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Helion Books - Italian Soft-Skinned Vehicles of the Second World War, Volume 1

ISBN Number:
978-1-804513-27-9
Published:
Thursday, January 4, 2024
Publisher:
Helion and Company
Retail Price:
$59.95 USD
Reviewed By:
Chuck Aleshire

Helion Books

Italian Soft-Skinned Vehicles of the Second World War, Volume 1

Motorcycles, Cars, Trucks, Artillery Tractors 1935-1945

The Italian armed forces of World War II seem to have been perhaps the most often overlooked member of the Axis forces, particularly when it comes to reference works on Italy’s weapons and equipment. Italian war fighting equipment in general is not really regarded very highly, especially when compared to other combatants of WWII. This may not be quite fair, as Italy certainly did not have the industrial capabilities or capacity of the other powers such as Germany, the US, the Soviet Union or the UK. 

This new book from Helion promises to shed some much needed light on the non-armored vehicles used by the Italian armed forces of WWII, including vital background on the how’s and why’s of Italian military vehicle development and production.

Please note that this is Volume 1 of a two volume set.

Vital Statistics

Format - softcover,  portrait format

 Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper,  146 pages

 Size - 10.0" x 8.0”

Photos - 300+ mostly B&W period images, a handful of full color images.

Tables / Drawings / Diagrams -  line drawings, three dimensional views, some full color renderings

All text and photo captions are in English

What’s in the Book?

Above - the book’s table of contents. NOTE - this is volume 1 of 2.

The book’s opening chapter “Overview and Explanatory Notes” discusses such various topics as logistical problems facing the Italians during the 1930’s through WWII, and the efforts made for procurement and standardization of military vehicles. The chapter goes on to examine engines and fuels in very good depth, including the fuel drums and cans used by Italian forces. Above - Wheels and tires used on Italian vehicles are also thoroughly examined in this chapter. There are many good images accompanying the well written text.

Chapter 2 of this volume examines the many varied motorcycles used by the WWII Italian armed forces. Good profile photographs and many in-action images illustrate this chapter.

The authors blend the text, portrait-style images of the vehicles, blocks of technical and performance specifications, and in the field photographs together in an effective, interesting manner.

Likely as a result of chronic shortages of more suitable vehicles, the Italians pressed motorcycles into such roles as light cargo hauling, seen in the image above, left. 

The text throughout the volume is well written, descriptive and informative. 

The third chapter of this book looks at the wide range of motor cars used by Italy’s armed forces. Some of these designs were quite eye catching! There are some great images of these cars wearing their WWII camouflage schemes in this chapter, as seen above.

Embedded in the chapter on motor cars is a section containing the book’s color plates. This 6 page section is largely made up of nicely done single aspect full color renderings of a wide variety of vehicles plus a couple of full color period images.

The volume has quite a good number of vehicle drawings, line drawings and three dimensional views. Some are original factory drawings complete with dimensions. These will be quite useful images to a model builder!

The fourth and final chapter of this Volume 1 examines and discusses light trucks as used by the Italians. The above image shows how well the authors integrate text, drawings and images into attractive and informative page layouts. 

A Note on the Photographs - Most of the images in this book are quite good. However, some images in this book may be just a bit dark. But, given the relative rarity of some of the subject matter, I firmly believe they are acceptable. A somewhat less than perfect image of a rare subject is vastly preferable to no image at all. Also, the images that I took for review purposes aren’t representative of the overall image quality in this volume.

Above - an outstanding spread above; great images of Italian trucks loaded with infantrymen, a great image of a snazzy camo scheme, and interesting drawings. Note the pigeon-toed camber of those truck wheels in the drawings! 

Above - more examples of the high quality drawings found throughout this volume.

Above - Italian trucks certainly had a somewhat unconventional ( to American eyes, at least ) look to them, making them immediately recognizable as Italian. This isn’t meant to throw shade at their performance, in fact it seems that the biggest problem with Italian trucks was that there simply weren’t enough of them to do the job asked of them in World War II. 

Above - fascinating images of AS 37 trucks modified for use as gun trucks in the Western Desert. Love those gigantic wheels!

Conclusions

I found this book to be vastly informative. In addition to the great looks at the many individual vehicles, perhaps as importantly (to me, at least) was the examination of the state of Italian military vehicle production pre-WWII and into the early war years. The Italian industry simply was not capable of meeting the demands placed upon it. The authors make a great case for its being a lack of quantity, not quality that’s ultimately led to a generally unfavorable perception of Italian military vehicles.

Very solid wartime photos of some quite rare vehicles, terrifically well done drawings, loads of technical data, informative and easily read text. The authors have checked all the boxes IMHO. 

I hadn’t QUITE realized that the Italians fielded such a wide variety of interesting soft-skins during WWII. The authors have done a quite commendable job of examining the vehicles covered by this first volume. I’m looking forward to examining the second volume of this two volume set!

Highly Recommended!

Thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy

Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland

AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region

 

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