The Holt Gas-Electric Tank, sounds like some kind of high end electric water heater. It was actually the first prototype tank built by the United States. The vehicle, was a collaboration between the Holt Manufacturing Company, pre-cursor to Caterpillar, and the General Electric Company.
Holt Manufacturing Company was the first company to successfully manufacture a continuous track tractor. Originally a manufacturer for agricultural machinery, it turned it’s production to military needs during World War One. For all intense and purposes, Holt’s tractors replaced horses as the main use of hauling supplies for the allies, during the war.
The British quickly recognized the Holt tractor, with the potential for a power-driven, bullet-proof, tracked vehicle, that could destroy enemy machine guns. Unfortunately, they chose an English firm over the Holt to produce their first tanks.
Holt however, produced a prototype, constructed between 1917-1918. It was the only unit built and testing revealed that it failed to meet agility and maneuverability requirements. It’s weight of 25 tons was excessive and it failed climbing tests. It was to have a crew of six men-two machine gunners, gunner and loader for main gun, driver and a commander.
The tank was based on a modified version of Holt’s Model 75 tractor. It had pivoting track frames with ten road wheels on each side. The vehicle was approx. 8 feet tall, 16 feet long, and 9 feet wide. It was powered by a Holt 90 hp, 4-cylinder engine, fitted with a GE generator, that drove an electric motor for each track. The vehicle used a rear mounted engine and transmission., which was water-cooled. A small corridor led from the front of the tank to a door at the rear.
Holt’s main weapon for is tank was a 75mm gun, that was placed low in the V-shaped nose. It also had two removable Browning 7.92mm machine guns, that were installed in sponsons-(projections at each side of the vehicle for mounting guns).
Although Holt produced many military tractors for hauling supplies, it’s prototype tank never saw production. His efforts, did not go unnoticed however. The brits, Germans and French are reported to all have used some of his design features in their initial tank designs.