By the mid 1920’s, it had become apparent to the Italian military that its existing fleet of armored vehicles was effectively obsolete and that it had a dire need for a small armored vehicle able to haul fields guns and other stores.
Carden Loyd Mark V* with Schwarzlose machine gun tested by the Italians. Source: Ceva and Curami
In 1929, Italian General Ugo Cavallero examined a number of British-built Carden-Loyd Mark V* and VI light tanks which had been purchased and sent to Italy for testing. While the Mark VI was found to be adequate and put into service as the CV29, the V* was found to be wanting. It was no good as a tank and was not suitable for towing artillery and stores. As a result, a new vehicle would be needed for this role, and as a similar sized vehicle was already under development to replace the temporary use of the CV29, it made sense that the new tractor should match (as far as possible) the new light tank.
Ansaldo 1931 Light Tank Prototype (right) seen next to the Ansaldo Light Prototype Tractor (left). Source: Archivio Ansaldo
Trial and Development
With the lessons from the trials of the CV29 being incorporated into an improved vehicle, the Ansaldo Light Tank 1930 Prototype, the same designer, the famous Ansaldo engineer Giuseppe Rossini, designed a second vehicle based on this 1930 design to fulfill the tractor role. As both vehicles shared the same width and approximate performance, in addition to all of their mechanical parts, this was a beneficial idea from the point of view of supply and logistics for the Army. This vehicle would be built at the Ansaldo works at Sestri Ponente, near Genoa.
Ansaldo 1931 Light Tank Prototype (right) seen next to the Ansaldo Light Prototype Tractor (left). A tracked trailer can be seen against the building to the right. Source: Pignato
The new tractor was very similar to the 1930 Prototype, sharing many of the same features, but whereas the tank version had the casemate which was to be a defining characteristic of the type, this tractor had an open-topped design instead. The open-topped part was shaped like a giant hooper sloping upwards and outwards away from the body and with a rolled lip around the top edge, ensuring bullet splash would not ricochet dangerously upwards. Further, this rim is likely to have formed part of the retention for a weather cover or screen, although this is not known to have been produced or tested. Like the 1930 prototype Light Tank, the upper bodywork was all welded with bolting and riveting kept to the lower sections. The nose plate on both vehicles was noticeably different, with no bolting reinforcement on the tractor version, suggesting that the armor was reduced on this vehicle from a maximum of 14 mm to just 8 mm or so. This was enough to provide indirect protection from shell splinters and indirect rifle fire, but not heavy enough to withstand direct close-range fire like the tank.
Ansaldo Light Tractor towing a tracked trailer. The very low profile is very apparent. Source: Archivio Ansaldo
Both vehicles, however, shared the same distinctive circular tow hook bolted to the center of the nose plate. No armament was carried on the tractor either; its role was not one of combat but one of support. The crew layout remained the same for the driver who was positioned on the right, but as there was no armament needed, the commander/gunner would be able to sit much further forwards in this tractor. However, photographic evidence shows the seating position was retained further back, alongside the driver, which would provide a small space in front of the passenger but no space in the vehicle for a third crew member. Without images of the interior or the original design though, it is not possible to know for sure how many men this vehicle could hold, but its small size suggests that 2 men would be the maximum.
Ansaldo Light Tractor during mountain trials. The two men seated show little additional room is provided for a third man or equipment inside the vehicle. It appears from this photo that a second support wheel has been fitted in front of the track support wheel. The pre-series CV3/33 also had a pair of support wheels at the back but this arrangement does not appear in other images of the tractor so the final arrangement of these wheels is unclear. Source: Pignato
At the rear of the vehicle, the tractor had a subtle change to the flat-roofed engine bay of the 1930 Light Tank Prototype. The grilles which had been flat were now fitted into the roof which had a slight pitch to it. It is unclear what changes were made inside the bay to necessitate this change, but one simple assumption might be that it was just to increase air-space and the cooling around the engine. The unusual ventilation grooves in the cover for the muffler on the exhaust remained unchanged.
Illustration of the Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype, produced by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, funded by our Patreon Campaign.
Mobility and Suspension
The suspension for this tractor was different from the 1930 prototype. It was, in fact, the one used on the 1931 modification to the 1930 prototype light tank, changing from the 3 pairs of wheels to the better known 2-1-1-2 arrangement in which the fore and aft pairs of wheels were on a bogie and the central individual wheels were mounted on a dog-leg shaped arm. The horizontal supporting bar for the suspension components was retained, although it was shorter and slightly reshaped. The rear idler mount was also changed from a simple bar holding it in place to an integrated mounting holding a small wheel to keep the track from excessive flexing during high-speed movement and especially from being buckled up during reversing.
One change was made during testing though. As a result of problems caused by mud being thrown up by the tracks, a pair of mudguards were installed on the tractor. These consisted of a small metal arm at the front and back of the vehicle holding a small scraper to clean off clods of mud. Between the two was suspended a long and rather flimsy steel mudguard supported along its length by two small ‘arms’ sticking out from the body. While the design was clearly a temporary one to prevent mud from being a problem, it would likely not withstand the rigorous use of troops for whom it would be a convenient step to use getting in and out.
Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype showing the removable mudguards and extra wide track grousers fitted for trials. Source: Private collection
Photographic evidence shows this tractor undergoing testing in 1930, although it is unclear whether this vehicle preceded the 1931 modification to the 1930 Light Tank Prototype or not. Either way, the suspension on show demonstrates that the 1930 tank suspension had already been superseded very quickly within its first year.
The Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype during testing in 1930 showing the suspension change from the 1930 Light Tank to the 1931 Light Tank. Source: Pignato
Power for the vehicle is not known for certain, but it is likely that it was the same Fiat CV3 type 4 cylinder petrol engine as was later adopted for the production vehicles. That 2.745-liter engine received various improvements and modifications to the power output. As the production engine in the formally adopted CV3/33 delivered 43 hp, it is a reasonable assumption to place the engine output for this 1930/1 prototype at or about 43 hp. In this case, this would have enabled to the tank to manage about 40 km/h on a road and about 14 km/h off-road, slower if towing a gun, trailer, or sledge.
Ansaldo Light Tractor during testing circa 1930-1931. Source: Private collection
The Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype never received any orders although it was an acceptable vehicle for its role. It shared a commonality of parts with the CV3 tank, but in effect, this also left it redundant as the tank could perform almost all of the tractor’s roles in towing guns or trailers whilst the tractor could do none of the tank’s roles. It was not the end of the saga though. Ansaldo would have another attempt at a CV3 (L3) based tractor. What happened to the tractor prototype is not known, but it is assumed that it was simply scrapped for parts for the production of other CV3 vehicles.
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||3.17 x 1.4 x 1.00 meters|
|Total weight, battle ready||Aprx. 3 tonnes|
|Crew||1 +1 (driver/commander, 1 other)|
|Propulsion||40-43hp Fiat CV3 petrol|
|Top speed||40km/h road, 14 km/h off-road|
|Armor||Aprx. 8 mm|
Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa