Categories
WW2 Italian Armored Cars

Camionetta SPA-Viberti AS42

Italy (1942 – 1954)
Reconnaissance Car – ~200 built

The concept behind the AS42 “Sahariana” appeared in the minds of Italian designers in 1942, when the famous British and Commonwealth Long Range Desert Groups (LRDG), with their distinctive heavily-armed and unarmored long-range vehicles, were breaking far behind Axis lines, creating havoc in refilling bases or airfields. At the same time, their large-scale reconnaissance tasks were very valuable to Allied intelligence. The Regio Esercito (Italian Royal Army) tried to emulate these units by using a project that SPA-Viberti had proposed a year before based on the chassis of the AB41 armored car, itself derived from the chassis of the Fiat-SPA TM40 medium artillery tractor.

 Fiat-SPA TM40 artillery tractor

 AB41 armored car
The basic version of the Fiat-SPA TM40 artillery tractor and the AB41 armored car. These two vehicles were the basis of the AS42 design. Sources Wikipedia.it

The AS42 “Sahariana’ was a reconnaissance car, initially unarmed. However, under pressure from the Italian Royal Army’s high command, the vehicles received heavy armament. The SPA-Viberti AS42 was rapidly developed at the beginning of 1942. The prototype was presented to the army on July 9, 1942, passed all tests and was put into production in the SPA-Viberti factory in Turin as early as August 1942.

Design of the AS42

Italian AS42 “Sahariana” Solothurn S18/1000 anti-tank rifle
One of the first built AS42 “Sahariana” at the SPA-Viberti factory, with the pedestal for a Solothurn S18/1000 anti-tank rifle, the frontal pedestal for a Breda machine gun and Pirelli “Raiflex” type tires. The armament was supplied by the Army and was not mounted in the factory. Source: mvsn.forumcommunity.net

Exterior and Armor

Basically, the chassis of the AB41 was left intact, but the armored hull was completely remodeled, and the vehicle took a car-like shape. The front was tilted and housed a massive spare wheel and pioneer tools. Two spades were attached to the left side of the front hood, and a pickaxe on the left rear side. The mudguards were remodeled and the front ones held the tripods for the machine guns. At the front of the mudguards, two jerry cans were kept on each side for the transport of drinking water, recognizable by the white crosses painted on the side. The mudguards at the back had toolboxes on top and two perforated metal plates used for unditching the vehicle if it got stuck in the sand. On the rear of the right mudguard was the muffler, while on the left mudguard was a plate with a stoplight.

The open central combat compartment was armored on the sides and was 3.2 m long and 1.75 m wide. Armor was 17 mm all around the chassis.

The windshield had three bulletproof glass panels derived from glass made for aeronautical use. These were 12 mm thick, although their steel equivalent was significantly less. The windshield was equipped with rear-view mirrors and could be folded down.

Ground clearance was 0.35 m, with the possibility of fording 0.7 m of water.

The total weight decreased from AB41’s 7.5 tonnes to 4 tonnes in an empty AS42. Fully battle-ready, with the primary armament fixed, full tanks and full ammunition load, the vehicle reached 6.5 tonnes.

Running gear

The vehicle had 4×4 traction, but only the front wheels were steered (like on the original chassis of the Fiat-SPA TM40) and therefore the rear driving position, characteristic of the AB armored car series, was removed.

The tires used on the AS42 were produced by Pirelli in Milan, as were almost all the tires on Italian vehicles. The AS used the same tires as the AB armored cars series, the Pirelli “Libia” 9.75×24″ and “Libia Rinforzato” tires for use in the sandy soil of North Africa. The “Artiglio” 9×24″ and “Artiglio a Sezione Maggiorata” 11.25×24″ tires designed for use in Italy and Europe were later used in the Russian steppe. In 1942, new tires were studied for the new Camionette, which could also be used on AB series armored cars: Pirelli “Sigillo Verde” tires again for sandy soils and Pirelli “Raiflex” tires for use in Europe. It should be noted that due to the poor logistics of the Royal Italian Army and the almost non-existent logistics of the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano (RSI, Eng National Republican Army), AB armored cars and Camionette used any tire available. It is therefore not rare to find AB41 or AB43 armored cars with “Raiflex” tires and AS42 with “Libia” tires.

Range and Engine

By design, a total of 20 fuel jerry cans with a capacity of 20 liters each could be transported in two rows of 5 on each side of the fighting compartment. In total, each AS42 could carry 24 jerry cans, 4 of which were for water. However, due to their use in North Africa, many more jerry cans were transported, crammed in any free space to increase the range of the vehicle and of the crew. The AS42 was equipped with a tarpaulin. It provided cover from the elements from the top and the rear, but not from the sides of the Camionette. There was also a tarpaulin to cover the windshield and two smaller ones for the frontal lights. When not used, all the tarpaulins, including the folding rods that supported them, were rolled up and fastened with straps on the back of the fighting compartment.

combat compartment of an AS42
The combat compartment of an AS42. The rear wooden bulkhead was removed to allow the engine to be seen. Notice the 145 l tank on the left and the 32 l water tank for engine cooling on the right in the engine compartment, the folded tarpaulin and the supporting rod. Source: modellismopiù.com
An Italian AS42
An AS42 with the windshield and combat compartment covered by the tarpaulin. Source: pinterest.com

The 145 liters fuel tank allowed a range of 535 km, which was increased to a total of 2,000 km with the additional 400 liters transported in jerry cans. The vehicle consumed around a liter of gasoline for every 3.7 km. The armored rear compartment was not modified. The 430 kg heavy engine was the 6-cylinder petrol FIAT-SPA ABM 2 which gave 88 hp, the same as in the AB41. Automotive performance was greatly improved, with a maximum road speed of 84 km/h and up to 50 km/h offroad.

The fuel tank was located above the engine, while the 3 liters oil tank was to the left of the engine. There were two water tanks above the engine compartment and one in the wooden bulkhead between the engine compartment and the combat compartment. The armor on the outside of this compartment was 5 mm. The engine cooling water was contained in a 32-liter tank above the engine in the front.

An Italian AS42
An AS42 without its spare wheel and with the Solothurn Anti-Tank rifle mount. Source: pinterest.com

Armament

The large volume in the open central position allowed the mounting of considerably heavy armament. Depending on the weapon, a different pedestal was situated in the middle of this open central position, which, with different attachments points, could mount one of several weapons, including a rapid-fire anti-aircraft/anti-tank Breda 20/65 Mod. 1935 gun, an anti-tank/infantry 47/32 Mod. 1935 support gun or a Solothurn S18-1000 20 mm anti-tank rifle, called Carabina “S” by the Italian soldiers.

Italian desert armored car world war 2
Blueprints showing the various optional mounts for the main weapons on the AS42. The first is armed with a Breda 20/65 cannon on the Mod. 1935 mount, the second is the 47/32 cannon Mod. 1935 and the third the Solothurn S18-1000. The last picture shows the floor of the combat chamber with the central pedestal. Source: blueprint.com

Secondary armament consisted of Breda 38 or Breda 37 8×59 mm machine guns. Depending on the mission, one to three of these weapons could be mounted on supports positioned to the right of the driver and on the left and right sides of the rear part of the fighting compartment.

On several Camionettas, the secondary armament consisted of captured British Vickers K machine guns. These were famously used on LRDG vehicles throughout the North African campaign.

All the mounts for the main and secondary armament could be rotated 360°.

AS42 “Sahariana”
AS42 “Sahariana” with license plate “R.E. 794B” armed with a Breda 20/65 Mod. 1935 and a Vickers K machine-gun. It does not have the water jerry cans on the left mudguard and the wheels are of the Pirelli “Raiflex” type. Several backpacks are also attached to the vehicle, probably used for the storage of machine gun ammo, personal objects and food. Sources: Pinterest.com

Ammunition was left inside its boxes scattered in the combat compartment due to a lack of ammunition racks. For this reason, the quantity of ammunition could vary from mission to mission. In addition to the driver’s seat, the crew members that handled the weapons on board were seated on folding seats on either side of the fighting compartment (two on the right and one on the left). In some cases, the crew consisted of five or six members crammed into the little vehicle.

Italian armored car WW2 Solothurn
An AS42’s crew takes a break in the desert. Here, the tarpaulin was fixed on the side, over the jerry cans, so as not to hinder the opening and closing of the engine access ports. The front machine gun was a Breda 38 and the rear one was a Breda 37. The water jerry cans on the mudguard have a white cross on the side. Another jerry can is positioned on top of the mudguard. On the lower row of jerry cans, one has a white cross (behind the Ardito’s head) and one has black cross, probably containing engine oil or water for the cooling system. The engine compartment was open, probably to get better engine cooling in the desert heat. The Solothurn S18/1000’s barrel was supported on the windshield that lacked the rear-view mirrors. Source: pinterest.com

The Sahariana in action

From September to November 1942, the first batch of 140 vehicles was delivered to the Royal Army. This delay was caused by a bombing of the SPA-Viberti factory in Turin during the previous weeks which destroyed several AS-42s.

The “Saharianas” that arrived in North Africa were used for raids in the desert, as originally planned. Its low profile allowed it to hide behind the dunes and wait for the enemy’s arrival without being seen. Its great range allowed it to pursue enemy forces for long periods and to fight LRDG teams effectively. Entering service in December 1942, the AS42 participated in the final stages of the Libyan Campaign and the entire Tunisian campaign. They were mainly assigned to the Auto-Avio-Saharan Battalions (Italian-specific battalions meant for close cooperation between aircraft and land vehicles of the army) and to the 103° Battaglione and Raggruppamento Sahariano. These last ones were divided in five Companies located in different positions. The 1st Company was in Marada, the 2nd in Murzuk, the 3rd in Sebha and in Hon (or Hun), while the 4th and 5th faced the LRDG in the Siwa Oasis and groups of French raiders commanded by Philippe Leclerc stationed in Chad.

They had a claimed kill ratio of 1:5, capturing dozens of British armed or transport vehicles. In 1943, LRDG command issued an order to attack only if there were no high numbers of Camionetta AS42 in the area. This meant the British needed aerial reconnaissance before attacking, which lowered the effectiveness of the LRDG. During the Tunisian Campaign, all the vehicles of the Auto-Avio-Saharan Battalions and 103° Battaglione Sahariano were lost in action along with the majority of the Arditi. The Arditi were an elite unit of the Royal Italian Army entrusted with the AS42. They fought bravely against the Allied troops that had surrounded them.

Willys Jeep WW2
An LRDG Willys Jeep captured by some Arditi that are replacing a wheel. A Camionetta AS-42, possibly “RE 794B”, is in the background. The AS42 is lacking the two water cans on the left fender and has a Vickers K mounted at the front. Source: pinterest.com

On April 26, 1942, the 10° Reggimento Arditi (10th Arditi Regiment) was established, divided into three Companies. Its troops were composed of soldiers trained for the special forces of the Royal Italian Army, such as sappers, paratroopers and swimmers. They were moved into this regiment for distinguishing themselves as excellent drivers.

The three Companies were equipped with 24 Camionette AS42 each (for a total of 72 vehicles), each divided into four patrol groups with 2 officers and 18 or more soldiers armed with Carcano Mod. 91 T.S. rifles or MAB 38A submachine guns, Beretta M1934 pistols and a dagger.

Italian armored car
Probably the AS42 “R.E. 794 B” filmed in a propaganda film of Studio LUCE on 3 April 1943. This AS has the Vickers K machine gun (distinguishable behind the 20 mm Breda barrel due to the characteristic “handle” of its magazine), lacks the two frontal water jerry cans, has a green jerry can behind the backpacks on the side, the Pirelli “Raiflex” type tires and a small Italian flag ot the front of the vehicle. Source: YouTube

After April 1943, all the Companies were active in Sicily for anti-paratrooper patrols. Between July 13th and 14th, the 2nd Company repulsed an attack by British paratroopers. On the night of July 14th, at Primosole, six Camionette fought at the Primosole Bridge over the Simeto River. The Arditi soldiers fired on their adversaries with personal weapons without using the weapons onboard due to poor visibility. Four AS42 were destroyed by mortar shells, but the 32 Arditi survivors fought along with a group of German paratroopers for another eight days. On August 13th, the surviving Camionette and their crews were moved to the Italian peninsula and taken to Santa Severa (their Headquarters) located near Rome to reorganize the Companies, replacing the fallen Arditi and destroyed vehicles.

On 8th September, the day of the armistice, the Companies were not involved in the action, but the various groups chose their fate independently. The 1st Battalion joined the Allies and was renamed as the 9° Reparto d’Assalto. The 2nd Battalion joined the new Salò Republic founded by Benito Mussolini in northern Italy on 23rd September without vehicles, ending in the Division “San Marco”, fighting the rest of the war without vehicles as assault infantry.

AB41 armored cars
A Camionetta AS42 ‘Metropolitana’ without jerry cans, armed with a 47/32 Mod. 1935 gun and a Breda Mod. 1937 in Rome during a stop in the days after the armistice. Behind it, two AB41 armored cars wait to get into action against the Germans. Source: Wikipedia.it

After intense fighting against German troops in Rome between 8th and 10th September, the vehicles that were captured by the Italian Fascists and Germans went to equip an entire Company of Arditi that decided to join the Germans. This would be the “Gruppo Italiano Arditi Camionettisti” (Eng. Italian Arditi Camionette Driver Group) that served in the 2. Fallschirmjäger Division “Ramcke”. This unit fought on the Eastern Front from October 1943 until the summer of 1944 against the Red Army. The Camionette, meant for the Saharan desert, ended up fighting in the Russian frozen steppes, where temperatures reached -25° C. Of the other Battalions of the 10th Arditi, not much is known. They probably broke-up and each soldier or small group decided for themselves what they would do. Some joined the partisan resistance, others joined the Republic of Salò, others went to the co-belligerent Italian Army and others fled home to their families.

Italian soldiers Eastern Front
Italian soldiers (with German uniforms) on AS42 “Metropolitana” “1197B” of the 2. Fallschirmjäger Division, armed with a Breda 20/65 Mod. 1935 in the Ukrainian steppes during winter. Source: Pinterest.com

The company that fought with the “Ramcke” Division then retreated to Romania and finally to Germany in the spring of 1944. In June 1944, the Arditi were sent to Normandy to fight the Allies that had just disembarked. There, a group was captured by the Americans during the battle and the surrender of Brest, while other Arditi with their surviving AS42 fought in Belgium and Holland. They faced British soldiers in Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. After all these events, in the autumn of 1944, the survivors returned with their last AS42s to Italy and fought for the Salò Republic in the Republican National Army (Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano – ENR).

Italian armored car WW2
The same AS42 “Metropolitana” “1197B” the autumn before with the crew in Arditi uniform. Source: awp101.wordpress.com

The Italian Police in Africa (Polizia dell’Africa Italiana – PAI), an Italian police corp used for the security of the Italian colonies, received some AS42 that were used for patrolling and security tasks in the Italian cities in 1943, after the loss of all the Italian colonies. After the fall of the Royal Italian Army, the PAI was equipped with 15 AS42 of different versions coming from the Battaglione D’assalto Motorizzato of the Royal Italian Army. The PAI was then tasked with public safety duties. On 23 March 1943, some of these AS42 trucks, with elements of the “Barbarigo” Battalion of the XªFlottilla MAS, were involved in patrols after the partisan attack on Via Rasella in the center of Rome. On June 4, 1944, during the defense of Rome, one of the PAI’s Camionette, armed with Breda 20/65 Mod. 1935, accidentally came across an M4 Sherman on the Via Nazionale and was hit by a 75 mm shell that pierced the front on the Camionetta, destroying the front and the spare wheel of this vehicle.

 XªFlottilla's “Barbarigo” battalion
AS42 “Metropolitane” belonging to the PAI with soldiers of the XªFlottilla’s “Barbarigo” battalion. The first AS is armed with a Breda 20 mm and two Breda 37. Both had an identification plate on the frontal jerry can rack with the “PAI” registration number instead of the Royal Army plate on the hull. The second AS was used as a command vehicle. It has the rear support for the tarpaulin raised up and is armed with three Breda 37. Barbarigo soldiers and PAI members are looking up at the windows of the houses to check that there were no partisans. The picture was taken immediately after the attack on Via Rasella. Source: Wikipedia.it

After the Allied capture of the Italian capital, the PAI handed over all its equipment to the State Police. Among the vehicles surrendered were 12 Camionette of the Metropolitana and Sahariana versions (with “Artiglio” and “Libia” tires).

destoryed armored car
AS42 ‘Metropolitana’ destroyed by a Sherman in Via Nazionale. Source: nevingtonwarmuseum.com

Another Italian corps that used the AS42 was the Battaglione “Barbarigo” of the Xª Flottiglia MAS, which had about twenty AS42 “Metropolitane” and AS43 taken directly from the factories. They were used in the Nettuno area against the American and Canadian forces which tried to break through the Italian lines, inflicting heavy losses.

A pair of AS42 type “Metropolitane” were built in Turin factories starting on April 25 1945 in order to defend the factories and their assembly lines from German sabotage. These Camionette can be distinguished from the others by some steel plates on the sides and on the back of the fighting compartment, about one meter in height, behind which the partisans used their weapons while being protected from enemy fire. One of these vehicles participated in the partisan parade on May 6 1945 along with another “Metropolitana” without any of these changes that was used as a command vehicle and then disarmed.

Post-war use

Seven AS42s that survived the war, were used by Italian Police departments and repainted in amaranth red (Italian post-war police color). They were employed, after several modifications, including the removal of the anti-tank guns, the pioneer tools and jerry cans, by different departments of the Italian State Police in Udine and Bologna until 1954. Some were put into service in the XI Reparto Mobile (Moving Department) in Emilia Romagna until 1954. These cars were supported by: AB41, AB43 and Lancia Lince armored cars. An unknown number of AS42s were produced for the police after the war and were delivered in January 1946.

Italian police 1945
Rome October 12th 1954, AS42 “Metropolitana” of the 20° Reparto Mobile. Source: warwheels.com
Italian Police armored car parade
AS42 of the italian Police in different parades, all armed with 20 mm Breda and 2 Breda 37 machine guns and without jerry cans. Source: warwheels.com

Camouflage

All the Camionette used in the North African campaign were painted in the traditional sand yellow or Saharan khaki colors. Those produced for use in the European theater and those of the PAI were painted with reddish-brown and dark green spots on the Saharan khaki. Those of the “Ramcke” division had the continental camouflage but, in winter and in Russia, these Camionette were covered with white lime applied with brushes to cover the continental camouflage. Later, in the summer, this was scraped away to return them to the original three-tone colors.

Variant – The Fiat SPA AS42 “Metropolitana”

A second model, called ‘Sahariana II’ or ‘Tipo II’, more commonly, ‘Metropolitana’, entered service in Italy in 1943. It differed from the first model by the absence of the two upper rows of petrol tanks, replaced by two large boxes that held ammunition. With the remaining 14 jerry cans (4 for water and 10 for fuel), the maximum range went down to about 1,300 km. These jerry cans were almost never carried because such long ranges were not needed on the continent and the danger posed by transporting so much fuel during urban fighting.

The two perforated plates for unditching the vehicle were also removed, as they were now useless. However, the four pins that fixed them in place were retained. Two large boxes for tools were added on the upper part of the two rear mudguards. Furthermore, this version was equipped with new 11.5×24″ Pirelli “Artiglio”, “Sigillo Verde” and “Raiflex” type tires adapted to the continental terrain and temperate climate. The “Metropolitane” version seems to have not been armed with Solothurn S18/1000 anti-tank rifles. These Camionette were only armed with the 47 mm anti-tank guns and Breda 20 mm rapid-fire cannons.

AS42 ”Metropolitana”
One of the first AS42 ”Metropolitana” vehicles built with Pirelli “Artiglio a Sezione Maggiorata” tires. Notice the machine gun mount on the right side, the absence of the tarpaulin, new bigger toolboxes and the absence of jerry cans in the racks, no longer supplied by the factory. Source: wikipedia.it

Conclusion

The AS42 ‘Sahariana’ was designed for the transport of men and material during desert incursions. Its low profile allowed it to hide behind the dunes and ambush the enemy and its great range allowed units to chase the opposing troops for long distances. Unfortunately, it was introduced into service in the African Campaign too late and in too small numbers. It was a successful vehicle and saw significant use in both the Sahariana and Metropolitana versions. It fought in Africa, Italy, France and on the Eastern Front with good results and was used by the Italian Police after the war.

AS.42
AS42 “Sahariana” armed with the 20/65 Breda Mod. 1935

AS42 “Metropolitana” armed with the 20/65 Breda Mod. 1935 and a Bred Mod. 1937 machine gun with the usual italian continental camouflage

Dimensions 5.62 x 2.26 x 1.80 m (18.43 x 7.41 x 5.90 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 6.5 tons (14330 lbs)
Crew from 4 to 6 (depending on the main armament)
Propulsion FIAT-SPA ABM 2, 6 cyl, 88 hp with 145 l fuel tank and 400 l in the 20 l Jerry cans (or 200l in the “Metropolitana” version)
Top speed ​​on road 84 km/h (52 mp/h), off road 50km/h (30 mp/h)
Range (road) 535 km (332 miles) (2000 km with 20 Jerry cans and 1300 km with 10 Jerry cans)
Armament Breda 20/65 Mod.1935 autocannon, 47/32 Mod. 1935 cannon or Solothurn S18/1000 20 mm anti-tank rifle
From one to three Breda 37 or 38 8×59 mm machine-guns
Armor 17 mm front and sides (0.66 in), 5 mm engine compartment and floor (0.19 in). The windshield glass was 12 mm thick (0.47 in)
Total production 140 AS42 “Sahariana” and about 50 “Metropolitana”

Sources

Categories
WW2 Italian Armored Cars

Autoprotetto S.37

ww2 Italian Tanks Kingdom of Italy (1941-1943) APC – ~200 built


Brand new Autoprotetto S.37 bearing registration number ‘RE 132468’. Source: Italie35-45.com

Original prototype of the A.S.37 showing the alternative position for carrying a spare tyre.
The A.S.37 started life in January 1941 with the acknowledgement by General Roatta (Deputy Chief of Staff for the Italian Army) of the need for an armored personnel carrier/light armored car for the Italian Army. A single-vehicle of the turreted armored car version of the Autoprotetto S.37 (A.S.37), also known as the Autoblindo T.L.37, was made. It was sent to North Africa for trials and the focus was switched to the evaluation of an armored personnel carrier variant of the vehicle instead.
Based on the T.L. 37 artillery tractor made by Fiat SPA, this vehicle is also sometimes referred to as the T.L.37 Protetto. In a memo dated 24th May 1941, 200 examples of the ‘trattore L.37’ based armored cars were ordered, as it showed more promise than other designs which were considered at the time to be too big. These other contemporary designs were studies on the same T.L.37 chassis, the Dovunque 33 and 35 trucks, half-tracked armored personnel carriers, and two fully tracked ones, contemplated to be along the lines of the British Universal Carrier.

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

Blueprint outline of the A.S.37 showing original means of lowering the rear spare tyre.
Unlike many other Italian projects, the development was very quick and went through relatively minor modifications. The blueprints from 2nd April 1941 provide some insight into the development process showing the rear door as a 2 piece design with the bottom half folding down. The spare tire position was attached to this rear lower door half, but it is noted to weigh 145 kg, which is presumably the reason why it was moved, as the door would be impossible to close from the inside. Closer analysis shows the fuel tanks were in front of the rear wheels under the top of the benches. These would later be moved, as would the radio mounting points.
Overall development of the A.S.37 was rapid and a prototype was ready in just 4 months and delivered to the Centro Studi Motorizzazione (CSM) in May 1941. The rapid development, however, met with very slow acceptance and the design was not standardized for production until 4th of February 1942. Despite this, the vehicle had actually been good enough to have received orders for 200 vehicles in the summer of 1941- early in its evaluation – although, by that acceptance time, production had only managed to produce 6 complete vehicles. Eleven more vehicles would be delivered by the end of February 1942 bringing the total to 16, plus the original prototype.

Original prototype A.S.37 with the spare tire mounted on the side by the driver. An additional spare tire can be carried in the triangular mount of the small front roof section or the mounts could be used interchangeably.
Vehicles accepted by the Italian Army received registration numbers ‘RE132452’ to ‘RE 132602’ (RE – Regio Esercito – Royal Army) which confusingly is only 150 vehicles, suggesting a modification to the 1941 order of 200 examples. Further confusing the numbers is the fact that each of the two armored divisions in the army were originally supposed to receive 90 vehicles each (for a total of 180 vehicles).

A.S.37 as standardized, showing the very distinctive oversized sand-tires and mounting a single Breda Mod. 1937 machine-gun

Layout and details

The overall design was simple because the vehicle on which it was based on required very little modification. The engine was at the front, allowing for a large boxy armored superstructure over the back with an open-top to provide protection for troops being carried. A very unusual split two-piece rear door provided access with the top half overlapping the lip of the bottom half of the door.

Rear view of A.S.37 registration ‘RE 132489’ showing the unusual split back door.
Power was provided by a modified version of the engine used in the TL37 tractor. Instead of a 52 hp (at 2000rpm) petrol engine, the Fiat Spa 18VT version 3 petrol engine had been modified with a new compression ratio (4.9 to 5.5) and now delivered 67 hp (at 2500rpm). The driver’s position had not changed from the tractor and he sat on the front right, approximately centrally between the wheels. Vision for the driver was provided by a single rectangular hatch with a protective visor that could be raised or lowered depending on the tactical position. No other seats were provided in the vehicle, as the front left space next to the driver was empty and the rear seating was accomplished by means of long flat horizontal benches fitted with full length cushioned seats running above the top of the wheel arches to the rear. In this way, the maximum staff and utility of the vehicle were maintained allowing it to be used not only for troops but also for stores and so forth. Up to eight soldiers could be accommodated on those two rear benches and the spare space under the rear of the benches held two (one per side) 100 liter petrol tanks with an additional 90 liter fuel tank under the floor at the back for a total of 290 liters which provided an exceptional range of operation of up to 725 km.

Cutaway of the S.37 showing the positions of the engine, driver and fuel tanks. Source: Italie 35-45.com

Protection

Armor was simply arranged and consisted of armored steel plates, flat and cut to size, bolted to a steel frame. Plate thickness ranged from 6 mm to 8.5 mm thick providing protection from small arms fire and shell splinters, although the lack of a roof left the soldiers vulnerable to shrapnel or fire from above. On the other hand, the lack of a roof provided a significant amount of cooling for the cabin, which otherwise, under desert conditions, would have become unbearable.
Protection only extended to the front, sides and rear. There was no mine protection, but the floor of the vehicle could be removed for maintenance purposes. The mounted infantry were not equipped with portholes from which they could fire, meaning they would either have to dismount to fight or stand above the protection of the side armor.

A.S.37 fitted with RF3M radio and with the antenna in the stowed position.

Operations

Despite being equipped and designed for use in hot desert conditions to support the war in North Africa, the A.S.37 was not deployed there, but instead found use in Yugoslavia, fighting partisans and for convoy escort duties. Vehicles were issued to the 31st Regiment (Siena), the 955th Sezione Autoprotetti with the 1118th Autosezione of the Macaerta Division, the 259th Autoreparto Autoprotetti of the 5th Autogrippo (Trento), the 1034th Sezione Autoprotetti of the 71st (LXXI) Battalion Motociclisti (6th Regiment Bersaglieri) and the 1034th Sezione Autoprotetti of the 11th Autoreparto Pesante (Albania).
Operations in Yugoslavia took their toll on the A.S.37’s with numerous losses but, by the end of April 1943, there were still 102 vehicles operational there with Italian forces. By the time of the Armistice in September 1943, this number was lower and many vehicles were used by Yugoslavian partisan forces as well as by the Germans, who recovered 37 vehicles. These vehicles in German hands kept doing the same job they had done for the Italians: internal security in an increasingly dangerous Yugoslavia.
In German service, the A.S.37 was renamed Gepanzerte Manntransportwagen S.37 250(i) (i = Italian) (Abbrev. gp.M.Trsp.Wg.S.37 250(i)) and saw service, not just against partisan forces, but also against the Soviets and Bulgarians at the end of the war. The A.S.37 was operated by the 7th SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs Division ‘Prinz-Eugen’ and also some Wehrmacht units.

Three A.S.37’s seen together in Yugoslavia belonging to the 259th Autoreparto Autoprotetti in 1943 fitted with roof shields and at least one machine-gun. Source: Pignato.

S37 with shields
Italian A.S.37 with additional protective shields added on the sides of the open compartment.

Autoprotetto_S37
A standard A.S.37 with the machine-gun facing forward.Illustrations by David Bocquelet, with some modifications by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker.

Extra armor

Fighting partisans, who liked to ambush and conduct hit and run combat in a mountainous country like Yugoslavia, meant that the troops carried by the A.S.37 were vulnerable from the lack of roof, and additionally vulnerable when having to fire from the back of the vehicle, exposing themselves to enemy fire. As a result, at least two types of up-armored modifications of which we have knowledge of were developed.

Extra cramped A.S.37 in Italian use Yugoslavia in 1943. The unit logo is that of a jumping Ibex. The circular motif is a manufacturer’s badge. Source: WarWheels.net

Another shielded A.S.37 in Italian use in Yugoslavia. The 9 men are well-armed, with at least two Breda Model 1930 machine-guns. Source: Italie 35-45.com
One solution to the lack of crew protection when fighting from the A.S.37 was the expedient of mounting four rectangular armored loophole plates on the back by bolting them to the superstructure, creating the look of castle wall battlements. These plates provided shelter for the soldier to hide behind whilst shooting and featured a shuttered hole through which they could fire through too. The exact position and number of shields mounted vary from vehicle to vehicle, however, as some may have been added by field workshops and other lost through damage.

A.S.37 fitted with fully superstructure additional armor on route to service in Yugoslavia
The second variant featured a much more cohesive superstructure lacking any ‘battlements’. Instead, this version used four large armored panels bolted completely around the top of the A.S.37 providing full coverage for the troops from both sides to above head height, whilst at the same time, retaining the open top of the vehicle. Large rectangular shuttered loopholes were provided in this top, with one positioned centrally on each face and one in each corner providing all-round coverage.

Both versions of up-armored A.S.37’s seen in Yugoslavia. The unusual rear door is apparent in the vehicles nearest to the camera. (Registration ‘RE 132558’). Source: Bundesarchiv 1011-203-1660-07A

Armament

On the original prototype, a single Breda Model 1938 8mm machine-gun was mounted to the rear right-hand corner but this was later standardized to a mounting point partway forwards of that on the right-hand side.

Side view of the prototype A.S.37 (left) and standardized vehicle (right) showing the relative positions of the machine-gun.

A.S.37 showing off the flamethrower somewhere in Yugoslavia
Another armament variation is that of the flamethrower version. Again, for combatting partisan activity in Yugoslavia, an unknown number of A.S.37’s were converted to carry a single flamethrower in the back and made use of two small rectangular shields on the rear superstructure, which are distinctive by the very wide unshuttered loopholes.

A.S.37 in Yugoslavia showing three shields added to the top as used in the flamethrower carrying versions.
A final variant of the armament carried by the A.S.37 seen in use by German forces mounted a single Italian 47 mm L.32 anti-tank gun in the open-topped body. No further details are known.

A.S.37 in German hands with Italian 47mm L.32 anti-tank gun mounted. Unit and date not known.

Radio variants

Due to the large amount of space available inside the vehicle, the vehicle found itself being converted in small numbers to a command and control variant fitted with the RF3M radio. The radio itself was mounted on the left wall of the inside, sat on the front of the left bench with the large heavy batteries down in the front left of the vehicle, which was available as there was no seat there., A simple chair was bolted to the floor centrally in the front though for the radio operator to sit on. The large antenna for the RF3M could fold down on a rotating mount fitted to the front left-hand side of the superstructure. A further variant of this command vehicle had a second radio set fitted. This version was the Centro Radio variant and also carried a RF1C short-range set. With the RF3M mounted on the front left, the RF1C was mounted on the front right behind the driver and the batteries for it under the driver.
The RF3M, depending on the model and the antenna used, had a range of 100 km and was considered a short-to-intermediate-range set. The RF1C was a tactical set for short-range communications to a range of about 12 km under ideal conditions. The two radio variants can be distinguished by the addition of a second antenna mounted on the opposite side to the first one.

A.S.37 mounting the RF3M (left) and RF1C as well (right)

Sources

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

FIAT S37 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.95 x 1.92 x 1.8 m (without additional armored superstructure)
2.13 m high with additional shields
Weight 4.78 tonnes to 5.3 tonnes, payload 770 kg at combat weight
Crew 1 + 8
Propulsion 4.053 liter 18VT version III 4 cylinder petrol engine producing 67 hp at 2500 rpm
Maximum speed (on-road) 52 km/h (road)
Operational range 725 km (450 mi)
Armament Single Breda Model 37 or 38 8 mm machine-gun
And/Or flamethrower
Or 47 mm L.32 anti-tank gun
Armor 6-8.5 mm steel
Categories
WW2 Italian Armored Cars

Lancia 1ZMs in Tianjin, China

ww1 Italy Kingdom of Italy (1932-43)

The tiny concession of Tianjin (written as Tien-Tsin or Tientsin in many period sources) in China was one of several small Italian possessions in the area and was run by Italy between 1901-1947. Italy had been granted the territorial concession in the Xinchou Treaty (also known as Boxer Protocol) on the 7th September 1901 by the Chinese Government following the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) and was occupied the following year. It was just 46 hectares (114 acres) and had a population of only a few thousand ethnic Chinese and under a thousand Italians and other foreign nationals. The shape was roughly rectangular with the southern border on the White River (Pei Ho) (the Italians sometimes had gunboats stationed there); Trieste Street on the west bordering the Austro-Hungarian concession; and Trento Street on the east bordering the Russian concession; Fiume Street formed the northern border and linked to the Beiping (Peking – modern-day Beijing) – Mukden (modern-day Shenyang) railway line through the city, very close to the East Station.

Map of Tianjin from 1912 showing (in green) the small Italian concession
The value of such a small concession is questionable, except that it served as a mark of international prestige for the Italian Empire and allowed the political legation to the Chinese Government to be properly protected.

Ermanno Carlotto Barracks. Sources: Public domain and Battaglione San Marco
In 1925, Italian leader Benito Mussolini created the 600 strong Battaglione Italiano in Cina (Italian Battalion in China) based in this concession. These new troops replaced the slightly more ad-hoc protection for the concession provided previously by the Regia Marina (RN). It was formed from soldiers of the San Marco, Libya, and San George Company’s who were housed in the Ermanno Carlotto Barracks (Italian: Caserma Ermanno Carlotto) named after a fallen Italian hero from the Boxer Rebellion. Along with these troops was a police force of Chinese police led by Italian officers. This constituted a very large military presence for such a small territory, and it was tasked with ensuring that the concession would not be able to be cut off from either Beiping or the sea.
Weapons at the concession around this time included at least two 76mm guns and a quantity of machine-guns, but no heavy weapons. There were continuing problems around the concession and incidents in the years following this (1926) lead to concerns over the safety of Italian citizens living there. To bolster defenses still further, four Ansaldo-Lancia 1ZM armored cars were sent to the concession in 1932 to help maintain law and order.

Four Series 3 1ZM’s on parade on 4th November 1932 in Tianjin. Two 76mm mountain guns are visible by the altar. Source: trentoincina.it

A close up of the 1ZM’s shows them fitted with 3 machine-guns. Source: trentoincina.it

Still from a newsreel of celebrations held in 1935 with a parade of equipment including the 1ZM’s. Source: Luce. This newsreel can be found at the end of this article.
By 1936 though, some troops were transferred away from the concession to Africa, leaving the force much reduced. The events of 1937 changed this situation when Japanese forces attacked the Chinese held part of the city of Tianjin and occupied it. This led once again to significant fears for the concession being attacked by either Chinese or Japanese troops, and consequently, a new delivery of soldiers – a battalion of the Grenadiers of Savoy (Granatieri di Savoia) – from Italy arriving in the concession. As things settled down by the end of 1938, most of these troops were once again withdrawn or relocated. By the end of the 1930s, the entire Italian military presence in China amounted to less than a 1000 men divided between Tianjin (~400), Shanghai (215), Shanhaiguan (25) and Beiping legation and radio station (15), along with an unknown number of naval personnel.

Some of the soldiers of the Granatieri di Savoia arriving by lighter to the riverside on 14th September 1937. Photo collection Karl Kengelbacher


The Lancia 1ZM. Illustration by David Bocquelet, modified by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker.

World War II

Italy entered World War Two on the side of the Axis in June 1940. Initially, this did not affect the concession of Tianjin significantly, as the now-enemy forces of Great Britain had abandoned its concessions in August 1940. Only in the middle of 1941, was the concession once again felt to be under threat, and as a result, and consequently, reinforcements were despatched.
Nonetheless, the concession, being surrounded by the Japanese with whom they were allied, was relatively calm, but the events of September 1943 changed everything. Italy had signed an armistice with the Allies and officially capitulated on the 7th, becoming a co-belligerent force fighting with the Allies against a mainly fascist loyalist force called the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI) and the German occupiers in what was effectively a civil war in Italy. What this meant for Tientsin, was that the former Japanese allies now became potential enemies. The Italian troops stationed in China were given specific orders not to cause any trouble or engage with the Japanese forces and to scuttle any ships which would otherwise not be able to reach an Allied controlled port. Thus, the Lepanto, the Carlotto, and the Conte Verde were scuttled in Shanghai.

Unusual overhead view of the four Lancia 1ZM’s lined up in the concession.
Despite efforts not to aggravate the Japanese, the position in Shanghai changed on 9th and 10th September 1943, when the troops stationed there were seized by the Japanese. Those who chose to collaborate were put to hard labor, with the remainder of the men being sent to POW camps along with other Allied soldiers. The troops stationed at Beiping radio station, despite orders not to resist, fought against the Japanese until they could destroy the station and all documentation which might help the new adversary. The tiny force of just 100 sailors and soldiers led by Captain Baldassare held-off over 1,000 Japanese soldiers and some light tanks until surrendering on the 10th. They received very harsh treatment from the Japanese for their defiance, but given the equally harsh treatment given to some troops who ‘stayed loyal’ to the Axis, perhaps it did not matter anyway.
In Tianjin, the situation was equally confusing. The troops in China had no knowledge about the armistice of the 7th September and thus had no time to prepare. The senior officer commanding Italian forces in Tianjin at the time was the Captain of the Frigate Carlo dell’Acqua, who had at his disposal about 600 men, 300 rifles, some pistols, and about 50 machine-guns of various types. Four 76 mm guns made up the most powerful weapon in their arsenal along with the four ancient Ansaldo-Lancia 1ZM armored cars fitted with the Fiat Model 1924 6.5 mm machine-gun, and some unarmored motor vehicles. With plenty of ammunition and food for a week, he was going to have to face down the Japanese.
The Japanese under Lt. Col. Tanaka had over 6,000 men with numerous light armored vehicles and reportedly some tanks, as well as two gunboats. The Japanese provided an ultimatum to the Italian defenders to surrender, but this was rejected resulting in the Japanese firing some light artillery to attempt to intimidate the defenders. The Italian loyalty was fractured, with about a third of the troops wishing to remain loyal to the fascist regime but the rest not. Surrounded, outnumbered, and facing annihilation by the Japanese, the contingent surrendered. To have resisted would have been futile as it would have resulted in a lot of damage to the area and deaths of civilians for no purpose. The troops who surrendered elsewhere were often treated very badly by the Japanese by either being sent to POW camps or forced to carry out hard labor, so there was no good option available for the soldiers.
Having surrendered, their weapons and armored cars would have therefore fallen into Japanese hands, as at this time there was little time to destroy the equipment. No pictures are known to show the Japanese using these vehicles, although it is possible they would have been reused within the city for policing. No trace of them survives, so they were most likely scrapped then or subsequently.
Therefore, by 10th September the Japanese had completely occupied the Italian concession of Tianjin. Shortly afterward, the RSI chose to officially cede the concession over to the Chinese puppet state of Wang Jingwei. That Japanese puppet state would eventually fall to the forces of Chiang Kai-Shek. All rights to Tianjin were formally ceded by Italy on 10th February 1947 by the government of the Republic of Italy to the government of the Republic of China. Those Italian troops who survived the treatment of the Japanese finally returned to Italy in 1946.

Sources

Automitragliatrici Blindate E Motomitragliatrici nella grande guerra, Nicola Pignato
Cronologia.leonardo.it
Marina.difesa.it
Italy’s Encounters with Modern China: Imperial Dreams, Strategic Ambition: ‘The Italian presence in China: Historical trends and perspectives 1902-1947, Guido Samarani
From the Bulletin of the Historical Office of the Navy March-June 1989, (written in 1933 by the Ten. Fanteria Amleto Menghi), San Marco
Italian Armed Forces in China 1937-1943
Self-portrait in a convex mirror: Colonial Italy reflects on Tianjin, Maurizio Marinelli
Making concessions in Tianjin: heterotopia and Italian colonialism in mainland China, Maurizio Marinelli
Italian Surface Units in Far East 1940-1943, Alberto Rosselli at www.icsm.it

Categories
WW2 Italian Armored Cars

Lancia 3Ro Blindato

Italian Social Republic (1944-45) Armored Truck – 2 Built

After the Italian Armistice was signed on 8th September 1943, Benito Mussolini created, on 23rd September, the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana – RSI). In Northern and Central Italy, which was controlled by the Axis, German and Italian troops had about 1,000 trucks in service, quite few considering that the National Republican Army (Esercito Nazionale Repubblicana – ENR) and the Wehrmacht counted about 600,000 soldiers. On 26th June 1944, Mussolini approved the legislative decree no. 446, which had been proposed by Alessandro Pavolini, the secretary of the Republican Fascist Party (Partito Fascista Repubblicano – PFR). This order constituted the Auxiliary Corps of the Action Squads of the Black Shirts, simpler known as the ‘Black Shirts’ or ‘Black Brigades’ under the control of the National Republican Guard (Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana – GNR), the fascist Military Police. The Brigades had the task of fighting in the second line against the partisan groups that carried out sabotage and ambush missions against the Axis mechanized columns. Only two Black Brigades out of 56 received factory-built armored vehicles, while the other brigades were equipped with trucks (military or civil) that they used as transport vehicles or that they armored themselves or in civil workshops.
Idreno Utimpergher, trusted man of Pavolini, was the commander of the XXVI° Black Brigade “Benito Mussolini”, located first in Lucca but, after an Allied offensive, moved to Piacenza in Emilia Romagna. It was composed of over 200 men and was later renamed the XXXVI° Black Brigade “Natale Piacentini”, after the first soldier from the unit that died in action against the partisans. On the order of Idreno, they armored the only working truck of the Brigade (they also had a Fiat 1500) to better engage the partisans, a Lancia 3Ro heavy truck. The transformation of the Lancia 3Ro was ready after a month of work, from September to October 1944. A Viberti Mod. Bianchi trailer, normally used to transport tanks, was also armored with salvaged plates. It could be towed behind the armored truck and used as a troop transport.
The armored car was built by the Arsenal of Piacenza, along with another identical one which was used by the XXVIII° Brigata Nera “Pippo Astorri”, but the destiny of this second vehicle is unknown. In the Arsenal of Piacenza workshop, two other vehicles were armored, a Ceirano CM 47 and a Fiat 666N that was totally armored and received a turret with a Breda-SAFAT 12.7 mm aerial machine gun, used by the 630° Provincial Command of the GNR.

The front of the Lancia 3Ro Blindato in Dongo, on 25th of April 1945. Note the armament of the vehicle, with a machine-gun in the front, one on the side (there was another one on the other side), and a cannon in the turret. Also, note the Bianchi trailer at the rear. Source: City of Dongo archive

The Lancia 3Ro

The 3Ro Lancia truck was produced from 1938 to 1949 for both civil and military use by the Lancia Veicoli Industriali company in Milan. The vehicle proved to be robust and reliable, being used on all the war fronts the Italian army was engaged on, with about 10,000 vehicles built.
It was developed from the slower Lancia Ro, for use both in the colonies and in Italy proper. It had a weight of 5610 kg and a cargo bay of 7.49 m x 2.35 m.
In the basic Italian Army version, the Lancia 3Ro could carry 32 fully equipped soldiers or 6390 kg of materials or ammunition. Most versions were built for the Army. Other variants included tanker versions for fuel (5000 liters) or for water (one tank of 5000 liters or two of 2000) modified by the Viberti company of Turin,  the mobile workshop Mod. 38, an ammunition transporter with 210 90 mm rounds and a command post. Tank transporter variants could carry almost all the tanks of the Italian Royal Army, which could be carried on the cargo bay (L3, L6/40 or Semovente L. 40 da 47/32) or on a Viberti Mod. Bianchi trailer (“M” tank family and all the Semovente). In all versions, this heavy truck was equipped with a Lancia Type 102 diesel engine with 5 cylinders in line giving 96 hp. Its top speed on the road was 45 km/h and its range, with the 135-liter tank of the basic version, was 450 km.

Design

The vehicle was dubbed “the last armored car of the Duce”. All the truck’s automotive components were unchanged, including the engine, gears, and transmission. The rear wheels received armor plates, and the radiator had two inclined plates with slits to allow the engine to cool. For the maintenance of the engine, there were two doors on the sides of the cabin, above the front fenders and headlights.
The vehicle received armor 9 mm thick on all sides and a cylindrical single-seater turret that could rotate 360°, which was also fitted with 9 mm thick armor. The vehicle was equipped with three entrances: two doors on the sides and a large rear door at the back that provided access for some of the crew and for the 8 men that could be transported inside the vehicle.
On the sides of the vehicle there was painted the writing “XXXVI° BRIGATA NERA NATALE PIACENTINI LUCCA” and on the doors of the cabin were painted two lions, the symbol of the Lucca city.

Armament

The vehicle was armed with three 8×59 mm machine guns (two Breda 38 and a Breda 37) and a Scotti-Isotta Fraschini 20/70 Mod. 1939 anti-aircraft/anti-tank light automatic cannon. The Breda 37 was mounted on a spherical support on the front plate, on the driver’s left; two Breda 38 machine-guns were also mounted on spherical supports located on the two sides of the vehicle. In the turret was fixed the Scotti-Isotta Fraschini 20/70 Mod. 1939 automatic cannon. The elevation of the gun was very high to allow the use of the gun against aerial targets. The number of cannon and machine guns rounds transported was unknown.

Crew

There were seven crew members. Three were sat in the cabin on seats, namely the driver, the commander/machine gunner, and the machine-gun loader that had an ammunition rack for the 20 round magazines. There were also two side machine-gunners in the body of the vehicle with a gunner in the turret and the loader. Two wooden benches on the sides of the hull seated eight fully armed and equipped soldiers (with the two machine-gunners and the loader). In addition, on the sides were wooden racks of ammunition and two fire extinguishers.

The Lancia 3Ro Blindato being inspected by some civilians in Dongo, 25th April 1945. Note the Viberti Mod. Bianchi trailer. Source: City of Dongo archive


Illustration of the Lancia 3Ro Blindato produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.


Operational Use

The vehicle was used from October 1944 up to the first months of 1945 as an anti-partisan patrol armored car. It saw action on 30th December 1944 against a partisan patrol. Between mid-February and early March, the XXXVI° “Natale Piacentini” Black Brigade was moved from Piacenza to Pinerolo in Piedmont. Around 23rd April, the brigade received an order to reach Valtellina in Lombardy.
On the 24th, the “Natale Piacentini”, now armed with this armored vehicle and a Fiat 626 truck armed with a Breda 20/65 Mod. 1935 automatic cannon in the cargo bay, had to escort a column of trucks carrying other Black Brigades towards Milan. At Vercelli, they found themselves involved in a shootout with a partisan brigade; for this reason, the surviving vehicles of the column arrived in Milan in the late afternoon. They were the last fascist vehicles arriving in the city before the insurrection of the following day.
On the morning of April 25, the partisans attacked the major cities of northern Italy still in the hands of the Germans and the fascists. At first, the XXXVI° Brigade was chosen to defend the city, but then it was realized that, thanks to its armored car, the Brigade would have been more useful to escort the Duce, Benito Mussolini, to safety in Switzerland.
On 26th April, the XXXVI° joined a convoy of Republican forces (178 trucks, 4636 soldiers and 346 female auxiliaries) that was moving to Como, where they arrived after lunch. From Como, the brigade and the Lancia 3Ro Blindato moved to Menaggio to escort Benito Mussolini to Merano. During the night of the 26th to 27th April, a column of German Flak vehicles arrived in Menaggio, which, along with the Italian vehicles, resumed the march to Merano with the Lancia at the head of the column. Mussolini, Mrs. Clara Petacci, Alessandro Pavolini and other members of the fascist party were part of the column, transported inside this armored car, along with many documents of the fascist government and Mussolini’s personal baggage.

The Lancia 3Ro Blindato in Dongo, the village where Mussolini was captured by the partisans in April 1945. It is unknown when this photo was taken. Source: web photo
On the morning of the 27th, in Musso, the convoy, led by the Lancia 3Ro Blindato, with all the fascist leaders inside, was stopped on the highway that runs along Lake Como at a checkpoint of the 52nd Garibaldi Partisan Brigade “Luigi Clerici”. The partisans only allowed the German trucks and FlaK cannons to continue, so Mussolini, dressed as a German soldier, got into a German Opel Blitz which turned onto the road to Merano.
The remaining vehicles, with which the Lancia armored car remained, were moving back when, for unknown reasons, there was a clash. The vehicle fired several machine-gun bursts against the partisans, who responded with rifle fire and several hand grenades. One of these hit the vehicle, damaging one of the two front wheels, immobilizing it while it was trying to retreat. The fascist dignitaries then came out of the vehicle with weapons in hand. During this incident, the driver, Guido Taiti, and vehicle commander Merano Chiavacci were killed, while Pavolini was wounded. Pavolini, along with Idreno Utimpergher and Paolo Zerbino, were captured.
The vehicle was then captured by the partisans and taken to Milan to a foundry, where it was fixed up and placed in the village of Dongo for many years as a symbol of the victory against fascism and in the 60s it was probably demolished.

Conclusions

The vehicle was developed due to the lack of other armored vehicles in Northern Italy. Due to its poor armor, like the SPA-Viberti AS43 built in Turin for the same role, it was not meant to fight against similar vehicles, such as the British Humber armored cars or the American M8 Greyhound; its tasks were patrolling and anti-guerrilla warfare, which it carried out well. This article covered the vehicle used by the XXXVI° Black Brigade “Natale Piacentini” but there were other such vehicles built on the same Lancia 3Ro hull, but produced by other workshops and armed with different armament, such as Breda 20/65 Mod. 1935 automatic cannons, for the XXVIII° “Pippo Astorri” or Solothurn S-1000 anti-tank rifles mounted on a Lancia modified like the Carro protetto trasporto truppa su autotelaio FIAT 626. Some Lancia 3Ro were used to transport troops with armor only on the sides and on the front, like on the Fiat 665 NM Blindato.

A Lancia 3Ro truck with armor in the rear cargo bay, used as a troop transport. Source: Beutepanzer.ru

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.25 x 2.35 x approx. 4 meters
Total weight, battle ready 8 tonnes
Crew 7 + 8 (driver, vehicle commander/machine gunner, 2x gunners, 2x loaders + 8 passengers).
Propulsion Lancia Type 102 diesel, 5 cylinder
Speed 40 km/h
Range 400 km (250 mi)
Armament Scotti-Isotta Fraschini 20/70 Mod. 1939
Three 8×59 mm machine guns (two Breda 38 and one Breda 37)
Armor Aprx. 9 mm
Total production 1 – 5

Sources

Italia 43-45. I blindati di circostanza della guerra civile. Tank master special.
Ricciotti Lazzero “Le Brigate Nere”
“Gli Ultimi in Grigio Verde” di Giorgio Pisanò
Nico Scarlato, I corazzati Di Circostanza Italiani.