Categories
WW2 Italian APC WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM per la Regia Marina

Kingdom of Italy (1941)
Armored Truck – 1 Prototype Built

Special thanks to Daniele Notaro, who helped with information on the Nuclei Anti Paracadutisti.

The Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM was a project for a semi-Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) requested and autonomously produced by the Taranto Command of the Italian Regia Marina (English: Royal Navy).

It was proposed by the Taranto Royal Army command to help the Nuclei Anti Paracadutisti (English: Anti-Paratrooper Squads) units of the Italian Regio Esercito (English: Royal Army) to patrol the harbor and airport perimeters, defending the military infrastructure against Allied paratrooper sabotage and attack.

Unfortunately, the project was not finished due to bureaucratic problems and remained only at the prototype stage.

The Difesa Anti Paracadutisti

Given the extensive use of airborne forces during the Second World War, in 1941, the Italian Regio Esercito (English: Royal Army) created elite units to engage any Allied paratroopers.

In fact, by 1941, British parachute units had launched only a few missions (e.g. Operation Colossus of February 1941), but the German Fallschirmjäger (English: Paratroopers) had proved to be excellent assault units, despite the many losses suffered in the attack on Crete.

With Document Number 41224, ‘Potenziamento difesa Costiera e Piazze M.M., Protezione vie di Comunicazione ed Impianti, Difesa Antiparacadutisti’ (English: Enhancement of coastal defense and headquarters, protection of communication routes and installations, anti-airborne defense) of the Ufficio Ordinamento e Mobilitazione dello Stato Maggiore (English: Ordnance and Mobilization Office of the General Staff), the Italian Royal Army constituted 330 Nuclei Anti Paracadutisti with a total of 330 officers and 8,000 NCOs and soldiers.

The officers (second lieutenants or lieutenants) were all enlisted from veterans of other units, while some NCOs were young men from territorial defense departments and from enlisted troops already assigned to the Infantry or Bersaglieri (assault infantry). Each Nucleo Anti Paracadutisti was assigned to coastal defense divisions.

One of the few photos known of members of Nuclei Anti Paracadutisti at Portofino in Liguria region. It is impossible to identify the exact nucleo to which they were assigned because in that area, under the 201ª Divisione Costiera, were assigned five different NAPs: the 49° Nucleo Anti Paracadutisti, 50° Nucleo Anti Paracadutisti, 52° Nucleo Anti Paracadutisti, 53° Nucleo Anti Paracadutisti and 54° Nucleo Anti Paracadutisti. Source: facebook.com @Curzio Cobetti

The Anti-airborne units were theoretically composed of 30 soldiers commanded by an officer, but the units were usually composed of fewer soldiers. In theory, they were to be highly mobile emergency response units that, having identified a threat in a short time, could quickly intervene to eliminate it.

With regards to the military equipment and the assigned personal weapons, most were delivered without problems, such as the expected 330 liaison motorcycles. There were delivery problems with the 660 Breda Modello 1930 light machine guns, of which not all were ever delivered, nor the 330 light trucks and 660 bicycles. For these reasons, the majority of the Nuclei Anti paracadutisti were equipped with trucks or guns donated by the divisions to which they were assigned.

In the Taranto area, the 241° and 243° Nuclei Anti paracadutisti (English: 241st and 243rd Anti-airborne Units) were deployed, assigned to the X Brigata Costiera (English: 10th Coastal Brigade), renamed in March 1943 to the 210ª Divisione Costiera (English: 210th Coastal Division) with some staff reorganization. This division had the task of defending the coastal perimeter between Taranto and Brindisi in the Salento area.

History of the project

Some of the Nuclei Anti Paracadutisti were deployed in the defense of harbors and Military maritime infrastructure, but the absence of trucks and vehicles forced the Regia Marina to donate some of its trucks and weapons to these units.

Some of the Nuclei Anti Paracadutisti units were assigned to the defense of the Taranto area. This city, situated in Puglia, one of the southern regions of Italy, was one of the most important harbors of Italy. The Comando in Capo (English: Headquarter) of the Regia Marina in Taranto assigned some of its FIAT 666NM to the anti-airborne units.

For their counter-attacks and anti-sabotage tasks, these units required better protected vehicles than simple heavy duty trucks. Thus, in June 1941, the Comando in Capo of Taranto delivered to the Ufficio dello Stato Maggiore della Regia Marina (English: Office of the General Staff of the Royal Navy) a project for armoring some of these trucks with 5 mm armored plates. This was made for two reasons: first, if a Nuclei Anti Paracadutisti was ambushed during a patrol, the armored vehicle ensured more safety for the soldiers carried on board. Secondly, an armored vehicle could support the unit’s counterattacks, which a truck could not do.

An Autocarro Unificato OM Taurus Blindato with armored plates on the cab’s windows and cargo bay used in the Balkans by Italian troops before the Armistice. This is a clear example of what the Taranto Headquarters probably had in mind when they emitted the request. Source: Gli Autoveicoli tattici e logistici del Regio Esercito Italiano fino al 1943

The Stato Maggiore della Marina or MARISTAT (English: Royal Navy General Staff) examined the project and, on 8th July 1941, authorized the production of a prototype, changing some of the specifications. In particular, they asked to reduce the armor, leaving the cab unarmored, removing the armored roof and adding slots for the use of personal weapons from inside.

Another photo from the Balkans Theater of Operations. The first two vehicles were Renault ADRs with armored cargo bays, partially covered cab ang FIAT-Revelli Modello 1914/35 machine guns. Behind them is an unarmed Isotta Fraschini D80 heavy duty truck with armor plates protecting only the cargo bay. Source: Armored and Reconnaissance 1911-1945

After the modification of the project, the new vehicle project was ready in August 1941. The production of the prototype was assigned to the Arsenale Navale di Taranto or MARINARSEN (English: Taranto’s Naval Arsenal), which commenced to modify a FIAT 666NM.

On 8th September of the same year, MARISTAT wrote another letter, recommending to the Taranto headquarters to use special armor plates called ‘L.P.A.’ (unfortunately, nothing is known about this acronym). This probably referred to annealed, cold drawn steel. These were specially hardened armor plates produced by Terni Società per l’Industria e l’Elettricità (English: Terni Company for Industry and Electricity) foundry and could withstand 8 mm armor-piercing bullets. This request was accepted and officialized on 15th September 1941.

Design

FIAT 666NM

The FIAT 666NM (NM stands for Nafta Militare – Diesel Military) was produced by Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino or FIAT (English: Italian Automobiles Factory, Turin) from 1938.

A FIAT brochure of the FIAT 666N. It said that the FIAT 666N was powerful, cheap and fast and would surpass the success of the FIAT 634N, its predecessor. Source: facebook.com

The FIAT 666N was a heavy duty truck. Its prototype was ready at the end of 1938 and was presented to Benito Mussolini on 15th May 1939, on the occasion of the inauguration of the FIAT Mirafiori plant in Turin. The military version, the FIAT 666NM, was presented to the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione for evaluation on 19th September 1940.

FIAT 666N civilian version prototype at the FIAT Mirafiori plant. Source: FIAT Archives

It differed from the civilian version through the addition of acetylene headlights, a bulb horn, and manually operated turn signals on the sides of the windscreen. The first military order for 1,000 FIAT 666NM trucks was issued on 10th January 1941. Another 1,500 were ordered on 23rd July 1941, 1,000 on 5th March 1942, and 700 on 16th June 1943. In total, about 8,000 FIAT 666s left the assembly lines of the Mirafiori plant, including the post-war direct-injection 666N7 and FIAT 665NM versions.

The Regia Aeronautica (English: Royal Air Force) ordered 796 trucks on 23rd October 1941. This truck was used on the Eastern Front, in North Africa, in Italy, and in the Balkans.

A FIAT 666NM in Italy, probably shortly after delivery to the unit. The license plate is ‘Regio Esercito 99971’. Source: facebook.com

The FIAT 666 was produced in a wide range of variants, such as standard truck and fuel carrier for civilian service, while for military service, recovery trucks, fuel and water carriers, mobile workshops, petrol engine variants, and many others were produced.

Engine and Suspension

Propulsion was provided by a FIAT Type 366 6-cylinder in-line diesel engine. It had overhead valves, with a displacement of 9,365 cm³ and FIAT-produced injectors. The maximum output was 110 hp at 2,000 rpm on the civil FIAT 666N, the FIAT 666NM for the Regia Aeronautica, and on the FIAT 665 NM. The maximum output power on the Regio Esercito’s FIAT 666NM was limited to delivering 95 hp at 1,700 rpm.

FIAT Tipo 366 with oil bath filters (right). Source: Archivio FIAT

The maximum speed on-road was 57 km/h for the FIAT 665NM, 48.3 km/h for the power-limited FIAT 666NM, and 56.8 km/h for the FIAT 666N and FIAT 666NM. The fuel was kept in a 255 liter tank (135 liters for the FIAT 666N) located on the right side of the chassis, which offered a 750 km on-road range (465 km for the FIAT 666N).

As on the FIAT 626 medium truck, the engine could be extracted through the cab’s front after the removal of the grille thanks to rollers mounted on the two supports of the engine, rolling on guides fixed to the frame.

The single dry plate clutch was connected to the gearbox via a cardan shaft. This could be removed independently of the gearbox and engine simply by removing the rear casing. This meant that maintenance and disassembly were easier.

The transmission, thanks to the reductor, had eight gears and two reverse gears. The drum brakes were hydraulic and had a pedal-operated air brake booster. A 12-volt electrical circuit was used to power the headlights and dashboard, and a 24-volt circuit for starting the engine. The two 12V Magneti Marelli batteries were housed in a box on the left side of the chassis, behind the air tank.

Structure

The cargo bay measured 4.75 meters long by 2.20 meters wide, with a height of 600 mm on the civilian version and 650 mm on the military version. It was designed to carry up to 6 tonnes of cargo, but could carry, without much difficulty, a Carro Armato L6/40 light tank (weighing 6.84 tonnes).

Two unarmed L6/40 light reconnaissance tanks loaded on a FIAT 666NM and its 15 tonnes payload trailer. Source: Cavalleria Italiana

The cab had the steering wheel and the driver on the right, while the vehicle’s commander was placed on the left. The cab’s doors opened backwards. Due to the slow production rates, some early FIAT 666NMs were equipped with civilian FIAT 666N cabs.

FIAT 666NM-RE with civilian cab. Source: Archivio FIAT

In spite of its respectable dimensions and its large load capacity, the FIAT 666 heavy duty truck had, with a chassis weight of 1 tonne and about 5 tonnes of additional structure weight, a total weight of 6 tonnes in case of the FIAT 666NM variant. Additionally, it could pull a 12 tonne trailer. Fully loaded, it was able to climb 26º slopes. Thanks to its short wheelbase and cab layout, it was comfortable traveling on mountain roads.

The FIAT 666NM had a wheel rim size of 20 x 8” (50.8 x 20.32 cm) and could use different types of tires all developed and produced by the Pirelli company in Milan.

Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM

Probably in late August or early September 1941, the Arsenale Navale di Taranto started modifying a FIAT 666NM with license plate ‘Regia Marina 0220’.

The modification was really simple. The workers of the arsenal took 5 mm thick armored plates of R.E. armor (unfortunately, nothing is known about this acronym) and welded them to a superstructure fixed on the truck’s cargo bay and side walls. The Arsenale Navale di Taranto had not used the ‘L.P.A.’ armor, as the Stato Maggiore della Marina had requested due the delays from the Terni foundry in delivering such types of armored plates. In order to not delay the production of the vehicle, it was preferred to finish the prototype with different armored plates.

On each side, there was an armored plate with a length of 4,080 mm, a height of 1,050 mm and 5 mm thick. These armored plates had four slits each, with a length of 300 mm and a height of 60 mm. The armored plate welded to protect the cargo bay’s front was 2,080 mm in length, 1,050 mm in height and 5 mm thick. On the rear, there were two openable armored plates, measuring 1,040 mm in length, 1,050 mm in height and 5 mm thick.

Detail of the armor applied on the truck. Source: Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano

Unfortunately, due to the simplicity of the project, the cargo bay’s wooden sides were not protected by armored plates, leaving the 65 cm high plank walls without cover.

The vehicle could transport a total of 22 soldiers, including a driver and commander in the cab, seated on the right and the left side respectively. In the cargo bay, a total of 20 fully-equipped soldiers could sit on the original side wooden benches of the truck. Another two soldiers followed the truck on their bicycles and another one on the liaison motorbike.

In the original plan of the Headquarters of Taranto, the vehicle would have had a protected cargo bay (except for the roof) with armored plates with a height of 1,700 mm and also had a fully armored cab.

The absence of an armored cab would have made it impossible for the vehicle to support assaults by the anti-parachute units and would have made the driver and commander too vulnerable in the event of an ambush.

During the tests at the Taranto Naval Arsenal, it was found that the chassis and mechanical parts were not too stressed and the armored structure withstood the jolts of the truck during march without any problem. The problems that were immediately noted were the height of the armored structure, which raised the vehicle’s center of gravity, the absence of armor on the underside of the troop compartment (the Arsenal suggested putting sandbags under the benches to protect the underside) and, finally, the Arsenal informed the High Command that, due to the different plates of armor used, the vehicle could be penetrated by rifle or machine gun bullets from less than 100 meters away.

An Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM with the armored structure. Source: Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano

The report of the Arsenale Navale di Taranto about the production and testing of the prototype, delivered to the Stato Maggiore della Marina, also mentions production times and costs for the other 5 trucks ordered. Even though the order did not specify it, these were quite surely all based on the FIAT 666NM-RM version. The prototype’s production cost was 2,500 Italian liras (equivalent to the monthly wage of a lieutenant in the Regio Esercito). This included the cost of the steel plates, necessary workmanship and per-day wages of the workers who worked on the modification.

The arsenal also specified that, if the Royal Navy wanted to use ‘L.P.A.’ armor plates as suggested, the cost would go up to 18,300 liras for the materials for each truck. This was a total 54,900 liras for all the vehicles just for the plates. Taranto’s arsenal also claimed a total production time of 150 days (from the date on which the order was issued) for the delivery of all the vehicles.

Analysis of the Project

On 13th November 1941, Comando in Capo dello Jonio e Basso Adriatico (English: Headquarter of the Ionian and Lower Adriatic Seas) delivered a document to the Stato Maggiore della Marina about its own Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM tests.

The tests not only focussed on driving performance, but operational tests were also held, with mixed results.

In regards to the addition of sandbags which the Taranto arsenal had suggested, the Comando in Capo dello Jonio e Basso Adriatico explained that this was impossible because, in the space under the benches, the ammunition and hand grenade wooden crates of the soldiers transported on board were stored. This was a dangerous situation as it was, as they were exposed to enemy fire, with the risk of igniting a fire or an explosion in the transport compartment.

The slits were also a problem. They were useful to check the battlefield sides but were totally useless for the self-defense of the vehicle. The soldiers could not fire their personal weapons through them due to the limited space and their dimensions of 30 cm x 6 cm. Another problem was that the slits could not be closed by an armored hatch, so shrapnel or enemy bullets could pass through.

The absence of a slit on the front side of the cargo bay made communication impossible between the commander in the cab and the soldiers in the troop compartment.

The armored truck did not offer protection to the commander and driver in the cab, to the fuel tanks, or to the wheels.

The Comando in Capo dello Jonio e Basso Adriatico then suggested some changes. The same armored superstructure could be kept, but lowered in order to cover the cargo bay’s wooden walls.This solution would have led to better protection of the ammunition crates placed under the benches. It would also permit the crew to open fire with personal weapons and throw hand grenades over the top. However, this solution would have led to disadvantages as well. In this case, the plates would have protected only about one meter of the vehicle from the cargo bed, leaving the upper bodies of the soldiers poorly protected and would have made them vulnerable to ambushes from above. The primary purpose of the vehicle was to protect the Italian soldiers from ambushes, so this solution would have made the vehicle less useful.

Other suggestions were to try to protect the cab and the fuel tanks with the same armored plate thickness as used on the cargo bay, to add a communication door on the front side of the armored structure to allow the commander to communicate with the soldiers transported on board, and for the five production vehicles to use ‘L.P.A.’ armor plates produced by the Terni foundry to give more protection to the vehicle.

Destiny

Nothing is known after the Comando in Capo dello Jonio e Basso Adriatico analysis. It is impossible to know if the Stato Maggiore della Marina accepted the modifications suggested by the Comando in Capo dello Jonio e Basso Adriatico or if the 5 armored trucks were even produced and delivered by the Arsenale Navale di Taranto. The issue was probably abandoned completely, due to high production costs and other priorities.

Even the destiny of the Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM per la Regia Marina’s prototype remains unknown. It was probably used, despite its deficiencies, by the Difesa Antiparacadutisti units in anti-paratroopers and anti-sabotage patrols until the Armistice of 8th September 1943.

The day after the Armistice, a British fleet transporting British paratroopers of the 1st British Airborne Division arrived off the coast of Taranto. Aided by Italian sailors in crossing the minefields around the port, the troops landed without encountering any resistance.

The Autoprotetto, if it was still in running condition, was not used and most likely soon dismantled or abandoned in some depot because it was no longer useful.

This project underlines the total absence of cooperation between Italian Army branches. In fact, after the experiences gained in the first months of war, the Italian Regio Esercito ground forces started half a dozen of projects of armored personnel carriers on various chassis, such as the small tracked Camionette Cingolate CVP-4 and CVP-5, the small wheeled T.L.37 Autoprotetto and other projects that remained only on paper.

FIAT 665NM Protetto at the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione in Rome. It had a totally armored structure, including the fuel tank, as visible in the photo. Each soldier transported in the vehicle could use his personal weapons through the slots on the side. Source: tumblr.com

The ground forces were also developing similar vehicles for infantry support and patrol tasks, which shared many features with the Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM of the Italian Royal Navy. These were the SPA Dovunque 35 Blindato and the Carro Protetto Trasporto Truppa su Autotelaio FIAT 626, which were under development already in May 1941, and the FIAT 665NM Protetto that was accepted in service in November 1942, a year after the Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM, but with which it shared about 70% of the chassis.

The SPA Dovunque 35 Protetto Armored Personnel Carrier. As clearly visible, it had a totally armored structure and four slots for each side for personal weapons. Its armor was 8 mm thick. Source: Officine Viberti Archives

In order to have sped up production and decreased costs, it would have been enough for the Ufficio dello Stato Maggiore della Regia Marina to have asked the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione or CSM (English: Center for Motorisation Studies), the Italian department which was examining new vehicles for the Regio Esercito, about its undergoing developments, instead of introducing yet another parallel development.

Conclusion

The Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM was one of the dozens of unfinished projects started during the Second World War by the Kingdom of Italy. Unfortunately, it was not a brilliant project, its specifications were lackluster and the project would need more time and money to provide an adequate armored personnel carrier.

It represents how Italian units, lacking adequate vehicles and armament, were forced to find improvised solutions to better adapt to the situations in which they had to operate.

Autoprotetto FIAT 666NM per Regia Marina. Illustrations by Godzilla

Specification

Size (L-W-H): ~ 7.095 x ~ 2.350 x ~ 3.850 m
Weight, battle ready: 8 – 9 tonnes
Crew: 2 + 20 (driver, vehicle commander + 20 soldiers)
Engine: FIAT Tipo 366 6-cylinder Diesel 9,365 cm³, with 110 hp at 2000 rpm
Speed: not specified
Range: not specified
Armament: unarmed but with slots for personal weapons
Armor: 5 mm on the superstructure on the cargo bay
Production: one prototype

Sources

Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano Volume II Tomo I – Nicola Pignato and Filippo Cappellano

Difesa del Territorio e Protezione Antiaerea (1915-1943) – Storia, Documenti, Immagini – Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito

Tre Giorni Vissuti da Eroi, le Voci dei Protagonisti, Gela 10/12 Luglio 1943 – Giovanni Iacono e Salvatore Reale

Italian Armored and Reconnaissance Vehicles 1911-1945 – Filippo Castellano and Pier Paolo Battistelli

Categories
WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote

Kingdom of Italy (1943)
Armored Personnel Carrier – None Built

The FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote was an Italian Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) project developed by the FIAT company of Turin for the needs of the Italian Regio Esercito (English: Royal Army).

Designed on the basis of the FIAT 665NM all-wheel drive truck, it would have a similar weight and characteristics to the older FIAT 665NM Scudato. The new design would have more armor, be a bit lower, and with more internal space for an additional four soldiers.

The project was similar to the Carro Protetto Trasporto Truppa su Autotelaio FIAT 626 developed in 1941. When, on 8th September 1943, the armistice was signed with the Allied forces, the project was probably proposed to the Wehrmacht and the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (English: National Republican Army) but without success and was then canceled.

‘FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote’ means Armored FIAT 665NM with Protected Wheels in English. This designation is also meant to distinguish it from the FIAT 665NM Scudato (English: Shielded), which did not have protection for the wheels.

Context and previous APCs

During the first Italian actions against enemy troops in Europe, East Africa, and North Africa, the Italian High Command felt the necessity of an armored personnel carrier to transport the Italian assault troops to the battlefield and to support tank actions.

The first vehicles used, especially in East Africa and in the Balkans, were rudimentary improvised armored trucks produced by the troops or in civilian workshops. These added scrap armored plates or trench shields to the vehicle in order to protect it from small arms fire.

An Autocarro Unificato OM Taurus Blindato with armored plates on the cab’s windows and cargo bay, used in the Balkans by Italian troops before the Armistice.Source: Gli Autoveicoli tattici e logistici del Regio Esercito Italiano fino al 1943

In late 1941, the S37 Autoprotetto entered service. This was an APC produced by FIAT and SPA on the FIAT-SPA TL37 (TL for Trattore Leggero – Light Prime Mover) ‘Libia’ chassis. It could carry up to 10 soldiers, including the driver and the vehicle commander.

This APC, of which more or less 300 vehicles were made in total, was meant to be used in North Africa. However, all were actually employed in the Balkans. There, due to the narrow mountain roads and the many isolated Italian and German garrisons, they were not used offensively, but to escort supply columns to the isolated garrisons and to defend these in case of a partisan attack.

The prototype of the S37 Autoprotetto during tests. The machine gun support and the Pirelli Tipo ‘Sigillo Verde’ sand tires are visible.Source: Gli Autoveicoli tattici e logistici del Regio Esercito Italiano fino al 1943

FIAT 665NM Scudato

The FIAT 665NM Scudato or Protetto was the heaviest and biggest armored personnel carrier of the Second World War. It was essentially a FIAT 665NM that, after coming off the production line, was immediately equipped with armored plates between 7.5 mm and 4.5 mm thick. This was not an adequate thickness against heavy machine guns or similar caliber guns, but adequate for the tasks it performed throughout the war.

More than 110 vehicles were produced until 8th September 1943, when production stopped. The vehicles that survived were used by the Wehrmacht and by the new Repubblica Sociale Italiana (English: Italian Social Republic), the Republic founded by Benito Mussolini on 23rd September 1943 in the Italian territories not yet occupied by the Allied forces.

FIAT 665NM Protetto at the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione in Rome.Source: tumblr.com

Design

FIAT 666NM and FIAT 665NM

The FIAT 665NM was developed after March 1941 as a 4×4 variant of the FIAT 666NM (NM stands for Nafta; Militare – Diesel; Military) produced by Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino or FIAT (English: Italian Automobiles Factory, Turin) in the FIAT Mirafiori plant in Turin.

FIAT 666N propaganda poster.Source: Archivio FIAT

In 1937, the Kingdom of Italy passed a law that outlined the main characteristics required of each truck, civilian or military, that was produced. This was done for three main reasons: Italy was a rapidly growing nation with numerous companies producing dozens of different models of trucks. A standardization would lead to the production of vehicles that were similar and with common parts, increasing the production capacity, lowering costs, and easing maintenance. Linked to this purpose was the problem of the embargoes Italy was placed under, and the policy of Autarchy, or the aspiration of Italy to be economically independent of foreign countries. Standardized trucks would certainly have helped to avoid the wastage of resources. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, the unification of civilian and military trucks meant that, in case of war, civilian trucks could be requisitioned for war needs, as they had the same characteristics and spare parts as military ones.

A civilian FIAT 666N equipped with higher cargo bay sides and bodywork produced and installed by the Officine Viberti company. It was equipped with Pirelli Tipo ‘Raiflex’ tires.Source: Archivio Pasquale Caccavale

With Regio Decreto (English: Royal Decree) N° 1809 issued on 14th July 1937, the so-called Autocarri Unificati (English: Unified Trucks) were born. For heavy trucks, the maximum weight was not to exceed 12,000 kg, of which at least 6,000 kg of payload, with a minimum road speed of 45 km/h. For light trucks, the ground clearance was to be at least 200 mm, the maximum truck weight was to be 4,000 kg, and the payload was 3,000 kg.

Autocarro Unificato FIAT 665NM 4×4 coming out of the FIAT Mirafiori plant. It is interesting to notice that it is in Kaki Sahariano desert camouflage and that it has Pirelli Tipo ‘Libia’ tires for desert soils. Source: Archivio FIAT

The FIAT 666N was a heavy-duty truck. The civil version was developed in 1938 under the Regio Decreto N° 1809 rules. Its military version, the FIAT 666NM, was presented to the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione on 19th September 1940 for evaluation. In total, about 8,000 FIAT 666s left the assembly lines of the Mirafiori plant, including the direct-injection post-war 666N7 and FIAT 665NM versions.

After the armistice of 8th September 1943, between November 1943 and December 1944, 79 FIAT 666NM and 2 FIAT 665NM were delivered to the Wehrmacht.

A FIAT 666NM in Luftwaffe hands. Unfortunately, due to the bad quality of the photo, the exact number painted on the license plate cannot be discerned.Source: o5m6.de

The FIAT 666 was produced in a wide range of fittings, such as standard trucks and fuel tankers for civil service. For military service, recovery trucks, fuel, and water tankers, mobile workshops, petrol engine variants, and many others were produced.

FIAT 666N with a fully loaded medium trailer.Source: italie1935-45.com

Engine

Propulsion was provided by the FIAT Tipo 366 6-cylinder in-line diesel engine. It had overhead valves, with a displacement of 9,365 cm³ and FIAT-produced injectors. The maximum output power was 110 hp at 2,000 rpm on the civil FIAT 666N, FIAT 666NM for the Regia Aeronautica, and on the FIAT 665NM. The maximum output power on the FIAT 666NM for the Regio Esercito was limited to 95 hp at 1,700 rpm. The direct-injection Ricardo-type chamber created lots of problems in the cold Russian steppes, which forced the crew to mix the diesel with gasoline to allow the engine to start.

FIAT Tipo 366 with oil bath filters (right).Source: Archivio FIAT

The maximum speed on-road was 57 km/h for the FIAT 665NM, 48.3 km/h for the power-limited FIAT 666NM, and 56.8 km/h for the FIAT 666N and FIAT 666NM without the power governor.

The fuel was kept in a 255-liter tank (135 liters for the FIAT 666N) located on the right side of the chassis and guaranteed a 750 km range on-road (465 km for the FIAT 666N). A FIAT 6-75-2510 diaphragm pump sent the fuel to a 5.5-liter tank located behind the cab’s dashboard. This ensured trouble-free feeding thanks to a gravity injection pump.

The lubricant oil tank had a capacity of 12 liters, while the water-cooling tank had a capacity of 50 liters. Air was drawn through two oil bath filters mounted on the back of the engine.

Brakes and electric systems

The single dry plate clutch was connected to the gearbox via a cardan shaft. This could be removed independently of the gearbox and engine simply by removing the rear casing. This meant that maintenance and disassembly were easier.

The transmission, thanks to the reductor, had eight gears and two reverse gears. The drum brakes were hydraulic and had a pedal-operated air brake booster. The compressed air tank, with a capacity of 55 liters, was located on the left of the frame and had a pressure of 5.5 bar. On the NM version, the rear axle was equipped with a differential lock system.

The battery box of the FIAT 666NM. Also visible are the air tank on the left and the fuel tank on the other side.Source: Archivio FIAT

There was a 12 Volt electrical circuit to power the headlights and dashboard, and a 24 Volt circuit for starting the engine. The two 12 V Magneti Marelli batteries were housed in a box on the left side of the chassis, behind the air tank.

Structure

The cargo bay measured 4.75 m long by 2.20 m wide, with a height of 600 mm on the civilian version and 650 mm on the military version. It was authorized to carry up to 6 tonnes of cargo but could carry, without difficulty, and L6/40 light tank (weighing 6.84 tonnes).

The cab had the steering wheel and the driver on the right, while the vehicle commander sat on the left. The cab’s doors opened backward. Due to the slow production rates, some early FIAT 666NM were equipped with civilian FIAT 666N cabs.

FIAT 665NM (above) and FIAT 666NM-RE with the civilian cab (under). The different placements of the toolboxes under the cargo bay and the different tire dimensions are clear. Sources: Archivio FIAT

In spite of its respectable dimensions and its large load capacity, the FIAT 666 heavy-duty truck, with a weight of 6 tonnes for the FIAT 666NM variant and 7.2 tonnes for the FIAT 665NM variant, could travel at more than 56 km/h with a 12-tonne trailer attached. Fully loaded, it could climb slopes of 26°. Thanks to its short wheelbase and cab layout, it was comfortable traveling on mountain roads.

The FIAT 666NM had a rim size of 20 x 8” (50.8 x 20.32 cm), while the FIAT 665NM had a rim size of 24 x 9” (61 x 23 cm). This allowed the latter to mount 11.25 x 24” (28.5 cm x 61 cm) tires, the same as the armored cars and camionette of the Regio Esercito. Like the armored cars and Camionette, it could use a wide variety of tires, such as the Tipo ‘Libia’ and Tipo ‘Sigillo Verde’. These, thanks to their wide profile, afforded good flotation on loose sandy soils. The Tipo ‘Artiglio’ and Tipo ‘Artiglio a Sezione Maggiorata’ were used for continental terrain and Russian steppes, roughly equivalent to the Non-Directional Tread (NDT) tires used by the US Army. The Tipo ‘Raiflex’ was meant for sandy ground and produced with Rayon (Raion in Italian) synthetic fiber (RAI-flex for Raion). All were developed and produced by the Pirelli company in Milan.

Strangely enough, most of the images of the FIAT 665NM Scudati show that most of the vehicles were equipped with Pirelli Tipo ‘Libia’ tires, a very strange decision if we consider that none of the vehicles were used in Africa, but only in Northern Italy and the Balkans.

FIAT 665NM front and rear. Photos were taken shortly after production, and it is parked outside the FIAT Mirafiori production line.Sources: Archivio FIAT

FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote

The FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote was never finished. The project was started on 15th April 1943, a bit less than five months before the Armistice and it apparently did not have time to be accepted by the High Command of the Royal Army.

The vehicle chassis would be left intact, removing the standard cab and the wooden cargo bay. Unlike the FIAT 665NM Scudato, the armor would be mounted directly on the chassis and not around the cab and the cargo bay. A new armored structure with an open roof would be welded to protect the crew and personnel carried on board. This reduced the total weight by some tonnes, permitting the use of thicker armored plates on the vehicle.

The driver and vehicle commander’s seats were left intact, together with the driving position, the radiator, engine compartment, and the various fuel, air, and cooling water tanks and battery box.

FIAT 665NM frame. Visible between the wheels, on the left, are the air tank and the battery box. On the right is the fuel tank. Source: Archivio FIAT

The welded armored structure would be made of angled 8 mm armored plates in order to better deflect the small-caliber rounds. Frontally, the armored plates would have two vision slits, one for the driver, on the right, and one for the vehicle commander, on the left. Centrally, on the lower armored plate, an armored grille protected the radiator. This grille could be removed to extract the engine. As on the FIAT 626 medium truck and FIAT 666 heavy-duty truck, the engine could be extracted from the cab’s front after the removal of the grille thanks to rollers mounted on the two supports of the engine.

The engine extraction from a FIAT 626’s cab.Source: Archivio FIAT

Also mounted on the front were two headlights which were shielded to cover them when not in use. The frontal bumper was left intact from the FIAT 665NM chassis. The driver and vehicle commander also had at their disposal two armored doors to quickly enter the vehicle. They could also access their positions through the rear door.

The side doors were divided in two parts due to the angled armored plates. They were equipped with slits on the upper part to permit the driver and the vehicle commander to check the sides of the road or of the battlefield.

As on the original FIAT 666N and FIAT 665NM, the doors opened backward, and thus would not provide adequate frontal protection to crew members if they exited the vehicle in an emergency situation.

FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote left side and upper views, original blueprint.Source: Gli Autoveicoli tattici e logistici del Regio Esercito Italiano fino al 1943

Behind the driver’s and commander’s seats were two rows of wooden benches with backrests for 12 soldiers. These were placed longitudinally with a central corridor.

On the rear left side was the spare wheel support. In order to accommodate the wheel, the rear left wooden bench section was shifted forward some centimeters, partially obstructing the rear access door. The section’s backrest was foldable to help the crew extract the spare wheel from behind the bench.

There was enough space under the benches to store the soldier’s personal equipment, in addition to the crew equipment, ammunition, and the spare parts which were also stored here. The soldier’s rifles and other weapons could be stowed between the angled armored plates and the benches.

The rear armored door was placed in the center and was also divided into two parts due to the angled armored plates, but did not have a vision slit. Under the armored rear door, there was a foldable step to help the personnel to enter the vehicle.

On the rear, the license plate would be placed on the left side. The trailer hitch was left intact, while the rear lights were placed on the armored fenders, which had a thickness between 10 mm to 15 mm. The armor plates that protected the wheels were 8 mm thick, as on the structure, while the front part of the fender was also from 10 mm to 15 mm thick.

The big problem of the vehicle seems to have been the open roof that would make the vehicle vulnerable to hand grenades, artillery splinters and shrapnel, and air attacks. This would be a common problem of Italian armored personnel carriers of the Second World War. However, this also had advantages, such as the fact that each carried soldier could open fire or throw hand grenades at enemy targets.

FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote front and rear views, original blueprint. This is the only blueprint of the vehicle, along with the previous ones.Source: Gli Autoveicoli tattici e logistici del Regio Esercito Italiano fino al 1943

The vehicle had a ground clearance of 325 mm, not enough to protect it from mines. Its belly armor would only be 28 mm of wood on the personnel compartment’s floor. This meant that the vehicle could not ford water over 325 mm deep and that, in the event of an explosion under the vehicle, the wooden floorboards would create dozens of splinters that would increase the effectiveness of the mine, killing or injuring the soldiers carried on board.

It was perhaps for this reason that the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione (Eng: Center for Motorisation Studies), the department which examined new vehicles, had not yet authorized the production of a prototype even after five months.

Part Weight (kg)
Armor Plates, 8 mm thick 1,590
Wooden floor, 28 mm thick 200
Front Armored Fenders from 10 mm to 15 mm thick 40
Armored shield for the rear wheels, 8 mm thick 280
Rear Armored Fenders, from 10 mm to 15 mm thick 30
Wooden benches with backrest 140
Foldable rear step 20
Bolts and rivets 100
Total weight armored structure 2,440
Persons, 26 x 100 kg 2,600
Total weight structure and persons 5,040
FIAT 665NM Chassis ~ 1,300
Total weight ~ 6,340
Total Battle ready ~ 11,000

Had it entered service, the vehicle would have served as an armored personnel carrier to transport infantry squads and support Italian tank assaults, primarily in the desert.

As seen with the previous S37 Autoprotetti and the FIAT 665NM Scudati, its destiny would probably have been quite different and it would have acted as an armed escort for convoys loaded with supplies in places where partisan presence was a constant threat to unprotected military vehicles.

Armament

The FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote did not have armament in its blueprints, but it is logical to suppose that it would have a pintle mount or some supports for machine guns, as used on the Carro Protetto Trasporto Truppa su Autotelaio FIAT 626 or the previous FIAT 665NM Scudato, and German and Japanese armored personnel carriers.

As on the other armored personnel carriers of its era, the FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote could probably have a frontal support or, most common on Italian vehicles, a 360° traverse pintle mount with a shielded medium gun or a Solothurn S-18/1000 anti-tank rifle, as on the APC based on FIAT 626NLM chassis, and two supports for other light or medium machine guns on the sides like the German Sd.Kfz. 251 or the Japanese Type 1 Ho-Ha.

The most likely armament would have been a FIAT-Revelli Modello 1914/1935 or a Breda Modello 1937 8 x 59 mm RB medium machine gun mounted frontally.

The first one was an Italian First World War era machine gun produced by FIAT under Revelli development, modified and recalibrated from 1935 and was fed by 50-rounds magazines. The second one was a modern machine gun, developed by Società Italiana Ernesto Breda per Costruzioni Meccaniche and fed from 20-rounds clips.

Probably the frontal machine gun mount or the central pintle mount would have featured a shield to protect the machine gunner.

Some side supports for Breda Modello 1930 6.5 x 52 mm Mannlicher-Carcano light machine guns could also have been added.

A Breda Modello 37 with its 18.8 kg tripod.Source: associazionenazionalefantiarresto.it

The infantry squad of the Regio Esercito was composed of 18 men, consisting of a Commander Sergeant, a Deputy-Commander Sergeant armed with a rifle or Moschetto Automatico Beretta (MAB) Modello 1938 submachine gun, two corporals armed with a Breda Modello 1930 light machine gun, and 14 riflemen.

The vehicle could have comfortably carried an entire infantry squad with room for 4 more soldiers, sappers, medics or extra ammunition. In case of need, the two corporals of the squad could probably have mounted their Breda Modello 30 on the side supports and increased the firepower of the vehicle.

The Breda Mod. 1930 light machine gun.Source: guns.fandom.com

Less likely would have been the use of a Solothurn S-18/1000 20 x 138 mm B anti-tank gun or a Breda-SAFAT belt-feed medium machine gun chambered for the 7.7 × 56 mm R (Italian designation of the .303 British) in order to increase the volume of fire or suppressive capacity from the vehicle.

Conclusion

The FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote was one of the dozens of Italian paper projects that never came to light because of the Armistice of 1943. Like all other projects, it is very difficult to say whether it would have made a valuable contribution to the Italian troops or whether it would have become, like the previous Italian armored personnel carriers, a simple vehicle for escorting columns of supplies.

FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote. Illustration by Godzilla
Specification
Size (L-W-H) 7.4 x 2.7 x 2.48 m
Weight 11 tonnes
Crew 2 (commander and driver) + 24 soldiers
Engine FIAT 366 9,365 cm³, 110 hp with 255 liters tank
Speed ~50 km/h
Range ~700 km
Armament 1 machine gun
Armor from 8 mm to 15 mm
Production paper project

Sources

Gli Autoveicoli tattici e logistici del Regio Esercito Italiano fino al 1943, Tomo I Volume II – Nicola Pignato and Filippo Cappellano

Categories
WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

Autoblindo T.L.37 ‘Autoprotetto S.37’

Kingdom of Italy (1941)
Light Armored Car – 1 Prototype Built

This vehicle started life in early 1941 with the need for a light armored vehicle for use in North Africa. Italy had a long experience in mobile desert warfare having used armored cars in the desert before the First World War. They had in its possession the design of a very mobile heavy artillery tractor, the T.L.37 (Trattore Leggero – Fast tractor). The T.L. 37 was an excellent vehicle with very distinctive oversized pneumatic tires and it was to form the experimental basis for a new light armored car built by Fiat SPA for colonial service. The vehicle would sometimes be referred to as the T.L.37 Autoblindo, but also as the A.S.37. ‘A.S’ stands for Autoblindo Africa Settentrionale (North Africa Armoured Car), although the A.S.37 name was somewhat confusingly later applied to the armored personnel carrier which followed this one.

Italian Trattore Leggero 37 (T.L.37) with large pneumatic tyres used as a tractor for hauling field guns.

Design and Layout

Just like the T.L.37, the engine for the vehicle was at the front, with the driver positioned at the front left. It retained the basic frame from the T.L.37 with the same over-sized pneumatic tyres, but now an armored body enclosed the vehicle. At least one door, consisting of two parts – upper and lower – was on the right-hand side and a second door on the other side. The back of the vehicle sloped off sharply from the roofline and on top was a small turret. As the A.S.37 personnel carrier version followed this vehicle, it can be surmised that there was no second front seat (on the left) and that the fuel tanks were positioned near the back around the rear wheels.
Power for the T.L.37 was provided by a model 18VT 4.053 4 cylinder petrol engine which delivered 52hp at 2000rpm and the later A.S.37 used a modification of this engine delivering 67hp. It is not known whether the Autoblindo T.L.37 used the original 52 hp or the upgraded model.

Autoblindo T.L.37. Photo: Pignato

Protection and Armament

The vehicle was protected by flat steel plate armor up to 8.5 mm thick and probably down to 6 mm thick in places, bolted to a steel frame. This armor would have provided adequate protection to small arms fire and shell splinters. The vehicle was fully enclosed except for the turret. Initially, it had been planned to use the turret of the AB40 armored car, which would have meant it was armed with a pair of Breda Model 1938 8 mm machine-guns, but for unknown reasons, this turret was not available. Instead, a small open-topped turret based on that used on the L6 light tank was mounted. The turret had no back or roof and the sides were very short and steeply angled backwards. A large hooped ring, possibly for mounting a machine-gun for protection from aircraft went over the turret. The turret mounted a single Breda Model 1935 20 mm cannon.

Left side view of the Autoblindo T.L.37. Photo: Arms of Breda


Illustration of the Autoblindo T.L.37 ‘Autoprotetto S.37′ produced by Yuvnasva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Fate

Following the requirement in early 1941, Fiat SPA built this single prototype and it was sent to North Africa immediately for trials. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to effectively evaluate the vehicle under combat conditions. The T.L.37 Autoblindo (A.S.37) is reported to have been lost at Sidi Rezegh (located south of the main road between Tobruk and Bardia, East of El Adem) possibly through a mechanical failure in Autumn 1941.

Autoblindo T.L.37 after it was found by the British showing no sign of battle damage. Photo: Tank Museum, Bovington
Fiat SPA was not to be dismayed by this failure, however. Instead, they further refined the vehicle, abandoned the turret and sloped rear, and by April 1941, had already got plans in hand for an open-topped version for transporting troops and stores or for convoy escort duties. That vehicle was also known as the A.S.37. A vehicle looking very similar to this one but without the turret.

Lince specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.95 x 1.92 x 1.8 m (without turret)
Total weight, battle-ready 5 tonnes (est.)
Crew 2-3
Propulsion 4.053 liter 18VT 4 cylinder petrol engine producing 55 – 67hp
Speed 50 km/h
Range 725 km
Armament 2x Breda Model 1938 8mm machine-guns or 1x Breda Model 1935 20mm cannon
Armor 6mm – 8.5mm steel
Total Production 1

Links & Resources

War Wheels.net
A Century of Italian Armoured Cars, Nicola Pignato
Encyclopedia of Armoured Cars, Crow and Icks
Italian Tanks and Combat Vehicles of WW2, Ralph Riccio
Gli autoveicoli da Combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano, Nicola Pignato
Mezzi Corazatti Italiani 1939-1945, Nicole Pignato
Arms of Breda – Oto Melara

Categories
WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

Camionette Cingolate ‘Cingolette’ CVP-5 (L40)

Kingdom of Italy (1939-1942)
Tracked Carrier – 300 Ordered

Development of the Camionetta Cingolate began by copying the example laid down by the British. The British design for a machine-gun carrier had been presented to the British War Office in 1935, and at this time, the Italian military was in close relationship with the British military. Certainly, they had ordered a number of light vehicles such as the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI and V* from Great Britain already, which had served as starting points for various Italian tank developments.

Cingoletta CVP-5 first model with a single 8mm machine gun

The final version of the CVP-5

A prototype of the CVP-5 developed prior to the War based on the standard L6 light tank. Source: Pignato

Front view of the CVP-5 with 8mm Breda (left) and 13.2mm Breda (right)
Prior to the war, Ansaldo had actually developed a variant of their L6 tank as a tractor with a box-shaped body but without a roof or turret.

A Carrier Copy?

Having turned their backs on their traditional British allies and going to war with them in the North African desert, the Italians once again found themselves able to examine British equipment. Not purchased this time, but captured. One of the most notable vehicles captured was also one of the most widely produced armored vehicles ever, the ubiquitous ‘Universal Carrier’. Various types were captured in the Western Desert and returned to Italy in 1941 for examination and testing. As a result, two Italian vehicles were spawned, the CVP-4 and the CVP-5. In a secret memo dated 24th May 1941, amongst other studies being conducted for light armored vehicles and personnel carriers, was a comment questioning whether a vehicle such as the British Universal Carrier would be appropriate.
The CVP-5 was based on the chassis of the L6/40 light tank and was proposed to the Army in 1941, with just a single 8mm ball-mounted machine gun fitted to the front on the left-hand side. This vehicle could carry a crew of four (driver, gunner, and two others).

1st and 2nd pattern ammunition trailers made by Viberti for the CVP-4 and CVP-5
The Army, however, was not convinced by the idea. The L6 as a prime mover/tractor was just too small and the towing capacity was below par. In this configuration, it could only carry a load of 400 kg which then reduced the crew space to just 2 men. Its only use was for hauling light field guns such as the 47mm L/32 or small trailers, but it was at least fitted with an RF 1CA radio for coordination.

Improved version with 13.2mm heavy machine gun in the front. Source: Pignato

Improvement

A new version equipped with the more powerful 13.2mm heavy machine gun and a second machine gun, an 8mm Breda Model 38 on a pedestal mount, was prepared between December 1941 and February 1942. It was also fitted with radio equipment, specifically the RF3M, and was submitted for trials to CSEM (Centro Studi ed Esperienze della Motorizzazione) on 2nd February 1942. At the same time another vehicle, the CVP-4, was also under development and oddly it was decided to wait until the CVP-4 was finished to test against the CVP-5, unduly delaying testing of the CVP-5.

Captured Bren carrier on the left with the CVP-4 centre and CVP-5 on the right. Image date December 1941. It can be seen that the CVP-4 is not yet ready.


Illustration of the Camionette Cingolate ‘Cingolette’ CVP-5 (L40) produced by Jarosław Janas, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Delays

The CVP-4 was not delivered until December 1942, meaning a delay on 10 months. Perhaps annoyed at the ridiculous delay in obtaining a functional vehicle from Fiat (CVP-4) to test against the CVP-5, Ansaldo conducted a study of the CVP-5 mounting an Oerlikon 20mm L/70 cannon and even obtained a license to produce it.
These completely unnecessary delays meant that production was very slow with just 12 vehicles produced by the end of summer 1943. These vehicles were all issued to the Cavalleggeri di Lucca motorized regiment, where they were used for towing ammunition trailers for the Semovente 75/18 self-propelled guns. Each trailer could hold 98 rounds of ammunition.

Top-down view of the CVP-5 armed with 13.2mm Breda heavy machine gun.

Rear view of the CVP-5 showing the 8mm pedestal mounted machine gun for AA defence. Source: Pignato

Production

Only a small number were produced by the end of August 1943. These new vehicles were fitted with the improved SPA 6 cylinder 100hp engine which had been intended for use in armored cars and the transmission was modified to permit high-speed use. With such a small number produced just prior to the armistice, their use was limited to the role of ammunition carriers. Not much information remains of their use in combat or in the hands of the German forces, Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI), or partisan forces. Production was stopped and focussed on other matters, as the military value for such a vehicle by that time in the war was too low to warrant disrupting tank production.

Prototype CVP-5 fitted with 8mm machine gun. The radio has not yet been added.

CVP-5 with 8mm Breda machine gun mounted

CVP-5 showing improved front armament, but lacking the 8mm AA machine gun. The small size of the vehicle can be discerned from the size of the CV3 behind.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4m x 1.87 x 1.35 meters
Total weight, battle ready 5.4 – 5.6 tonnes
Crew 2 (driver, gunner)
Propulsion SPA 6 cylinder petrol producing 100hp at 2700 rpm
Speed 50km/h (Originally configured for 60km/h)
Range 200km
Armament 1x 8mm Breda machine gun (later 1 x 8mm Breda M1938 AA machine gun, 1 x Breda 13.2mm heavy machine gun)

Sources

Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa

Categories
WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

Camionette Cingolate ‘Cingolette’ CVP-4 (Fiat 2800)

Kingdom of Italy (1941)
Tankette – 300 Ordered

Development of the Camionetta Cingolate began by copying the example laid down by the British. The British design for a machine-gun carrier had been presented to the British War Office in 1935, and at this time, the Italian military was in close relationship with the British military. Certainly, they had ordered a number of light vehicles such as the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI and V* from Great Britain already, which had served as starting points for various Italian tank developments.

The state of development of the CVP-4 in December 1941 – a wooden mockup

Fiat 2800 ‘CVP-4’
Having turned their backs on their traditional British allies and going to war with them in the North African desert, the Italians once again found themselves able to examine British equipment. Not purchased this time, but captured. One of the most notable vehicles captured was also one of the most widely produced armored vehicles ever, the ubiquitous ‘Universal Carrier’. Various types were captured in the Western Desert and returned to Italy in 1941 for examination and testing. As a result, two Italian vehicles were spawned , the CVP-4 and the CVP-5. In a secret memo dated  24th May 1941, amongst other studies being conducted for light armored vehicles and personnel carriers, was a comment questioning whether a vehicle such as the British Universal Carrier would be appropriate.

Competition

The Italians then, had decided to manufacture two competing designs of armored carriers, the CVP-5 from Ansaldo and a rival design from Fiat, the CVP-4. The CVP-5 was produced first and was submitted to CSEM (Centro Studi ed Esperienze della Motorizzazione) on 2nd February 1942 for trials and evaluation. Despite being produced first, testing was stopped awaiting this second design. The requirements had been for a small tracked vehicle using, as far as possible, commercial parts so as to speed up production.
To this end, the Fiat design used a commercial engine, the Fiat 2800 (hence the reason the vehicle is sometimes called the Fiat 2800) connected to the gearbox of the L37 prime mover and delivering drive through the rear axle of an SPA 38R truck. This design proved problematic however, due to insufficient cooling of the engine which led to a redesign of the unit. The suspension was a direct copy of that used on the British Universal carriers.

Early prototype fitted with Fiat 2800 engine – note the lack of grille in the rear as was amended to improve air flow for cooling
For a name, this small vehicle actually had many. It was known variously as the Cingoletta Fiat 43, Fiat 2800, CVP-4 Camionetta, and ‘the Model 42’. Why it took so many names to develop what is effectively a direct copy of the British Universal Carrier is not clear, but is perhaps an indication of the convoluted and troublesome nature of its development. Either way, the delays meant that the CVP-4 was not delivered for trials until December 1942. It is remarkable that the CVP-4 took so long to be ready for tests considering not just that they had captured British vehicles to examine, but the CVP-4 was only marginally better than the British original. The armor on the CVP extended slightly further back than the Universal Carrier. It was also a little heavier and lower to the ground.
Armament was limited to a single 8mm Breda machine gun fitted into a ball mount in the front of the vehicle to the left of the driver, who sat at the front right hand side.

Testing

The CVP-4 was eventually tested against the CVP-5 and the differences were marginal. Both had acceptable performance off-road and there was some debate over whether to replace the Fiat 2800 engine with the larger, more powerful Astura 3000 engine coupled to a new selective gearbox although this was not actually done.
Regardless, the CVP-4, like the CVP-5, was accepted into service. It was 1943 and the war was not going well for Italy so they needed vehicles urgently. All the delays for testing only managed to deny the Italian Army the vehicles it needed for various support roles, hauling guns, scouting, and transport.
Upon adoption in February 1943, the CVP-4 was standardised as the Cingolette 43 and 300 of them were ordered from Fiat.

‘Ambulance’ version seen from the rear left-hand side. The spring mounted clamps hold a stretcher in place for the patient, who is hopefully strapped in for a precarious ride. Note the difference at the back in this production vehicle to the prototype with a new large cooling grille.


Illustration of the Camionette Cingolate ‘Cingolette’ CVP-4 (Fiat 2800). Produced by Jarosław Janas, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Role

The role of the CVP-4 was primarily the same as the role fulfilled by the Universal Carrier in British service, transporting a machine gun or anti-tank team, and for towing light guns. A trailer was available to help carry stores and ammunition, although it was limited to a combined (trailer and load) weight of 1000kg.


1st and 2nd pattern ammunition trailers made by Viberti for the CVP-4 and CVP-5
An ambulance version was also postulated to evacuate injured troops. A vehicle was modified to demonstrate the means of carrying stretchers mounted above the protection of the vehicle, but this concept had not been completed before the September 1943 armistice and was abandoned.

Captured Bren carrier on the left with the CVP-4 centre and CVP-5 on the right. Image date December 1941. It can be seen that the CVP-4 is not yet ready.
At the time of the armistice in September 1943, the military value of such a vehicle was so low that it was not worth disrupting the production of tanks and other arms. The Germans, in effective control of northern Italy, abandoned production and focussed on other vehicles already in production. The exact number of vehicle finished is unknown and likely extremely low, and none are known to have seen service with either the Regio Esercito (Royal Army), the Germans, the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI), or partisans.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.23 x 1.98 x 1.35 meters
Total weight, battle ready 4.76 tonnes
Crew 2 + 6 (Driver, Machine gunner, up to 6 troops)
Propulsion Fiat 2800 6 cylinder 80-82hp petrol, or Fiat Astura 3000
Speed 61 km/h (38 mph)
Range/consumption 420-500km
Armament 1 x 8mm Breda Model 38 machine gun
Armour glacis 8.5mm, front plate 14mm, sides 9mm, rear 9mm, floor 6.5mm

Sources

Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa

Categories
WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

Dovunque 35 blindato APC

Kingdom of Italy (1941-1945)
APC – 8 Built

Despite the Italian military having determined by 1938 that soldiers needed a protective transport, it was not until 1941 that a prototype of a large heavy APC was was actually produced. The vehicle, based on the chassis of a Dovunque 35 three tonne truck, was variously known as the Dovunque 35 blindato, Dovunque Scudato, Dovunque Protetto, and Trasporto Truppe Blindato Su SPA Dovunque 35.
In a memo dated on the 24th of May 1941, a study for an armored personnel carrier based on the Dovunque 35 truck was ordered along with other ideas for smaller wheeled carrier, halftracks and even fully tracked ones along the lines of the British Universal Carrier. By the 3rd of June, the Dovunque 35 idea, which effectively was a call to test the concept of a large truck-based APC, had expanded to include the idea of one based on the Fiat 626 truck too.

Dovunque 35 blindato prototype. Source: Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra di Roverto

Layout and detail

The donor vehicle was the Dovunque model 35 truck (Dovunque – ‘everywhere truck’), but a lot of work had to be done to convert it to be usable as an APC. Modifications were made to accommodate the extra weight of armor; these included improvements to the springs and brakes, and changes to the electrical fittings. It retained the successful 6×4 drive train of the truck though.
The engine was at the front followed by a large angular cab with two large rectangular hatches on the front. The cab also had a door on each side, which, like that of the A.S.37, unusually split in two with the top halves overlapping the lip of the bottom half of the door when closed. Access for the troops was via a single door of the same 2-piece type as the cab mounted on the back. A spare tyre was carried on a free-wheeling mount on each side beneath the cabin to assist when crossing rough terrain.

Prototype of the Dovunque 35 blindato seen during evaluation in Spring 1941 to members of the Italian High Command. The original camouflage pattern can be seen to be a two-tone pattern of vertical stripes unlike the later diagonal ones. Source: Pignato

Right hand side of the Dovunque 35 blindato prototype. Note the lack of roof. The vehicle is camouflaged in a base yellow sand colour with bands of brown, this being the second camouflage pattern tested. Source: Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra di Roverto
The Dovunque 35 blindato was underpowered. It used a model 18vt 4.053 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, which produced just 55/56hp at 2000 rpm and a 150 litre fuel tank. The A.S.37 on the other hand also used an 18VT petrol engine but it had been modified to deliver 67hp instead.

Protection

Protection for the crew and infantry was provided by 8-to-10mm thick flat steel armor plate cut to shape and bolted to a metal frame, though some parts were actually welded too. Like the A.S.37, the Dovunque 35 was open-topped, but it did feature 3 loopholes on each side for the troops to be able to fight from in relative safety. Two additional loopholes were mounted on the back of the vehicle, one either side of the door.
The driver sat in the front right and, unlike the A.S.37, there was an additional seat facing forwards on the front left. The rest of the seating consisted of wooden benches running from behind the cab to the rear with seating for 10 or so.


The Viberti-made Autotrasporto blindato SPA Dov.35, with the extra roof on. Three were apparently taken over in an unknown state of completeness. Illustration by Vishwadm, paid for with funds from our Patreon campaign.
Dovunque 35 blindata in use by Ia Brigata Nera Ather Capelli Turin in 1944.

Dovunque 35 blindata in use by Ia Brigata Nera Ather Capelli Turin in 1944.

Too big

The Dovunque 35 blindato was a good idea and reasonably well executed, but the early concerns over the weight of a fully protected truck sized APC were borne out. It was too big, too heavy, and too cumbersome when compared to the much lighter and much simpler Autoprotetto S.37. The Italian Army abandoned the Dovunque 35 blindato prior to the September 1943 armistice with just a single vehicle having been finished, although Fiat did not abandon it completely, as they finished the final design modifications on the 22nd of September 1943, after the armistice.

Viberti modified Dovunque 35 blindato with armoured roof. Source: Pignato

Ather Capelli

Following the September armistice, northern Italy and its industry fell under German control and at the end of September 1944, the design of the vehicle was handed over to the firm of Viberti. The original prototype was taken by the I Brigata Nera Ather Capelli Turin in November 1944, where it was photographed mounting a solitary Fiat Model. 1935 8mm machine-gun. The Ather Capelli Brigade was named after a noted fascist killed by communist partisans on the 31st of March 1944 and was formed in July 1944 in Turin. The brigade was involved in anti-communist actions in April.

Viberti

The firm of Viberti, having received the design in 1944, examined the plans and designed a new version with a fully enclosed roof, adding 20cm to the height. Viberti now called this vehicle the Autotrasporto blindato SPA Dov.35. A small number of vehicles were manufactured by Viberti, but were left unfinished without their roofs in their factory in April 1945 when 3 of them (presumably the 3 which were most finished), were taken by forces from the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI) – the Italian forces which remained loyal to fascist ideology and fought on the side of the Germans.
Two more vehicles were later taken from the company by partisan forces fighting the Germans and one is known to have been destroyed by a soldier from the 29th SS Division with a shot from a Panzerfaust, whilst on the Via Lorenzo Delleani (Lorenzo Delleani Street) in Turin, not too far from the Viberti plant where it had just been made.
The status of the others is not known.

Epilogue

The Dovunque 35 truck was a success as a design. It remained in production until 1948. The armored version, on the other hand, was not. Too big and underpowered it offered nothing that the A.S.37 did not and very few vehicles were ever made. Despite this, one example has been restored and can be seen in Italy during various shows.

Views inside and out of the restored Dovunque 35 blindato. Sources: Image 1 SPa Miliaire and Image 2: Alessandro Bottega via SPa Militaire

Sources

https://athoscapelli.blogspot.com/
SPA Militaire
War Wheels.net
A Century of Italian Armoured Cars, Nicola Pignato
Encyclopedia of Armoured Cars, Crow and Icks
Italian Tanks and Combat Vehicles of WW2, Ralph Riccio
Mezzi Corazatti Italiani 1939-1945, Nicole Pignato

Dovunque 35 blindato specifications

Dimensions 5.3m long x 2.0 m wide x 2.35m high (Viberti version with roof 2.55 m high)
Crew 1 + 10
Propulsion 4.053 litre 4 cylinder 18VT petrol engine producing 55/56 hp @ 2000rpm
Armament none but machine guns could be mounted as required
Armor 8mm steel
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index
Categories
WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

Carro protetto trasporto truppa su autotelaio FIAT 626

Kingdom of Italy (1941)
APC – 1 Built

The need for an APC

The Italian military had determined that they required an armored personnel carrier back in 1938 during continuing reforms and modernisation within their armed forces as the majority of mechanised transport was by unprotected trucks. Little was done (mainly for financial reasons as the bulk of military funds went to the Navy) in this regard until the outbreak of World War Two, which for Italy was the 10th of June 1940. Various options were open to the Italians as to how to go about fulfilling the role of a mobile protected troop transport and various ideas were proposed. A memo dated the 24th of May 1941 summarised those options as using the Dovunque 35 truck, a smaller carrier based on the T.L.3, halftracks (the favored choice of the Army), and even a fully tracked design as an analogue to the British Universal Carrier, which the Italians had captured examples of in the North African desert. Fighting in the desert reaffirmed the importance of a mobile protected transport with large distances needing to be covered by infantry, particularly the elite Bersaglieri units. Making these units more mobile was seen to provide a significant increase in military capability.
The War in North Africa was not going well for Italy and the need for new improved vehicles was urgent. By the 3rd June 1941, a large type of troop transport was being considered, which led to the Dovunque 35 blindato. At the same time, it was also suggested to try and make such a vehicle using a standard medium truck fitted with a diesel engine. The vehicle chosen was the Fiat 626NLM (Nafta Lungo Militare), which had entered production in the second half of 1940. This was a long wheelbase (L= lungo / long) military specification (M-militaire / military) version with a diesel engine (N = naptha / diesel) and was produced in huge numbers. It was a good choice as a donor vehicle as it was both reliable and already in production as a standard truck for the Italian Army, having been set as the unified truck of choice in July 1937. So successful was it that versions of the 626 stayed in production well after the war.

Stripped chassis of the Fiat 626N showing the rugged ladder frame chassis and drivers location to the right of the engine. Source: italie35-45.com

CSM get to work

With the need for such a vehicle clear, the Centro Studi Motorizzazione (CSM) (the department which would examine new vehicles) immediately got to work and took a standard Fiat lorry and stripped from it all of the original bodywork. In its place, they modeled in wood a large rectangular shaped body with an open top.

Fiat 626 mockup with person for scale. Source: Pignato
The exact details of the project are not known, as the original paperwork is missing or destroyed, likely in the chaos following the September 1943 armistice, but some photographs and limited records do survive on which to examine the design.

Sources

A Century of Italian Armoured Cars, Nicola Pignato
italie35-45.com
Italian Tanks and Combat Vehicles of WW2, Ralph Riccio
Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano, Nicola Pignato & Filippo Cappellano

Carro protetto su autotelaio FIAT 626 specifications

Dimensions (estimated) 6.3 x 2.2 x 2.5 m
Crew 1 + 12
Propulsion 5.75 litre Fiat model 326 6 cylinder inline diesel engine producing 70hp at 2200rpm
Speed (road) Estimated 50 km/h (road)
Armament 20mm Solothurn anti-tank rifle on 360 degree mount
Armor Estimated 8mm to 10mm thick steel
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Layout

The vehicle itself is remarkably clean lined with a large, single panel of armor on each side angled inwards and, below it, a long vertical plate covering the underside of the vehicle and the top part of the rear tires.

Front view of the Fiat 626 showing the very simple arrangement of the front armor. Source: Pignato
The front of the vehicle was made from four armored panels to create a classic pointed shape. A single large rectangular hatch was in the front right-hand side for the driver. Both of the lower two sections had large rectangular holes cut in them to facilitate the armored grilles for the radiator. No loopholes were provided for the mounted troops to use at all in any sides of the vehicle, unlike the Dovunque 35 design which had 3 on each side and two in the rear. A large bumper covered the full width of the vehicle at the front, harking back to its days as a normal truck.
The driver actually sat quite a long way forwards because he was moved to sit alongside the engine which divided his seat from a further front passenger seat. Next to each of the front seats on each side was a single opening large rectangular door. Mounted troops would be sat along two bench seats which ran the full length of the vehicle from the cabin to the rear. Given the length of the vehicle, it would easily seat 8-12 soldiers or a sizeable quantity of stores. It should be noted that the unarmored truck version, the standard Fiat 626N had a seating capacity for 18 soldiers, but when the vehicle was armed by mounting a 20mm anti-tank rifle, it would likely reduce the capacity. At the rear of the vehicle, there was a single large one-piece rectangular door fitted into the angled rear armor for the soldiers to mount or dismount through.
Power for the vehicle, assuming no additional modifications to the existing engine used in the 626NLM were made, was supplied by the 5.75 litre Fiat model 326 6 cylinder inline diesel engine producing 70hp at 2200rpm (it was only 67hp on the 626N) and had a standard fuel capacity of 75 + 5.5 litres (80.5 litres). As with the A.S.37, which had additional fuel tanks added, it would be expected that this armored personnel carrier version could adopt the extended range fuel tanks as used on the 626N (colonial service) which was in production until 1940. This additional 135 litre tank, (mounted on the 626N Colonial under the rear of the chassis) would have provided a significant extension to the operating range for a total fuel capacity of 215.5 litres.
With a maximum laden weight of 6.5 tonnes and a payload capacity of 3 tonnes, the truck was ideal for a variety of roles. Stripping off the body and using just the frame allowed for a new armored body to be constructed instead. The 626NLM extended the standard truck wheelbase from 3 metres to 3.32 metres, allowing for a significantly longer load bed for the truck.

Layout details of the Carro protetto T.T. su autotelaio Fiat 626. Source: Pignato

Protection

The exact thickness of the armor is not known, but every other project for the same basic role as this vehicle, such as the Autoprotetto S.37, used flat steel plate between 8mm and 10mm bolted to a steel frame. This armor provided sufficient protection for the driver and troops carried in the back from small arms fire and shell splinters, but nothing else.

Armament

In the design, unusually, a machine gun is omitted, replaced this time with the powerful Solothurn 20mm anti-tank rifle, already used mounted in the CV3 series light tanks. This rifle would provide much needed additional firepower for tackling lightly armored enemy vehicles such as armored cars, Universal Carriers and even some tanks. The rifle was fitted to a tall mount, fixed to the floor centrally aligned down the length of the vehicle and just ahead of the centre line from the side. This mounting point permitted the weapon movement around a full 360 degrees of the vehicle and could elevate up to around 45 degrees, although it is not clear how useful it may have been against aircraft.

Termination

The project did not go anywhere. The Dovunque 35 based armored personnel carrier was selected instead and was put into a formal evaluation as a prototype. It was a better overall design than the Fiat attempt with firing ports for the troops etc. meaning they would be better protected but the exact reason why the Fiat was not chosen isn’t so clear. Either way, the Fiat 626 based APC idea never saw service and the mockup was presumably reused as a truck.


The Carro protetto trasporto truppa su autotelaio FIAT 626, showing its simple lines and the 20 mm Solothurn rifle. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, . Paid for with funds from our Patreon page