Cold War Spanish Prototypes

Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería VBRC-1E General Monasterio

Spanish State (Early 1960s)
Tracked Reconnaissance Vehicle – Paper Project

Spanish military authorities have always strived to create military designs for the local production of armored fighting vehicles. Often, financial instability or political turmoil have prevented this from happening, as was the case with the Vehículo Blindado de Combate de Infantería VBCI-E General Yagüe and the Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería VBRC-1E General Monasterio. The VBRC-1E would have been quite unlike any other Spanish vehicle before or since.

Context – A Country in Ruins, Economic Disaster, and Political Isolation

With his side’s victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), General Franco went on to rule Spain with an iron fist for three and a half decades. The conflict had devastated the country, destroying agricultural production and the already limited industrial capacity. The human cost had been immense, and mass famine and political persecution in the post-war years further diminished the population and the prospects of the people.

For its open support of the Axis powers during part of the Second World War, Spain was isolated by the Allied powers and was excluded from the Marshall Plan and the United Nations. The Spanish State imposed a policy of economic autarky with disastrous effects.

However, the new geopolitical situation created by the Cold War was to change Spain’s destiny. Given the country’s strategic location at the mouth of the Mediterranean and Franco’s vehement anti-Communism, the US saw Spain as a new key ally. In 1953, this new relationship was cemented in the Madrid Pact. The economic policy of autarky was abandoned in the late 1950s, as widespread change was adopted, and technocrats were given positions of power.

The Military Context at Home

Throughout Franco’s dictatorship, the military held great influence and power. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Spain maintained a large if badly equipped army. Many of its armored vehicles were of pre-Second World War vintage. In 1942, there were 144 Panzer Is and CV33/35s and 139 T-26s, in addition to around 150 armored cars, including Soviet BA-6s and former Republican Blindados tipo ZIS and Blindados modelo B.C.. In 1943, Spain’s partner, Germany, had supplied 20 Panzer IV Ausf.H medium tanks and 10 Stug III Ausf.G assault guns alongside aircraft, ammunition, artillery, and replacement parts.

Since 1932, Spanish cavalry units had been equipped with armored vehicles. Twelve Bilbao Modelo 1932s were assigned to the Grupo de Autoametralladoras Cañón [Eng. Cannon-Armed Self-Propelled Machine Gun Vehicle Group], a cavalry unit.
During the Spanish Civil War, the victorious rebel side aggregated its captured Soviet BA-6s and Republican Blindados tipo ZIS and Blindados modelo B.C. into the Escuadrones de Autoametralladoras-cañón [Eng. Cannon-Armed Self-Propelled Machine Gun Vehicle Squadrons] in the south of the country.

A group of Blindados tipo ZIS during a military parade in post-Spanish Civil War Spain – source: Defensa

Of these three types of armored cars, approximately 150 survived the war and they continued to serve the role of reconnaissance vehicles in cavalry regiments afterwards. But, as the years passed, they became increasingly outdated and their numbers dwindled as spare parts became sparse. This was a general occurrence for the Spanish armored arsenal in the 1940s. However, geopolitics would step in to help Spain modernize.

Spain successfully managed to overhaul its armed forces with the large influx of US vehicles that had arrived as a result of the Madrid Pact and other agreements. Between 1953 and 1970, Spain received: 31 M24 Chaffees, 42 M4 High-Speed Tractors, 84 M5 High-Speed Tractors, 24 M74 Armored Recovery Vehicles, over 166 M-series half-tracks, 411 M47s, 12 M44s, 28 M37s, 72 M41 Walker Bulldogs, 6 M52s, 16 LVT-4s, 54 M48s, 171 M113-based vehicles, 5 M56s, and 18 M578s.

US vehicles acquired by Spain between 1953 and 1971
Model Type Number
M24 Chaffee Light tank 31
M4 High-Speed Tractor Artillery tractor 42
M5 High-Speed Tractor Artillery tractor 84
M74 Armored Recovery Vehicle 24
M-series Half-Tracks Half-tracks 166
M47 Main battle tank 411
M44 Self-propelled gun 12
M37 Self-propelled gun 28
M41 Walker Bulldog Light tank 72
M52 Self-propelled gun 6
LVT-4 Amphibious landing vehicle 16
M48 Main battle tank 54
M113-based vehicles Armored personnel carrier 171
M56 Self-propelled gun 5
M578 Light recovery vehicle 18

Although in a way replacing the Spanish Civil War era armored cars, the M24 Chaffees proved to be rather unpopular with crews and were only supplied in small numbers. To an extent, the same can be said of the around 20 M8 Greyhounds Spain obtained from France.

M24 Chaffees and M8 ‘Hércules’ driving side by side in Spanish North Africa – source: Marín Gutiérrez & Mata Duaso (2003), p. 25

Tracked Reconnaissance Vehicle Development

In the Interwar years, many nations used small, light tanks in cavalry reconnaissance roles. Noteworthy examples are the French AMR 33 and AMR 35, the American M1 Combat Car, and the Japanese Type 92. During the Second World War, armored reconnaissance missions had been mostly carried out by armored cars and half-tracked vehicles.

After the war, some nations experimented with the concept of fully-tracked armored reconnaissance vehicles again.

The first mass-produced example of this was the West German Schützenpanzer SPz 11-2 Kurz, introduced in 1959, after nearly a decade of development between the Federal Republic of Germany and France. The SPz 11-2 had a hybrid role, as it was also intended as an infantry fighting vehicle.

The USA followed suit with the M114, the M113’s unsuccessful ‘brother’. Introduced in 1962, it failed to impress during its early deployment in Vietnam and was soon removed from service. Another later example is the British Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) series, most notably the FV107 Scimitar.

These vehicles were lightly-armored and lightly-armed and were not actually that fast, but they could perform over all kinds of terrain in a way their wheeled counterparts could not.

The small West German Schützenpanzer SPz 11-2 Kurz – source:


Material y Construcciones S.A. (MACOSA) [Eng. Material and Constructions Limited Company] was a large company by Spanish industrial standards. It was created by a merger of the Valencian company Construcciones Devis [Eng. Devis Constructions] with the Sociedad Material para Ferrocarriles y Construcciones S.A. [Eng. Material for Railways and Construction Limited Company] of Barcelona in 1947. MACOSA specialized in the production of railway rolling stock in its Barcelona and Valencia plants. The company gained enormously from the Spanish economic miracle of the early 1960s and, benefiting from its close relationships with the US government and US companies, it produced General Motors railway locomotives under license.

The MACOSA factory on the coast of Barcelona – source

During this period of growth, MACOSA ventured into military designs, one of which was for an armored personnel carrier, named Vehículo Blindado de Combate de Infantería VBCI-E General Yagüe [Eng. Infantry Combat Armored Vehicle General Yagüe]. The similarity of its design to the US M75, M57, and M113 APCs suggests it was largely inspired by those vehicles.

MACOSA’s Vehículo Blindado de Combate de Infantería VBCI-E General Yagüe. Its box-shaped design and flat-angled front had more than a casual resemblance to the US M75, M57, and M113 APC designs – source: Manrique García & Molina Franco, p. 32

MACOSA also designed the Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería VBRC-1E General Monasterio [Eng. Cavalry Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle General Monasterio]. In a similar fashion, it has been suggested that the VBRC-1E drew inspiration from the American M114A1E1/M114A2. Sadly, only two drawings of the VBRC-1E are believed to exist.

It is unclear when exactly MACOSA drew up each design, presumably in the mid-to-late 1960s. Allegedly, both designs were submitted to the Spanish Army for approval. As neither vehicle progressed beyond the design stage, it must be assumed they were not given the go ahead.

MACOSA’s other design, the Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería VBRC-1E General Monasterio. Both vehicles would have had large parts commonality, including engine and turret – source: Manrique García & Molina Franco, p. 32
The US M114A2 may have served as inspiration for the VBRC-1E, with its similar shape, wheel distribution, and armament – source:

According to Spanish military historians Jose Mª Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco, another company, Internacional de Comercio y Tránsito S.A. (INCOTSA) [Eng. Commerce and Transit International Limited Company] collaborated on the project. Their fellow historians, Francisco Marín Gutiérrez and José Mª Mata Duaso, on the other hand, make no mention of INCOTSA’s involvement. Later that decade, INCOTSA drew up plans for a family of 4×4 armored vehicles named VBTT-E4.

Drawing of INCOTSA’s VBTT-E4 4×4 armored personnel carrier of the late 1960s – source: Manrique García & Molina Franco, p. 34

Name and Namesake

The Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería VBRC-1E General Monasterio is not a name that rolls easily off the tongue. The Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería part is a description of the vehicle’s role – Cavalry Reconnaissance Armored Vehicle.

‘VBRC’ were simply the initials for Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería. Neither the original drawings nor secondary sources clarify what the ‘1’ stands for. It does not appear in the VBCI-E’s name, so it was probably used to distinguish the two. Similarly, it is unclear what the ‘E’ denotes, but it could well be Español [Eng. Spanish] or experimental.

This article will refer to the vehicle as simply the VBRC-1E.

The vehicle’s namesake was José Monasterio Ituarte. Like many other Spanish officers, he had cut his teeth in the wars in Morocco during the early 20th century. Monasterio Ituarte helped to plan the coup that would lead to the Spanish Civil War in July 1936.

He was a colonel in charge of the Regimiento de Cazadores «Castillejos» n.º 18 de caballería [Eng. ‘Hunters’ cavalry Regiment ‘Castillejos’ No. 18 [‘Hunters’, better known as chasseurs, are a type of light cavalry]] based in Zaragoza at the beginning of the coup. His unit was crucial in defeating the Loyalist forces in the city and the surrounding area. Early in the war, Monasterio Ituarte commanded forces which established Rebel control in the central-north of Spain and which advanced on Madrid.

In 1937, Monasterio Ituarte was named as Jefe de Milicias [Eng. Militias Chief]. Later, he was promoted to general and put in charge of the 1.ª División de Caballería [Eng. 1st Cavalry Division]. The unit famously carried out one of the last cavalry charges in history at the Battle of Alfambra, before participating in the Aragon, Levante, and Catalonia offensives.

After the Spanish Civil War, Monasterio Ituarte was promoted to lieutenant general and was put in charge initially of the V Región Militar [Eng. 5th Military Region] based in Zaragoza and then the III Región Militar in Valencia. An opponent of the Falange, the Spanish fascist party, he unsuccessfully demanded that Franco reinstate the monarchy in 1943. Monasterio Ituarte died in December 1952.

Cavalry officer José Monasterio Ituarte, after whom the Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería VBRC-1E General Monasterio was named– source: Academia Colecciones

The VBRC-1E’s Design

Appearance and Dimensions

The VBRC-1E’s design was similar to other tracked armored reconnaissance vehicles of the time. It would have been 4.75 m long and 2.5 m wide, with a total height of 2.12 m, or 1.75 m without the turret. Ground clearance between the bottom of the hull and the ground is noted as 0.6 m.

The front would have been well-angled at 25º and was probably designed that way to act as a wave breaker on amphibious operations. The small lower-frontal plate would have had the transmission cover hatch and the upper-frontal plate had a trim vane to aid travel in water. From the drawings, it seems that, on each side of the transmission cover hatch, there would have been a metal fixture to attach cables, hooks, or ropes. The drawings also show a set of two headlights on either side of the front.

The roof of the vehicle would have been on two levels. A smaller frontal level had cupolas on either side. The second higher level would have had a triangular front, at the center of which would have been a turret. The engine deck with two grilles would have been at the back of the roof.

The rear would have also been angled, and it is hard to tell from the drawings if it would also have had a hatch to inspect and maintain the engine.

Top view of the VBRC-1E, showing the crew distribution and component placement – source: Manrique García & Molina Franco, p. 32


To keep weight down, the VBRC-1E would have had very thin armor, estimated at 10 mm of steel alloy. This would have been sufficient protection from small arms fire, but even some medium and certainly heavy machine guns would have had no trouble penetrating it. Weight has been estimated at 9 tonnes.

Cupola and Turret

The drawings show two very small cupolas, one each for two crewmembers on either side of the front roof of the vehicle. No dimensions are provided, but comparing it to other elements, such as the turret, the cupolas would probably have been 10 cm to 15 cm high. As can be seen in the drawings, they would have been so small that the crew’s head and eyes are another 10 cm to 15 cm below the vision hatches. This would suggest that the designers envisioned the use of hyposcopes to see through the vision ports. The drawings show 5 vision ports across the frontal 180º of the cupola, plus probably an additional one at the very top of the cupola giving the crew a very limited vision of the rear of the vehicle. The cupolas would have had hatches at the top for entry and exit. When not in combat, one of the crewmembers could have ridden standing up with their head outside of the cupola for increased vision.

The 40 cm tall turret in the drawings is shaped like a truncated cone. The armament is drawn on the right of the turret. Six vision slits around the turret would have given the commander/gun operator 360º vision. Like the cupolas, the turret would have had a hatch.


Apart from designating it as a 20 mm autocannon, neither the drawings nor secondary sources specify what armament the VBRC-1E would have carried. Analyzing 20 mm autocannons available at the time allows a speculative assessment of what this armament might have been.

Throughout the Spanish Civil War, Italy had supplied the Rebels with 143 Breda 20/65 mod.35s, used to arm the CV33/35 Breda and Panzer I Breda in 1937. The 20 mm Breda remained in service after the war. Nominally an anti-aircraft weapon, it was extensively used by the Italians to arm their armored vehicles in the Second World War.

Introduced in 1935, the Breda 20/65 was a fairly modern weapon for the Spanish Civil War. It was gas-operated and fitted the small confines of a turret or small tank well. Sources differ, but it had a maximum firing range of 5.5 km (though a much lower effective range), a rate of fire of 240 rpm, and could penetrate 40 mm of 90º angled armor from distances of 250 m and 30 mm of 90º angled armor from 500 m. The Breda was side-fed, meaning it would have fitted in the VBRC-1E’s turret.

The Breda 20/65 mod.35 operated by Italian soldiers in the North African desert – source: Robin via Pinterest

Similarly, Germany supplied the Rebels with 116 2 cm Flak 30s. This anti-aircraft gun was discarded from what would become the Breda projects because of its size. Although the Flak 30 performed similarly to the Breda, it had a disappointing 120 rpm rate of fire. A modified shortened variant, the 2 cm KwK 30, was added on later variants of the Panzer II, but this weapon was not supplied to Spain.

A German 2 cm Flak 30 at the Sammur Museum in France – source: Massimo Foti via Flickr

Another possibility is the Oerlikon 20 mm autocannon. During the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish Second Republic imported over 210 of the S and 1S versions from all over the world, including considerable numbers from Bolivia. Many were captured during and after the war by the victorious Rebels.

In 1943, Spain received a further 120 Oerlikon 20 mm autocannons from Germany as part of the Bär Program.
The Oerlikon S and 1S were developed specifically as anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, with an increased muzzle velocity of around 850 m/s at the cost of increased weight and decreased rate of fire of 280 rpm. Spain had both the single and double barrel configurations of the gun. With its side-fed magazine, it could have fitted in the VBRC-1E turret.

A 20 mm Oerlikon autocannon used as an anti-aircraft weapon on the US Navy USS Massachusetts – source:

Two other 20 mm autocannons possibly available in Spain at the time were the Hispano-Suiza HS.404 and the Solothurn S-5/100. The Second Spanish Republic had imported 18 of the former before and during the Spanish Civil War. Only 4 of the latter are known to have been imported. Because of their small numbers and the obsolescence of the Solothurn S-5/100, they can, with all probability, be discounted.

It is also completely possible that other foreign models or even domestic or licensed production of a new autocannon were considered.

Based on the drawings, the short turret would have severely limited the gun’s depression all-round. There would have been no secondary armament, limiting the VBRC-1E’s ability in the event of meeting enemy infantry on a reconnaissance mission.

The ammunition would have been located in a 3×3 box on the left side of the gunner .A second box could well have been on the right side.

Running Gear and Engine

The VBRC-1E was drawn with a suspension consisting of 4 large wheels on each side, in addition to an idler at the front and a sprocket at the rear. The wheels in the drawings resemble those of the M114.

The VBRC-1E’s running gear – source: Manrique García & Molina Franco, p. 32

Sources mention a diesel Pegaso 9156/8 352 hp engine for the VBRC-1E and VBCI-E. Pegaso was a brand marketed by Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones Sociedad Anónima (ENASA) [Eng. National Truck Limited Company]. Though specializing in trucks, it would go on to produce the BMR-600 armored cars and VEC cavalry vehicles for the Spanish Army in the 1980s.

The 9156 was the main Pegaso engine and a range was produced to suit a variety of purposes. The technical manual shows 22 variants of the 9156, with horsepower ranging from 270 hp to 352 hp. None of these is named “9156/8”, but there are 3 which match the 352 hp: 9156.00, 9156.03, and 9156.00.25.11. ENASA nomenclature used full stops, not slashes for its factory designations. It is unclear if the “9156/8” was a new variation specifically for the VBRC- 1E and VBCI-E or just a mistake in the sources.

All three 352 hp engines were diesel 6 cylinders with 2,200 rpm. There were some very minor differences between the fuel consumption of these engines. They would have been positioned vertically in the engine bay at the rear of the vehicle, most likely separated from the fighting/crew compartment by a bulkhead. Sources have estimated a decent maximum speed of 70 km/h, which is realistic considering the low weight and relatively powerful engine.

Neither the drawings nor the sources give the position of the fuel tank(s) nor any indication of how much fuel would have been carried.

A Pegaso 352 hp 9156 diesel engine – source: Motor 9156 y derivados


The VBRC-1E would have had a crew of three: driver, commander/observer, and gunner. The driver would have been positioned on the front left, the commander/observer on the front right, and the gunner in the turret.

The gunner would have been tasked with firing and reloading the gun. The commander/observer may have been able to provide some assistance with reloading, but given the turret’s limited size, this may have been restricted to passing ammunition.

Comparison and Assessment

Its size, weight, armor, and armament mean that the VBRC-1E would have resembled other tracked reconnaissance vehicles and would have performed similarly. In that regard, the M114, with its impressive armor for a vehicle of this class, would have been the outlier. The VBRC-1E’s main advantages over other vehicles would have been its powerful engine, which would have provided a decent speed, alongside other performance indicators.

Vehicle VBRC-1E SPz 11-2 M114 M114A2 FV107 Scimitar
Length (m) 4.75 4.51 4.46 4.9
Width (m) 2.5 2.28 2.33 2.2
Height (m) 2.12 1.97 2.39 2.8(?) 2.1
Weight (tonnes) 9 8.2 19.3 20(?) 7.8
Armor (mm) 10 15 19-44 12.7
Engine horsepower (hp) 352 164 115 (net)
160 (gross)
Speed (km/h) 70 58 58 80.5
Range (km) ? 390 442 450
Crew 3 5 3 3
Main armament 20 mm autocannon 20 mm Hispano-Suiza 820/L85 .50 M2 Browning machine gun 20 mm Hispano-Suiza 820/L85 30 mm L21 RARDEN cannon
Secondary armament None 7.62 mm M60 machine gun 7.62 mm L37A1 MG

Had it been built, the VBRC-1E would probably have performed its role adequately. In Spain in the 1960s and 1970s, before European Economic Community (EEC) funds had allowed the building of a road infrastructure, a tracked reconnaissance vehicle had advantages over a wheeled one. The VBRC-1E would have provided the Spanish military with a modern vehicle to perform reconnaissance duties, something it lacked at the time.

Some of the VBRC-1E’s design deficiencies may have been ironed out during the development and prototype stage. The small turret and limited gun depression, probably the VBRC-1E’s main drawbacks, may have been fixed as well.

A Wheeled Alternative

Developing a whole new vehicle, necessarily the case with the VBRC-1E and VBCI-E, would have been a costly endeavor, one which Spain could ill afford. In spite of the economic miracle of the 1960s, there were plenty of other areas where the country needed the cash injection more desperately. Furthermore, at that point, Spain did not have the expertise to mass-produce such vehicles. It would take nearly a decade for the Spanish-assembled AMX-30Es to start rolling out of the factories and not until around 1980-1981 for the first serially Spanish-produced vehicle, the BMR-600, to be produced in enough numbers. This would have been a pipe dream in the early-to-mid 1960s.

Whilst an alternative for the VBCI-E was found in the US-supplied M113s, no US vehicles really performed the VBRC-1E’s intended role. Instead, Spain’s cavalry would be equipped throughout the 1970s with the wheeled French Panhard AML. In 1966, Spain purchased 103 AML-60s and 100 AML-90s, which went on to equip cavalry units in Spanish North Africa. These would eventually be replaced in the 1980s with the Vehículo de Exploración de Caballería (VEC) [Eng. Cavalry Exploration Vehicle], a wheeled Spanish-designed vehicle.

A group of Panhard AML-60s, nicknamed ‘Ranas’ [Eng. Frogs] in Spanish service, in Spanish North Africa – source: Blindados rueda en España: del Schneider-Brillie a las AML via Facebook
A Vehículo de Exploración de Caballería (VEC), Spain’s eventual home-produced cavalry reconnaissance vehicle, albeit wheeled – source:


The VBRC-1E and the VBCI-E were examples of a long-held Spanish ambition to produce vehicles domestically. The VBRC-1E would have provided the Spanish military with a vehicle quite unlike any before or after. Eventually, it would be unsuccessful, and cavalry reconnaissance vehicles were to be wheeled. The VBRC-1E was probably a more mature design than the VBCI-E, with fewer drawbacks, but this would not be enough. External factors would have probably doomed the projects regardless, but work like this by MACOSA contributed to Spanish serially produced vehicles introduced in the following decades.

Vehículo Blindado de Reconocimiento de Caballería VBRC-1E General Monasterio, illustrated by Ardhya ‘Vesp’ Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.
VBRC-1E Specifications
Length (m) 4.75
Width (m) 2.5
Height (m) 2.12
Weight (tonnes) 9
Armor (mm) 10
Engine horsepower (hp) 352
Speed (km/h) 70
Range (km) ?
Crew 3
Main armament 20 mm autocannon
Secondary armament None


Francisco Marín Gutiérrez & José Mª Mata Duaso, Carros de Combate y Vehículos de Cadenas del Ejército Español: Un Siglo de Historia (Vol. III) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 2007)
Francisco Marín Gutiérrez & José María Mata Duaso, Los Medios Blindados de Ruedas en España. Un Siglo de Historia (Vol. II) (Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 2003)
José Mª Manrique García & Lucas Molina Franco, BMR Los Blindados del Ejército Español (Valladolid: Galland Books, 2008)
R. P. Hunnicutt Bradley, A History Of American Fighting and Support Vehicles (Novato: Presidio Press, 1999)

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