The Spanish Bilbao armoured car…. Not your average “police” car…

The Spanish Bilbao armoured car

Not your average “police” car…

This is another one of my niche projects related to the Spanish Civil War (“SCW”). As I wrote in an earlier article, the Spanish Civil War was a large, complex and savage conflict which has been largely lost in the shadow of the Second World War which immediately followed it.

Spain didn’t just suddenly stumble into its civil war in 1936; there was a prolonged period of increasing social disorder and political polarization that foreshadowed the war. In 1931 a Socialist government was elected and shortly thereafter the monarchy was abolished and the King Alfonso XIII abdicated. The new Republic feared that the established arms of authority within the existing state – the Army and the Civil Guard (a National Police force) – were sympathetic towards the reactionary political elements. The new government established a second national internal security force, officially known as Secciones de la Vanguardia del Cuerpo de Seguridad – Sections of the Vanguard of the Security Corps, more commonly referred to as the Assault Guards. The Assault Guards considered as more loyal to the Socialist cause, and was concentrated in the larger urban areas, as opposed to the Civil Guards who were focused in the rural, agricultural regions.

The Assault Guards were equipped with motor vehicles, to improve their response to any potential unrest in built up areas. This led to the manufacture of the Bilbao armoured truck in 1932. This vehicle was built on the frame of a commercial truck chassis. The vehicle was armed with a turret mounted Hotchkiss MMG in a rather large fully rotating turret on top of the superstructure. It had a crew of three men; driver, commander /co-driver and gunner. It could also carry five riflemen as passengers.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in July of 1936 most, but not all, of the Assault Guards remained loyal to the government in Madrid. The Bilbaos were soon in action as the armed conflict erupted, with Bilbaos seeing action in the failed uprising in Madrid and the dramatic Siege of the Alcazar in Toledo in July 1936. They were used by both sides during the three-year long conflict. The surviving cars remained in service at the end of the war, used by the victorious Nationalist again in their policing function.

The Flamer Throwing Bilbao

The Nationalists sought to mount heavy trench flamethrowers into fighting vehicles, and among the vehicles chosen was the Bilbao armored car they had fallen into their hands. Five Bilbaos were sent to the workshop of the Condor Legion (in the town of Quismondo). These so-called ‘Bilbao Modelo 1932 Lanzallamas’ were no different from a regular Bilbao armored car, save for a large flame projector poking through the co-driver’s vision hatch, and an internal storage tank.

Using the Bilbao in Bolt Action

The Bilbao is typical of a lot of interwar wheeled armoured vehicles. It was essentially a lightly armoured wheeled vehicle which was really only suitable for use on hard surfaces. It was only a two-wheel drive vehicle and was not intended to be an all-terrain fighting vehicle.

There are some special aspects of the Bilbao that would increase its utility to a player though, namely

  • It can carry five riflemen in addition to its crew of three
  • It has the option to carry a flame thrower covering the frontal arc, without losing its turret mounted MMG armament.

To score this vehicle using the Vehicle Design System, we can assess points for the Bilbao, at “regular” as

  • Wheeled 7+ armour = 50 points
  • MMG armament + 10 points
  • 5 passenger capacity + 10 points (2 points per man)

Total = 70 points (as a regular)

The flame thrower would add 50 points but also that should supplant the ability to carry passengers (the fuel tank is mounted internally) so the cost of a flame throwing Bilbao would be

  • Wheeled 7+ armour = 50 points
  • MMG armament + 10 points
  • Flame Thrower + 50 points
  • (no passengers) ——
  • Total = 110 points (as a regular).

I think giving this vehicle “recce” would be unreasonable, as it is quite bulky and cumbersome. It was a proven vehicle (so it is not “unreliable” nor “experimental”) but I wouldn’t call it particularly nimble. It belongs in an early war gaming environment, and once there they can do great things as an armed and armoured troop transport or a flame throwing vehicle.

The .stl model

the standard Bilbao, with single MMG armament

I started with Jarlang’s excellent Bilbao model, from thingiverse. Jarlang does great work and has .stls for a lot of early war and less commonly covered AFVs. This model was well done, all I did with his file was

  • Upsized it to 1/56th scale
  • Added recesses for the rear wheels into the hull
  • Added a pivot recess to the bottom of the turret
  • Created the hatch opening for the flame throwing in the co-driver’s position
  • Created the flame thrower projector to fit into the same recess.

The wheels snap into the recesses tightly, please test fit before gluing. The flame projector does not have to be glued in; it will friction fit and can be removed and replaced as needed, just don’t force it. You may need to trim ever so slightly, particularly after finishing as paint or varnish will fill up space.

The flame projector can be friction fit into the open vision hatch and removed and replaced as needed

Print on a fine setting on an FDM printer, with supports.

I finished my model to represent a model still in its police light grey colour. Other Bilbaos were painted in some very stylish camouflage schemes. Tank encyclopedia and other sites offers some good paint options.


  • I feel that I am an 12 year old boy trapped in the body of a much older man, and I am an enthusiast for tabletop miniature gaming as well as 3D design of AFVs and wargaming terrain pieces. I assure my spouse that it is all still cheaper than buying a Harley and wearing leather chaps. My original 3D .stl files are available at the range includes unique WW2 AFVs, transports, gun and tabletop wargaming terrain.

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