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Italeri 1/72 Autoblinda AB 43 (7052) In-Box Review and History

It’s nice to see that Italian manufacturer Italeri aren’t shy about producing kits of some fairly obscure vehicles. Probably less than one hundred examples of this armoured car were produced and none were actually used by the Italian armed forces during World War Two. I rather like that approach: I do get tired kits of the same old AFVs and it’s refreshing to find a kit of something I have never even heard of.

Italeri also offer a kit of the earlier (and much more widely used) AB 41 and even one of the truly odd AB 40 Ferroviaria, a small armoured car designed to run on railway lines. The AB 43 kit was released in 2008 following the release a couple of years earlier of a 1/35 version of the same vehicle by Italeri.

So it’s Italian, it’s obscure and it appears to have a fiendishly difficult paint scheme. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s find out…

History

In 1937 the Italian Ministry of War invited tenders for a new armoured car (autoblindomitragliatrice). This vehicle was to be suitable for use by both police forces and as a reconnaissance vehicle to be used by tank units. Fiat-Ansaldo presented a proposal for a four-wheeled vehicle with four-wheel drive, four wheel steering and front and rear driving positions. The main armament was a pair of 8mm machine guns mounted in a fully rotating turret. This proposal was accepted and entered service as the AB 40.

The AB 40.

However, only around 25 were produced before an improved version armed with a Breda 20 mm autocannon was released as the AB 41. This would be the most widely produced version of this vehicle with over 400 hundred made which saw service in North Africa, the Balkans, Hungary and even with Italian units on the eastern front.

An AB 41 in North Africa.

In 1942 a specification was released for a new vehicle based on the AB 41. This was to incorporate a more powerful engine and was initially intended to be armed with a 47mm main gun. The dual steering positions were to be dropped, reducing the crew to three and armour was thickened and more steeply sloped at the front. A single prototype of the AB 42 was produced before the Italian army lost interest.

An AB 43 (left) and an AB 41 (right). The main visible differences are a lower turret and more steeply angled front hull armour on the AB 43.

After Italy agreed an armistice with the Allies in 1943, German engineers saw the prototype AB 42 and 100 of these vehicles were ordered for use by the Wehrmacht. Around 100 were manufactured as the Beute Panzerspähwagen AB43 203(i). These used a lower and wider version of the turret from the AB 41, though it was still armed with the 20mm autocannon.    

One of the notable features of the AB 43 is clearly visible in this photograph taken in Belgrade in 1944. The spare wheels were carried low and on mountings that allowed them to rotate, enabling these spare wheels to help the vehicle cross uneven ground.

These armoured cars were used by several German units in Italy and the Balkans during World War Two. After the war, a number of AB 43s were used by Italian police and Carabineri units.

A beautifully restored AB 43 pictured at a display in Rome in 2008. This shows nicely the unique  camo scheme used by German AB 43s but oddly, it lacks German markings.

What’s in the Box?

All the parts are provided on a single sprue moulded in light brown plastic.

Surface and rivet detail look reasonable overall.

The wheels and tyres are moulded separately and the wheels even include appropriate SPA (Società Piemontese Automobili) logos in the centre.

The front and rear visors and the top and rear turret hatches are separate parts that can be shown open. Some interior detail is included for the turret, such as the breech for the 20mm autocannon and the hatches themselves include interior detail.

Overall, the mouldings here look sharp and nicely detailed. This kit doesn’t use slide moulding so the main cannon is not open. It’s so small that drilling doesn’t look possible – you’ll need a drill of 0.3mm and the barrel on this weapon had thin walls, so a very steady hand will be required.

I’d like to be able to show you the decals at this point in the review, but I can’t. Though the box itself and the plastic bag containing the single sprue were both sealed when they arrived, no decals were included. I contacted Italeri Customer support who replied promptly to tell that these decals may be available, and that they will be sent out (taking 3-4 weeks) if I pay “around €6.”  Now, perhaps I’m just a parsimonious, grumpy old Scotsman (actually, there is no doubt about it, I am a parsimonious, grumpy old Scotsman) but I must confess that this doesn’t seem very impressive. OK, I know, €6 isn’t a great deal of money, though it does represent more than half of what this kit cost me on Amazon. What irritates me is that this is for something that should have been included in the first place. Should I really have to pay for that? I don’t think so. I won’t be taking up Italeri’s offer and instead I’ll be using bits and pieces out of my decal spares box here. 

The instructions seem clear though, oddly, there is no mention of where to place part 12, the rear visor. Happily it isn’t too difficult to see where this belongs (it goes on the upper rear hull, if you’re wondering).

Three suggested colour schemes are provided on the rear of the box and in the instructions, Two are for vehicles in late-war German service featuring a complex three-colour camo scheme and one in overall red-brown is for an AB 43 used by the Italian State Police in the 1950s.

Would you want one?

In the box, this looks pretty good. The mouldings are sharp and the surface detail looks acceptable and it even has some interior detail, very unusual at this scale. Perhaps it would have been nice if a siren on the turret roof was provided for the State Police version (these usually seem to have been fitted) but overall, this looks like an accurate representation of this little-known AFV. If I have one reservation, it’s that the spare wheels seem to sit a little too high on the sides of the hull. If you look at the photos in the History section above and compare them with the side view showing the colour schemes, which accurately reflects what the kit looks like, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Obviously, the lack of decals is a pain but I assume that I was simply unlucky and that this isn’t a common issue. And if you do want to build a small-scale AB 43 and you don’t fancy this one, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. As far as I know, no other manufacturer covers this vehicle in 1/72 or 1/76. Italian company DOC Models did offer a 1/72 version of the similar AB 41, but that was always produced on a small scale and I’m not certain that it’s still available.

Don’t be fooled – this may say Tamiya on the box, but it is actually the Italeri 1/35 kit.

Italeri offer the same kit in 1/35 form (6451), and it seems to be pretty good. It includes soft vinyl tyres, separate armoured headlight covers and all crew and engine access hatches are separate parts that can be shown open (though no engine detail is included). Decals and paint schemes are provided for the same three vehicles depicted in the 1/72 version. Tamiya also released a 1/35 version of the AB 43 in 2008 (89697), but, unusually for Tamiya, this is simply a re-box of the Italeri kit with the addition of two German crew figures originally included with the 1994 Tamiya Panther Ausf. G.   

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Italeri 1/72 Autoblinda AB 43 (7052) Build Review – coming soon

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