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Barcelona’s Boiler Truck
The Constructora Field (sometimes known as the “Barcelona” or even “Camion Blindado 4×2 No.8”, they are all unofficial names) was a series of armored cars from the early Spanish Civil War. With its streamlined design made from boiler plate, and its iconic lettering placed on the front of the vehicle, it truly is unmistakable. A series of around ten was made at the Constructora Field factory in Barcelona.
Constructora Field No.1 Armored Car in Barcelona, San Jaime’s Square, just outside the town hall. This photograph was taken a day after it was presented to the press.
Armored trucks in Spain were not made exclusively during the Spanish Civil War. In fact, small batches were produced in Spain and Morocco in the 1920s for convoy duties. However, with the unstable political climate in Spain in the early 1930s, they were produced in greater numbers. When the Civil War broke out in July 1936, at least 400 were produced for Republican militias, with 159 in Catalonia alone, 1936-1937.
The exact truck used for the Constructora Field is unknown. It seems likely that various trucks were used, one of which might have been a Chevrolet SB M1936, and other government issue lorries. It appears as though it was mostly made of four, large, boiler plates, which were all welded together (although there may have been some minor riveting). Holding the superstructure together was likely a wooden framework. Entry was given through the rear, including for the driver, as there were no side doors. They also appear to have all been given large naval-type ventilation pipes which were fitted close to the front of the vehicle.
The prototype Constructora Field was completed on 29th August 1936 and, on the same day, it was presented to the press. The following day, it was presented to locals, with FAI painted on the front. There to greet it was Lluís Companys, the President of Catalonia. The main differences between this prototype and ‘serial production vehicles’ are the rear facing crew ventilation tubes and the lack of the turret. This particular vehicle reportedly saw service with the Columna Ford, made up of members of the UGT and CNT-FAI, possibly on the Aragonese front. It featured nine portholes and could carry eight soldiers, plus a driver. It weighed an estimated 5000 kg and was powered by a Chevrolet 6-cylinder engine.
Workers with the Constructora Field No.1 Armored Car, 29th August 1936, at the Constructora Field factory.
The series remained in production for about a year, with the final of this series made in August 1937, but the exact number built is unknown. Some sources mention only four being built, but perhaps mean four types of the vehicle. It is known that, at very least, nine were built, because each one was numbered (and photos of No.9 exist). The largest figure stated by sources is 12. However, plenty of other improvised vehicles were made in Barcelona, which might have been mistaken for another Constructora Field.
There were various types of the Constructora Field, and at least four are mentioned by sources – however their exact difference are not explicit. There is also a lack of photos of distinct models – in fact, only photos of No. 1, 2, 9, and another unknown knocked out Constructora Field are readily available to view (although many photos may exist in private collections).
It seems as though all types (with the exception of the prototype) featured a large, cylindrical turret, usually armed with a Vickers machine gun. These turrets were not exactly standardized – some were tall and some were short. The exact shape of the hull and number of boiler plates used appeared to vary, also, giving very slightly different rear hull shapes, as photographs reveal. Another variable feature is the tire protection – it seems that some had metal plates covering at least the front set, but others had metal chains around the skirt of the vehicle. Their protective qualities are dubious at best.
Constructora Field of the CNT-FAI. This one featured a short machine gun turret, and tires protected by steel plates.
The protective quality of the armor is also dubious. It was probably ~8 mm (0.31 in) thick, but it was only boiler plate, not armor plate. That being the case, it is possible that anything the slightest bit larger in caliber than rifles would penetrate the vehicle. However, the armor was curved, which was a clear consideration in its construction, meaning that it would be more reliable than the flat constructed improvised armored cars, because bullets would have a chance of ricocheting.
Another problem with the armor was that there is no immediately apparent way of accessing the engine. Whilst there is a small hatch at the front, this would not provide access for major repairs. According to photos, there are small plates on either side of the hull which might give access to the engine. It is suggested that perhaps the top armor plate could lift up, but this seems dubious. Also, another major consideration regarding the engine is overheating. The chassis, especially with turreted versions, would be heavily stressed, and during hot summers, the engine would inevitably overheat. The armor would certainly insulate the engine, meaning that a breakdown and cooling period could last a very long time. Like most other gun trucks, due to their high ground pressure, they could also not be used off-road.
Stranger types might exist, too, with concave armor, as opposed to the more commonly seen convex type. Their turrets are much different in construction to the ones seen on others, too. Whilst they might be a different vehicle all together, their plaques on the front fender appear similar in design to the Constructora Field’s, although the words appear to be different. They may be a different, but similar vehicle series made in Barcelona.
“Carros de Combatante y Vehículos Blindados de la Guerra 1936-1939” by F.C. Albert
“Las Armas de la Guerra Civil: El Primer Estudio Global y Sistematico del Armamento Empleado por Ambos Contendientes” by José María Manrique García and Lucas Molina Franco
“Spanish Civil War Tanks: The Proving Ground for Blitzkrieg” by Steven J. Zaloga
Mundogsm.com (1st thread, Spanish)
Mundogsm.com (2nd thread, Spanish)
Unknown camouflaged Constructora Field of the CNT-FAI.
The Constructora Field No.9 later captured by Nationalists.
Knocked out Constructora Field No. 2 Armoured Car of the Columna Ascaso, probably on the Aragonese front. This vehicle was captured by the Nationalists. More photos.
Constructora Field “No.9”, Caspe, March, 1938. Slogan “[Spanish]: Tereul will be the grave! [Catalan]: Long live freedom of the people”. This one features metal chains to protect the tires and undercarriage.
Other side of Constructora Field No. 9 at the “Exposicion de material de guerra tomado al enemigo” in San Sebastian, 1938. Slogan: “[Catalan]: Down with Fascism! [Spanish]: They will not pass!” The front part of the hull appears to be held up by a trolley jack, as it is missing its front wheels (and possibly the entire front axle).
Possibly a late type Constructora Fields next to other unknown improvised vehicles. The iconic lettering plaques on the front of the fenders indicate that these are possibly Constructora Fields, even though they appear to be a different type of vehicle with their convex armor, and differently shaped turrets.
Another possible late type Constructora Field. It features many common features with its predecessors, such as the pistol ports, chains to protect the tires, hinged armor skirts around the tires, and this turret is slightly similar to earlier types.
Constructora Field “No.1” in Barcelona. San Jaime’s Square, just outside the town hall.