Restoration project of a Priest M7B1 which was built in 1944 (hull number 4381, in total 826 M7B1 are produced till February 1945) and giving the Army regisration USA 40152844-S. This is a complete ground up restoration.
The M7B1 is a so-called HMC (‘Howitzer Motor Carriage’) and was produced only in 1944 by the Pressed Steal Car Company. The Priest was constructed on the same platform as the Sherman M4A3 tank. The M7B1 was equipped with the reliable and powerful Ford GAA V8 tank engine with a Displacement of 1,100 cu in (18 L) and a power output of 525 HP and 1,100 lbs. (1.400 Nm).
The M7B1 was the successor of the famous M7. This HMC was successfully used by the US and British Artillery. Before the M7 was available the American forces used half Tracks as self-propelled basis for the 75mm and 105mm Howitzers (GMC: Gun Motor Carriage) but this was not very successful.
Therefore, the US Army decided that they require a Howitzer on a full tracked vehicle in 1941. Starting with 2 prototypes (the T32) the Priest went in production in April 1942. The name Priest is given by the British. Reason; the .50 machinegun pulpit looks unmistakably on a pulpit in a church.
The M7B1 “Priest”
M7B1 Priest came later in production then the M7 and was based on the M4A3 Sherman. It was produced from March 1944 until February 1945 by the Pressed Steal Car Company. Total No. built was 826. Major improvement was the implementation of the GAA V8 engine which was without any doubt the best tank engine built in the US during WW-II.
The Priest in action
The M7 and M7B1 Priest were used by the American and British armor divisions as Self Propelled Artillery. The advantage was flexibility, maneuverability and they could give the tanks of the armored divisions artillery support on every desired moment.
The Priest was in action in North-Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and the entire Western front up to Berlin and proved to be very reliable and successful.
The Priest M7B1 saw first action in the battle of the Bulge. There the M7B1 proved to be very effective. Same for the campaign up to Berlin.
For this reason, it was also frequently used in the post war period.
In the ‘50s, when the M7B1 was widely used in the Korean war, the elevation of the gun was inadequate to be used in the mountain area. To improve this many Priest have been modified in this period by raising the howitzer and add an extra segment in the pulpit. This modification was standardized as the M7B2.
Restoration work pictures: