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Building an AVGP Grizzly - Part 1

JP Morgan

The 1:1 scale Vehicle

At the time that the Grizzly Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier (WAPC) was purchased, many thought that the Canadian Military were going crazy, having bought a Gucci-looking, Swiss MOWAG Piranha 6x6 vehicle. Since that time, many nations have gone to the MOWAG design of wheeled armoured vehicles. Built under license for the Canadian Forces by General Motors Diesel Division, three versions – Grizzly, Cougar and Husky - totaling 491 Armoured Vehicle General Purpose (AVGP) were delivered to the CF between 1979 and 1982. A total of 269 Grizzly APC’s, 195 Cougar Fire Support Vehicles, and 27 Husky Maintenance and Recovery Vehicles were built. GM has gone on to produce the LAV-25 series of vehicles for the US Marine Corps, the Australian Army, and others. Building on these successes, GM has also produced the Bison series of vehicles for Canada and Australia, the Coyote Reconnaissance Vehicle for Canada, and the LAV III Kodiak APC, soon to be in Canadian service.

Unlike most every other AFV in the world, the Grizzly has not received a new designation after every modification. Regardless of what has been done to the vehicle, they are still simply referred to as ‘Grizzly’. It also has never received an official "C" designation (Leopard C1, for example) from the Canadian Forces. Unofficially called ‘Boats’ by the troops due to its boat–shaped hull similar to that of the LAV, it is easy to see the MOWAG lineage. The AVGP is easily identified by the distinctive gap between the 1st and 2nd wheel stations, and is approximately 40cm shorter than the LAV, but of almost identical height and width. Originally the AVGP’s were amphibious, propelled by two propellers mounted at the rear and had a maximum speed 10 km/h in water. Recently the marine drives have been removed from the vehicles, being of marginal value anyway. Powered by the Detroit Diesel 6V-53T 6-cylinder engine developing 215hp coupled to the Allison MT 650 automatic transmission and having a combat weight of 10,500kg, the Grizzly has a power-to-weight ratio of 20.46hp/tonne, and a maximum speed of 100 km/h on roads. The sloped armour is 10mm thick (maximum) for protection from shrapnel. Also known as the Car, Armoured, Personnel Carrier (GRIZZLY), the Grizzly is originally fitted with the manually traversed 1-man Cadillac Gage turret armed with a .50 Cal HMG and a 7.62mm C6 GPMG. It has a crew of three - the driver sits in the front of the vehicle to the left of the engine, the crew commander is situated directly behind the driver, and the gunner in the turret is offset to the left of the vehicle, behind the crew commander’s station. It carries six fully equipped infantrymen in the rear who are provided with firing ports, vision blocks and 2 large roof hatches that open outwards. One reference stated 8 infantrymen, but I believe that this takes into account the emergency seats beside the turret (otherwise the 8 men had better be really small!). Entry to the rear is via 2 large doors, which also open towards to sides of the vehicle.

Thanks to the suspension components dissipating the blast somewhat and the angular shape of the hull deflecting it, the AVGP’s are quite successful at surviving mine strikes. Nine vehicles struck mines in Somalia, with no loss of life or serious injury to Canadian soldiers. The AVGP’s were originally fitted with directional 11x16 tires fitted with Hutchinson run flat inserts. Vehicles in service in Bosnia have been fitted with the wider Michelin 325/85 R15 XML tires since 1998; these are the same tires that are fitted to the Bisons and Coyotes. In 1994, the suspension of the AVGP series was upgraded to that of the 8X8 vehicles to improve the cross-country mobility. This suspension also provides greater stability to offset the weight of the applique armour in Bosnia or Kosovo.

The turret of the Grizzly has undergone various changes since the vehicle was first introduced. Originally designed by Cadillac Gage Textron for the V-150 Armoured Car, it is capable of being fitted with a variety of weapons. When first introduced on the Grizzly, it was fitted with a .50 Cal HMG and a 7.62mm C5 GPMG. The first Grizzly turrets were rotated through 360 manually, weapons elevation or depression (-10 to +55) was also manual, and weapons’ sighting was conducted utilizing a monocular M28C sight. During a modernization and upgrade program in 1993/94, the C5 GPMG (rebarrelled Browning .30 Cal MG) was replaced by the C6 GPMG (MAG 58 GPMG), an electric or manual traverse system was installed, the sight was upgraded to the M36E4 sight, and ammunition feeding was slightly modified. It is fitted with 8 vision blocks mounted in the upper part of the turret, a bank of 4 smoke dischargers per side, and can be fitted with a searchlight coaxially with the .50 Cal MG. The weapons are fired electrically, singly or in unison. The belted ammunition for the MG’s was fed from standard ammo boxes, and additional ammo storage was provided in the turret. Note the camouflage uniform on the soldier bending over the turret; his unit (3RCR) was trialling the new Canadian cam uniform at the time that the photos were taken.

Currently fitted to wheeled AFV's (AVGP’s & Bisons) in service in Bosnia with Canadian Forces is an uparmouring package that is similar to the Light Applique System Technique (LAST) armour designed for the USMC during the Gulf War. Developed by Foster-Miller Inc, the LAST consists of Velcro strips covering the vehicle, palm-size ceramic armour modules with Velcro on both sides from Lanxide Armor Products and Coors Ceramics, and a rubberized protective cover with a Velcro underside from Bell Avon. The package is fitted to the hulls and turret, but not the engine compartment, to provide additional crew protection where a projectile striking the vehicle could enter the crew compartment. If damage occurs to the ceramic panels, they can be pried off and replaced on an individual basis. The additional weight of the applique armour gives the vehicles a ‘tail heavy’ look. This whole package gives the vehicles a rather ragged look, and tends to soften the angular lines of the AVGP. Due to the additional width of the Michelin 325/85 R15 XML tires, the uparmouring cover and plates must be removed from vehicle wheel wells to provide a wider allowance for tire chains during winter months.

The AVGP Grizzlies that were deployed to Kosovo had a different uparmouring arrangement. Rather than small plates being held to the vehicle by Velcro, bolt on attachment points were welded on the vehicles and large full armour panels were attached. Apparently this armour also added a ton (at least) to the vehicle’s weight.


AVGP’s employed in Somalia by the Canadian Airborne Regiment Battle Group were in their original ‘as purchased’ configurations. The Grizzlies had the original turret layouts, as did the Cougars, and the Bisons were almost directly off of the GM production line. All the AVGP’s were painted white prior to deployment, because originally the mission was to be a UN peacekeeping mission, which changed (while the vehicles were enroute) to a military humanitarian intervention under UN Chapter VII rules – same as Korea and the Gulf War. Once the vehicles arrived in Somalia, the UN markings were quickly painted over, and the troops experimented with various methods of toning down the white of their vehicles – the common method was to wipe the vehicle down with diesel fuel, and to allow the sand and dust to accumulate.

Similarly, The Cougars and Grizzlies deployed to the Former Republic of Yugoslavia as part of UNPROFOR were painted completely white. Large prominent ‘UN’ markings in black are used.

Canadian AVGP vehicles in NATO service in IFOR / SFOR sport the older Canadian camouflage scheme of olive drab / green / black, same as their counterparts back in Canada. Some appear to have been repainted variations of olive drab in theatre, perhaps to overpaint the UNPROFOR white. Unit tacsigns and vehicle callsigns are painted in black, and bridge classification signs are a black outlined circle (or yellow circle), and the standard Canadian Flag stickers are on the front and rear; again, the same as back home. Markings unique to theatre include bold ‘SFOR’ markings that are roughly stenciled on all sides in white and day-glow orange air recognition panels are painted on an upper surface of all vehicles, usually the upper rear plate of the turret. Additionally, all vehicles proudly fly a small Canadian flag from an antenna or mirror.

Grizzlies in NATO KFOR service in Kosovo were similarly painted. Painted in the older Canadian camouflage scheme of olive drab / green / black, they had been touched up with olive drab in circular brushstrokes around where the armour mounting points were welded. These touchups gave the vehicles a raggedy look, but an interesting cam scheme at the same time.

In the last year, the AVGP Grizzly has received upgrades and modifications to its communications equipment as have the other vehicles of the Canadian Forces. All vehicles are being fitted with the Tactical Command & Control Communications System (TCCCS). Externally, the new Grizzly differs in having a GPS antenna on the right rear corner of the hull roof, and the TCCCS hookups on the left hull side near the crew commander’s station.

Recently the Canadian Forces announced that it will re-role some of the AVGP Grizzly fleet, as the LAV III APC replaces it as the APC of choice. These modified Grizzly variants will fulfil the specialized roles of Ambulance (81), Javelin Surface-to-Air Missile Carrier (23), Radio Re-broadcast Vehicle (10), Surface Mineplough Disruption System Vehicle (6), Mobile Repair Team Vehicle (23), and Personnel Carrier (91). No further details were given on the modifications required, what will happen to the remaining Grizzlies, or how the 91 envisioned ‘Personnel Carriers’ will differ from the present Grizzly. The turrets removed from these Grizzlies will be fitted to other vehicles, including the MTVE – the stretched M113 being built for the Engineers.

AVGP Grizzlies will soldier on for many years to come. 

The 1:35th scale Model; Part II

In Part II, I will explain step by step how I converted a 1/35th scale Italeri LAV 25 to an AVGP Grizzly in SFOR service circa 1999.  Stay tuned!

 References & Further Reading / Surfing


Printed: Jane’s AFV Recognition Handbook, 2nd Edition by Christopher Foss, 1992. Published by the Jane’s Information Group. ISBN 0710610432.

A ‘must have’ for any modern AFV enthusiast. Newer editions are published every few years. Available at most bookstores.

Jane’s Balkans Handbook Jane’s Information Group 1999. ISBN 0710620012

A good soldier’s guide to the AFV’s, weapons, mines, aircraft and uniforms that might be encountered in either Bosnia or Kosovo. This is issued to Canadian troops.

Jane’s Military Vehicles and Logistics 1999-00
Jane’s Armour and Artillery 1999-00
Department of National Defense (DND) ‘Promotional’ Cards.

These small ‘hockey’ cards are/were handed out at Armed Forces Day. They provide a great deal of information on various vehicles in CF service, including the technical specifications, manufacturers, etc.

Canadian Tracks - http://www.magma.ca/~tracks/

Don Dingwall’s site that showcases Canadian AFV’s from WWII to the present.

Department of National Defense - http://www.dnd.ca/

DND’s site provides a wealth of information about our troops.

Infantry School Official Homepage - http://www.brunnet.net/infsch/

Website of the Infantry School at the Combat Training Centre at CFB Gagetown, NB


Jane’s - http://www.janes.com

Jane’s Information Group online

AFV News - http://www.mo-money.com/AFV-news/

George Bradford’s website of the same name as his AFV Association’s publication. The discussion group is extremely informative, and is generally the hub of Canadian AFV discussion on the Net.

MOWAG GmbH - http://www.mowag.com/En/UeberUnsEn.htm

The website of Mowag Motorwagenfabrik AG in Switzerland, the original designers of the LAV series of AFV’s. Mowag has been owned by GM Diesel Division since August 1999.

* Note: At the time of writing, these website addresses were correct.
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