“Combat Fiats in the Service of Mussolini: Unique Italian Vehicles of World War II


Most military vehicles were developed and produced by Italian firms independently, using officially acquired licenses for complex units. Their main world-class achievements were considered special tractors with all driving and steering wheels with on-board drive of each of them. All machines had right-hand drive and were adapted to work off-road on the Eastern Front, in the mountains of Spain and the deserts of Africa. Thus, in Italy, a distinctive generation of original army vehicles was created, unlike any other, although the reliability and quality of this overly complex and heavy equipment left much to be desired.

In addition to the marking of military cars M and C, the army used extended numerical indexing: N – diesel engine, B – gasoline, U – unified, L – light, P – heavy, etc.

SPA СL39/CLF39 (1939-1943).

This little-known acronym stands for Societa Piemontese Automobili Ansaldi-Ceirano (SPA), which in the 20s was purchased by FIAT, turning it into its military subsidiary.

SPA CL39 tractor with wooden body and trailer in the service of the Wehrmacht

A special place among compact military vehicles in the SPA range occupied the original single-ton trucks CL39 (4×2) with a short hood and open two-seat cab, which served as a convoy of cavalry, service in the mountain units and field hospitals. A special “infantry tractor” CLF39 was used to tow a field artillery unit weighing up to 800 kg.

Special high-body tractor CLF39 for transporting combat crews of towed guns and ammunition

The SPA CL39 van with a field shower, which replaced the conventional bathhouse

Both trucks were equipped with a 24-horsepower gasoline engine, five-speed gearbox, uncut axles on leaf springs, hydraulic drum brakes and all single wheels. It was also fitted with road-legal and pneumatic tires, “colonial” wide and bulletproof.

SPA TL37/AS37 (1936-1948).

Since the mid-1930s, the first all-wheel-drive military vehicle with all-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive single wheels was light artillery tractor TL37 (4×4), which was produced in hood and trial semi-bonnet versions to tow cannons of up to 100 mm caliber.

The SPA TL37 tractor with all driving and steering wheels reached a maximum speed of 38 km/h
Rare prototype half-bonneted version of the artillery tractor SPA TL37. 1937.

The engine compartment of these trucks had a 57 hp gasoline engine and a five speed gearbox with a limited slip differential, which passed torque to a central bevel gearbox under the floor, from which it passed to the bevel gears of the four drive shafts on all wheels.

Acceptance committee at the tests of the TL37 all-wheel drive tractor with a trailer. 1936
Italian servicemen in a TL37 at the beginning of the Russian campaign in Ukraine. 1942.

The tractors had an open metal six-seat body with two rows of seats with compartments for ammunition and a rear-mounted winch. Front wheels had a spring suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers, rear wheels were on leaf springs, and mechanical brakes were equipped with booster.

In 1938, for the Italian troops in Africa on the chassis of TL37 was created “Sahariano” transporter truck AS37 Sahariano with a simplified low wooden body with two longitudinal benches and middle flip rear end, which could install a fairly powerful large caliber weapons.

Special SPA AS37 chassis for North Africa with eight-seat wooden body. 1938
Desert combat vehicle SPA AS37 Sahariano with full armament and drinking water

SPA TM40 (1940-1948).

The design development of the TL37 model was the medium cabover tractor TM40 (4×4), designed to work with 150 mm caliber guns and weighing up to six tons. It also used on-board all-wheel-drive system on independent suspension with double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers and tires size 24 or 32 inches.

SPA TM40 tractors with all driving and steering wheels and a body with three rows of seats

The 95-horsepower diesel engine was placed between the front seats, behind which there was an open compartment for six crew members of the towed gun, seated in one rear seat and two individual seats with their backs facing away from the vehicle.

The SPA TM40 tractor towing a two-axle 90-mm howitzer during the war

Despite the bombing by Allied aircraft in November 1942 and in 1943-1944, the SPA factory continued to work, supplying its vehicles to Germany to install wooden ersatz-cabins.

Breda 32/33 (1932-1940).

The first production of military-industrial company “Breda” was a heavy short wheelbase artillery tractor Breda 32 (4×4) with a wheelbase of 2.65 meters for towing guns with a caliber up to 150 mm. It had an angular cab and a short platform for ballast and hitches, single steerable 32″ wheels at the front and dual wheels at the rear.

Breda 32 heavy artillery tractor with four-wheel drive system

The main feature of the vehicle was a complicated and heavy tractor design with an individual four-wheel drive system. With the front-mounted 84hp gasoline engine, the gearbox with center differential was carried to the rear wheels and transmitted torque to the central bevel gearbox, from where PTO shafts of diagonal arrangement transmitted it to the gears of each wheel.

Breda 32 short wheelbase tractor with two-axle 149 mm howitzer. 1932.

Other features of the machine were independent front and cross-spring rear suspension, a cabestan winch mounted under the body, and one 7.5-ton reel, located on the side under the cab. A batch of Breda 33 trucks was assembled on a special chassis.

Four-ton Breda 33 tractor with wheelbase extended to 3.8 meters. 1933-1934.

Breda 40/41 (1941-1944).

Evolution of the model Breda 32 was an elongated 115-horsepower diesel version Breda 40 (4×4) for towing guns weighing up to 15 tons. It broke the established primitivist look of the trucks of this brand, received a streamlined cab and hood, semi-circular fenders and pneumatic low-pressure tires.

The updated diesel artillery tractor Breda 40 in the Military Historical Museum of Military Vehicles

Simultaneously was produced a version Breda 41 (4×4) with a modified front mask and detachable front mechanical crane five-ton hoist, which served as the basis for recovery vehicles and heavy trucks.

Special version of the Breda 41 with a metal body and built-in headlights in the front bumper
Repair and recovery vehicle on the Breda 41 chassis with a collapsible crane, weighing over 11 tons

SPA Dovunque 33/35 (1933-1948).

Unlike other countries in the Italian armed forces there was only one specialized multi-purpose army truck SPA Dovunque (6×4) with an recognizable lean-to-bullet look and slightly pulled forward front steering wheels.

Development of this truck began with the creation and testing of the first 2-ton model Dovunque 33 without the winch, equipped with a gasoline 46 hp engine, four-speed gearbox with demultiplier and hydraulic brake system.

Prototype of SPA Dovunque 33 three-axle truck with dual rear wheels. 1933.

In the following years the famous 2.5-ton model Dovunque 35 (“cross-country vehicle”) with a 57 hp monoblock gasoline engine, dry dual-disc clutch, vacuum booster brakes and a 3-ton winch was produced in mass production. Open top cab with tilt-up windshield, distinctive high hood and tubular radiator surround were the main visual elements. Two side low-slung and free-spinning “spare wheels” served to overcome high obstacles.

Famous Italian military truck SPA Dovunque 35 with well recognized appearance. 1935
Modified “colonial” version SPA Dovunque 35 for Italian armed forces in North Africa.

The trucks were used to tow medium guns and armament, including anti-aircraft guns. They were equipped with special bodies-vans of Viberti company, including all-metal with an integrated cab, as well as simplified open armored housings and prototype turret systems from armored vehicles.

A total of about a thousand of them were assembled.

Field radio on shielded Dovunque 35 chassis with integrated cab
20 mm antiaircraft gun on an open truck SPA Dovunque 35 in North Africa

SPA Dovunque 41 (1943-1948)

At the end of the war, SPA produced a tactical truck Dovunque 41 (6×6) with a classic 110 hp diesel engine. It was equipped with an open or fully closed all-metal cab, metal flatbed body for carrying 5-6 tons of cargo and passengers’ body for 12 people with the rear compartment for ammunition.

Advanced military truck SPA Dovunque 41 with open cab and passenger compartment
Dovunque 41 chassis with all-metal cab and recovery equipment in
Museum of Military Vehicles.

This vehicle had a gearbox with a two-speed gearbox, lockable inter-axle differentials, and a hydropneumatic braking system. All wheels were single 24-inch and there were rotating supporting fenders mounted on each side of the body.

Breda 51/53 (1941-1944).

During World War II, the Breda company was engaged in development of 115-horsepower chassis Breda (6×4) with an open cab, twin rear wheels, hydraulic supports and a turntable for mounting 90-mm Ansaldo artillery pieces, which were mainly used on the Eastern Front.

The first examples of the Breda 51, equipped with rear continuous axles, four-speed gearbox and front independent suspension, remained in prototypes.

The first unsuccessful version of the Breda 51 with a 90 mm cannon. 1941-1942.

It was followed by a heavy armament carrier Breda 52 with closed or open all-metal cab, reinforced frame and five-speed gearbox, assembled in quantities up to 120 units.

Breda 52 cabover chassis of classic design with 8.5-liter diesel engine. 1942-1943.
Prototype of Breda 52 chassis with front dual wheels and removable rear tracks. 1943.

The next 130-horsepower version of Breda 53 was assembled to replace similar systems on two-axle chassis Lancia 3RO and in 1943-1944 was used in the Wehrmacht. All three-axle Breda trucks proved to be underpowered, cumbersome and unable to move quickly both in mountainous terrain and on city streets.

The title photo shows the original artillery tractor SPA TM40 with all-wheel drive and all-wheel steer.

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