WW2 Italian Armored Cars

Camionetta AS 42

Italy (1942-43) Scout car – around 152 built

Development of the AS 42

The AS 42 Sahariana concept started in 1942, when the famed British and Commonwealth LRDG groups raided well beyond the Axis lines, creating havoc in the communication lines, aerodromes, depots and supply bases. At the same time, their far-reaching reconnaissance patrols were precious for Allied intelligence. The Italian army tried to emulate such units, and in order to have a match for the vehicles used by the British, they used a project that SPA-Viberti proposed some time before, based on the AB 41.
This was a scout car, at first unarmed, but quickly received some heavy armament. The SPA-Viberti AS 42 was quickly developed in early 1942. The prototype was presented to the army on 9 July 1942, passed all tests, and was put into production as soon as August 1942.

Video – wartime footage – Luce archives

Design of the AS 42

Basically, the chassis of the AB 41 was left untouched, but the hull was completely remodeled, taking a shape reminiscent of the German Kübelwagen. The front was sloped and housed a massive spare roadwheel, the mudguards were remodeled, and the central open compartment was strengthened by framing. The chassis was characterized by a step of 3.2 m, 1.75 m carriageway and ground clearance of 0.35 m, with the ability to ford 0.7 m.

The traction was integral, but only the front wheels were steered and the second seat was removed. 20 jerrycans of 20 l each were carried, in two rows on each side, along with four water jerrycans on the front fenders, and others at the rear, supported by the sand ramps.
The main fuel tank of 145 l allowed a range of 300 km (186 mi), pushed to 1200 km (750 km) with the 400 l of additional jerrycans. The rear compartment was globally unchanged. The engine was the FIAT-SPA 8 cylinder petrol giving 120 hp.

The overall weight decreased by 2 tons, so that performance was largely improved. The large central open space, also reinforced, allowed the mounting of considerable armament, which could include a AA Breda 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon modello 1935, Breda 13 mm (0.52 in) machine-guns, 20 mm (0.79 in) Solothurn S18/1000 gun or 8 mm (0.31 in) Breda model 37 machine-gun, sometimes in combination.

The Sahariana in operations

From September to November, the first batch of 140 vehicles was delivered to the Regio Esercito. Besides the driver’s seat, the crew that served the on board weapons were seated on four folding seats on the sides. The “Sahariana” was completely dedicated to desert raiding parties, as it was first intended. Its low-profile allowed it to hide behind the dunes and wait for the arrival of the enemy unseen, and its great autonomy allowed it to chase enemy forces for long periods. Entering service in December 1942, the AS.42 participated in the final stages of the African campaign of Libya and the whole campaign of Tunisia, mainly assigned to aviation companies of the Auto-Saharan Company and the 103rd Battalion.

Regio Esercito, ww2 italian tanks poster

Surviving vehicles were later used by the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Regiment in the defense of Sicily and southern Italy. The same unit and the Motorized Assault Battalion employed the “Sahariana” and “Metropolitana” models in the defense of Rome on September 8, 1943. A group of 46 vehicles from the 10th were captured and reused by the Fallschirmjäger-Division Hermann Göring after the Italian Armistice. They soldiered throughout 1944 and 1945 as reconnaissance vehicles on the Eastern Front, in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Some of the vehicles were recovered and used by the Free Italian Battalion “Barbarigo” X-MAS Flotilla.

The AS 42 was based on the AB 41, used as a long range patrol and assault vehicle - Credits: Wikimedia

The Fiat SPA AS.42 “Metropolitana”

A second model, called Sahariana II or, more commonly, Metropolitana, entered service in Italy in 1943. It differed from the first model by the absence of the two upper sides rows of gasoline jerrycans, replaced by two large caissons for ammunition, and the presence of a tarpaulin. In addition, this version was fitted with new Pirelli “claw” tires adapted to the mainland, unlike the previous sand tires.
A dozen of these vehicles were supplied to the Italian Police during wartime, and were integrated into the ranks of the Department Celeri and Departments of Public Security, seeing service until the mid 1950s. The AS 42 was fast and dependable, but nevertheless complicated to build and maintain.


About the AS 42 Sahariana on Wikipedia

AS 42 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.21 x 1.93 x 2.93 m (17.09×6.33×9.61 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 7.5 tons
Crew 4
Propulsion FIAT-SPA 8 cyl, 120 hp
Speed 78 km/h (48 mph)
Range 400 km (250 mi)
Armament (see notes) Breda mod.35 20 mm (0.79 in) AT gun
Breda mod.38 8 mm (0.31 in) machine-guns
Armor From 5 to 17 mm (0.2-0.67 in)
Total production 152

AS 42 Sahariana in western Libya, January 1943.
AS 42 metropolitana
Camouflaged AS 42 Metropolitana, used by the Police at the time of the Italian armistice in November 1943.

By David.B

Tank Encyclopedia's Creator, webmaster and illustrator since 2010.

8 replies on “Camionetta AS 42”

Hi, I’m very happy with this article. Do you have any idea how many of the cars survived, or what was their fate after the war if some survived? Thank you in advance!

I’m afraid exact figures are always hard to find for this kind of thing. It says in the article: “A dozen of these vehicles were supplied to the Italian Police during wartime, and were integrated into the ranks of the Department Celeri and Departments of Public Security, seeing service until the mid 1950s.”

This is one of the best online articles on this vehicle! I’ve never actually seen production data for this vehicle. What was your source for the “152 made” info??

the car in the second picture does not belong to the police but to the army.
the Italian police used the vehicles from 1945 to 1954, their vehicles are recognizable by the dark red color (“vinaccia” color) and by the coats of arms of the reparti Celeri (fast departments) of the Italian carabinieri.
the drawn vehicle was probably used in the defense of Rome on 8 September 1943 by the battalions of the Royal Italian Army from the 10th Arditi Regiment and the Motorized Assault Battalion. or perhaps it is one of the vehicles captured in Rome and used by the battalion “Barbarigo” of the X ^ MAS flotilla of the RSI in the defense of Anzio.
the identification is very complex being the means without military insignia.
however, it can be said that all the vehicles were repainted in reddish brown, dark green and sand factory camouflage and that their 14 20-liter tanks were not loaded due to the proximity of the fighting they had to face and the normal availability of fuel in Italian territory unlike the deserts in which they were used to fighting the “sahariane” always equipped with 24 cans of order plus all those that could be crammed into the vehicle.

if it was used in the defense of Rome it was almost certainly used by the 123rd company of the 10th battaglione arditi camionettisti (battalion of bold armored veihicle driver)
In italian “camionetta” is a Fast and resistant light pickup truck with little armor supplied to the armed forces and police, for the transport of people or small guns even on rough terrain.

Some good details, drawings and pics, with all available data abput productions, units etc are on the book “Light Trucks of the Italian Army in WWII” by Mushroom publications.

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