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WW2 Italian APC Prototypes

FIAT 665NM Blindato con Riparo Ruote

Kingdom of Italy (1943)
Armored Personnel Carrier – Paper project

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

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