1908 Itala Racecar

In 1904, the Itala Company was formed in Turin, Italy by Matteo Ceirano and Guido Bigio. The vehicles created were primarily designed for racing and outfitted with large engines. Throughout the years, the vehicles would capture many victories, the most famous being the 1907 Paris-Peking Marathon. This 10,000 mile endurance race included two continents, deserts, swamps and other terrain. Eleven men in five different vehicles entered the race. The most powerful vehicle was the 40 HP Itala driven by Prince Scipio Borghese. There were no roads that stretched from Peking to Paris that was able to accommodate automobiles. Many of the vehicles were underpowered and able to scale the steep inclines. Animals and men were needed to push the vehicles to the summit of the mountains. On the down hills, the vehicles mechanical components were once again inadequate, often failing to properly slow the vehicle. The extreme heat from the desserts caused the radiators to overheat. The only solution was to pour the reserve drinking water into the vehicles to keep them from boiling over. After sixty-one days, the Itala entered Paris, winning the race. Twenty days later the remainder of the vehicles arrived in Paris. There were two De Dion-Burtons and a Spyker. The final vehicle, a three-wheel, 6HP Contal was unable to complete the race.

The success of their race cars and the high profile individuals who purchased them aided in increasing demand for the vehicles. The Itala Company enjoyed mild success until the onset of World War I, where they shifted to building military vehicles and aircraft engines. After the war the company went back to producing race cars. Their Tipo 24 featured a 2-liter six-cylinder engine fitted to a small body. Prior to the war, their vehicles were large and outfitted with very powerful engines. As with many companies during the late 1920's and early 1930's, slow sales and a tough economy brought financial difficulties for the Itala Company. The Company introduced their Tipo 61 powered by a 60 horsepower six-cylinder engine. To help widen their clientele base, it was offered in various body styles and sizes. It was not until 1934 that the company's financial problems became so great that they were forced to close their doors, after 30 years of automobile production.

By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2005

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