Italy came late to the armored car business. When it entered World War II in 1940, the country had very few mechanized vehicles, preferring to assign its reconnaissance functions to motorcycles and even horse-mounted cavalry. That changed as Italian battle commanders began clamoring for a modern, small, and speedy recon vehicle after seeing the effectiveness of British armored cars in North Africa. The AB 40 came first; the beefier AB 41, with an 80-horsepower engine and a 20mm gun in its turret, arrived in Libya in September 1941.

Although a top performer on roadways, the AB 41’s larger specs made it too heavy—and still underpowered—for the desert sands. Despite these failings, the AB 41 performed yeoman’s work and was always in demand—though under-production helped fuel that demand. The AB 41 obtained an upgraded 120-horse-power engine in 1942, but the country’s surrender in 1943 derailed further improvements. The Italian army continued using the AB 41 after the war, and several examples survive in museums and private collections.


this article first appeared in world war II magazine

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