shorlands the visors merely had horizontal slits, similar to the system used on RUC Humber 'Pigs'. Later prototypes used a periscope system similar to early Army Humber 'Pigs'. So it was a bit incongruous to see both vision systems on one vehicle. (Visors on production Shorlands used direct vision through nine layers of laminated glass!).


Interestingly vehicle dimensions are given but not it's weight, perhaps it never left the drawing board? Another view of this Trooper bears a similarity to an early photograph of a Shorland, but without the extended sides and without turret, and is described as a Mark 2 Shorland APC. It is clearly a prototype and not a Mark 2, let alone a Shorland Trooper. Shorts have presumably touched up the photograph to give a concept of what a Trooper would look like. In fairness to Shorts the brochure is described as an interim publication, presumably to judge potential demand before actually producing a prototype. As to the era of the Trooper concept it must be 1968 onwards as it's intended 6 cylinder engine was not available before then. It was unlikely to have been after 1973 as the Shorts SB301 prototype was then ready. Furthermore the Trooper brochure was from the old Glen Works at Newtownards and production of Shorlands were soon to switch to Belfast. Unfortunately, as result of this move valuable information on early Shorts has been lost.


One of the problems with a Shorlands APC is the turret, this is the interpretation that in a civil disorder situation it is seen by the media to be a 'tank'. To downgrade the threatening image of the Shorland a few had their turrets removed and the complete roof replaced by steel plate. Some Humber 'Pigs' were the recipients of the turrets and this must have made them extremely heavy as they already had over a ton of extra armour.



Radio communication had been a problem in Shorlands serving in Ulster. At one stage an A41 radio was operated with it's whip aerial extended through the open turret, this was not an efficient way of radiating a signal, cumbersome for the gunner to operate and the bumpy ride in a Shorland could easily detune the frequency settings. Another problem seemed to be communication between the commander and the driver. An intercom was fitted and integrated with the control of the vehicles radio sets. The early radio set up was a Pye 'Westminster', intended for communication to base. Being fitted behind the drivers seat, the microphone lead was really too short and frequently broke. A Pye 'Bantam,' which was a low power walkie-talkie, was wedged into the dash to provide vehicle to vehicle communication. A VHF whip aerial was mounted on the rear of the vehicle on the off side.



Mark 1 100

Mark 2 50

Mark 3 500 plus

Mark 4 250 plus


(These are approximate figures)


The current Series 5, as it is now called, brings total production figures to well over 1,000 vehicles. (These figures were obtained from Shorts in 1990).


British Defence Catalogues, Jane's and FVRDE.MVEE publications of the time although informative should be read with caution. For instance, the FVRDE catalogue for 1966 gives data on the Mark I Shorland, yet the equivalent 1971 catalogue gives the same data instead of that relating to the then current Mark 3. So it is no wonder that books and those of us that draw on these sources can be misled!


Shorts Anti-Tank


One of the great areas of misinformation in books concerns the fitting of the Vigilant missiles to Shorlands. Vigilant was a wire guided anti-tank missile which was intended to be used by a single soldier.  Having a hollow charge warhead, the lightness of Vigilant lent itself particularly well to infantry use and mounting on even light vehicles.  British military thinking had been obsessed with HESH (high explosive squash head) warheads resulting in heavy missiles like Orange William and Malkara. A significant problem was that Vigilant being a private venture had the inevitable 'NIH' (not invented here) label, and initially was rejected by the MOD. However in 1960 Vigilant was experimentally fitted to the turret of a Mark 2 Ferret, this was by means of supporting struts merely welded to the sides of the turret. However a properly engineered turret and ancillaries appeared in 1962 and the Ferret was designated FV703 and it became the Mark 2/6.


Shorts were finding that the Shorland was selling well, especially to developing nations. The relative cheapness, ease of crew training and ease of maintenance found favour for a wide range of roles. As Vigilant and Ferret Mark 2/6 had been bought by a number of Arab countries, Shorts quite reasonably felt that a Shorland fitted with Vigilant missiles could provide a useful anti-tank defence for smaller nations at low cost. The final prototype was a left-hand drive vehicle with sand tyres and painted sand in colour. This clearly indicated the part of the world where Shorts felt a potential market lay.


Books sometimes give the impression that a couple of Vigilant missiles could be fitted on either side of a Shorlands turret as an optional extra in an impromptu fashion. This is misleading as Shorts put considerable effort into developing a special turret. The normal turret, similar to that of a Ferret, is hexagonal; fitting missiles each side would cause them to overhang the width of the vehicle. A special cutdown turret was made with flattened sides making it nearly square to accommodate the missiles. It might seem all that needed to be done was to utilise the mechanical arrangements of the Ferret Mk 2/6 turret, and it looks as if this was done initially. The first photos of this project from 1966 show this arrangement, but with curious armour panels protecting the sides of the missile containers. However, by 1968 the arrangement had changed and study of the parts book for the Vigilant Shorland shows considerable ingenuity in developing an elevation and control system which needs no elaborate engineering and can be fabricated at a fraction of the cost required for a Ferret. The only components common to the Ferret were the missile straps and fasteners. The strange armour panels on the outsides of the missile containers are now fitted between the turret and the missile container, where steel mesh is fitted on the Ferret. Other features were the fitting of smoke dischargers to the wings, and a specially extended boot to accommodate three spare missiles ventilated by a fan in an armoured cowl. The spare wheel had to be stowed externally on top of the boot. The roof of the now narrower turret had a double flap on the hatch to house a Perspex window to enable the missile to be tracked in flight. No orders were received and this ingenious variant never went into production.



Copyright 2011 - Clive Elliott