An Italian artillery Colonel named Sergio Berlese (who designed the Obice da 75/18 modello 34) suggested that Italy should create an armoured fighting vehicle similar to the German StuG III, which had been successful in the French campaign. The first prototype was quickly assembled and delivered, on February 10, 1941, only 13 months after the first M13/40 tank upon which it was based. After that, 60 more examples were ordered. They were delivered in 1941, and were then shipped to North Africa in January 1942. This initial batch was based on the M13 chassis, with its weak 125 hp engine (later to be replaced by one of 145 hp, with M14 chassis).
Structurally, this self-propelled gun was built with riveted steel plates, which were thicker but also less sloped than in the original tank (50 mm as against 42 mm max). Frontal armour was almost vertical, but it consisted of two plates that strengthened it when compared to a simple homogeneous steel plate.