Turrinelli Armored tortoise

Kingdom of Italy tank (1916) - Concept only

The entry of the Kingdom of Italy into the First World War in 1915 stimulated a lot of technical innovation and, like their British and French allies, even the Italians had to face the same problems of crossing the broken ground and the machine-swept trenches, problems that were costing thousands of lives.
The obvious answer was a kind of armored vehicle capable of crossing difficult terrain, protecting the crew from machine gun fire and, at the same time, providing fire to the enemy. Like many of the early "tank" designs, modern ideas about the shape and layout of tanks had not been fully taken into account, leading to a period of true innovation, with ideas ranging from giant balls to walking machinery , to tanks with wheels and, of course, to laying machinery tracks.

The pattern of the Armored Tortoises (in Italian: 'Armored Turtle') began in 1916 after a study conducted by Ansaldo engineers led by the engineer and industrialist Gino Turrinelli. He was an expert in electric transmission and suspensions in Milan, who had previously founded the company Turrinelli and Co. (SIVE), dedicated to the construction of electric cars in 1899. Turrinelli concluded that any machine for crossing heavily shelled terrain crossed by obstacles and trenches must have a uniformly distributed load and that four traction elements should be used operating independently of each other, each with its own electric motor. It was thought that this arrangement would provide stability and allow the vehicle to cross obstacles up to 60 cm high without unduly tilting the car.

Electric carriage Turrinelli, 1902. Source: Belloni

The vehicle's plans illustrate this by crossing various obstacles. These show that, without the ingenious system for track units, just crossing a 50 cm high step would have tilted the nose of the machine to 2.75 meters in the air. This would make him vulnerable to enemy fire without being able to put any of his weapons into use.


Dimensions 8 m long x 4.15 m wide x 4.65 m high
Weight about 80 tons
Propulsion 200 HP engine with electric transmission
Speed about 2-4 km / h
crew estimate 12+
Armament 10 machine guns, 12 flamethrowers
50mm armor in the round