SPA 1907 GP car, 14.75 litre, 4 cylinder engine

Ernesto Ceirano and his mechanic race their SPA during the Brescia road race on 2 September 1907…

The 1907 running of the Coppa Velocita di Brescia was 8 laps of a testing, dusty, gravel 23.4 mile course.

1907 was the second season of Grand Prix racing, events organised that year were the French Grand Prix, Targa Florio, Moscow-St Petersburg, Kaiser Preis, Ardennes Circuit, Coppa Florio and the Coppa della Velocita.


The road race started in Brescia, Lombardy and then passed through the towns of Montichiari, Castiglione, Lonato, Rezzato and then returned to Brescia. The Automobile Club of Milan organised the event which took 1,100 volunteers to run, it gives some idea of the resources required to run these road events even by the relaxed ‘safety standards’ of the day.


Cagno in the winning Itala (Getty)

Held on September 2 1907 the race was won by Alessandro Cagno’s Itala from Victor Demogeot in a Darracq with Rene Hanriot third.

Born into modest circumstances Cagno was said to be the third FIAT employee with roles as test driver, Giovanni Agnelli’s personal driver and works racer. He also competed successfully in powerboats and was an entrepreneur-an aviation pioneer who survived to a ripe-old age, he died in 1971.








J Alezy, Clement Bayard during the Coppa di Velocita. A 1905 Gordon Bennett car- 12.8 litres, T-head developing circa 120bhp @ 1200 rpm (Getty)

Adolphe Clement was a wealthy businessman who owned the rights to manufacture Dunlop Tyres in France. In 1896 he was part of a partnership which took over the Gladiator Cycle Company. A motorised cycle soon turned into the manufacture of cars in 1899, by 1907 the company was building nearly 3000 cars per year


The CB race team was lead by Albert Clement, Adolphe’s son, who died whilst practising for the French GP in May 1907. The 1907 GP cars used in the Coppa were those built originally for the Gordon Bennett races in 1905. They were 12.8 litre, T-head engines developing a reputed 120bhp at 1200rpm.


Victor Demogeot, Darracq. Engine 15,268cc, 4 cylinders ‘ bi-cylinder’ blocks, OHV, brake on transmission (Getty)

Pierre-Alexander Darracq (1855-1931) was one of the first to mass-produce cars, his first fortune made from a bicycle business named ‘Gladiator’, the business later acquired by Adolphe Clement and others. In 1904 Darracq were the most successful manufacturer in the world building 1600 cars, but he never learned to drive! For Alfisti his Italian subsidiary is significant in providing the origins of Alfa Romeo.

He sold the company to British interests in 1913 having lost significant amounts of money with cars powered by a Henriod rotary-valve engine design which failed dismally.


Caricature of M Darracq dated 22 December 1901 (Emile Cohl)











Demogeot’s Darracq at speed (Croci)



















Felice Buzio, Diatto-Clement. These cars were created by a partnership of Clement and Diatto, Turin coach builders, between 1905 and 1909. They were Clements built under licence, specification of this car unclear. In 1909 C-B left the business, the cars were renamed ‘Societa Fonderie Officine Frejus’ catchy innit! (Getty)



Cagno, Itala

In 1904 Matteo Ceirano left the company he founded with his brothers to create his own marque, Itala. In 1906 he left Itala to create ‘SPA’ Societa Piemontese Auomobili with chief designer Alberto Ballacco. I am not certain of the specification of the car pictured in this articles opening shot, perhaps the car is one of two 6 cylinder models they produced that year, perhaps 4 cylinders. Contributions as to spec gratefully received.























Topical Press, Getty Images

Tailpiece: Cagno again in the victorious Itala, grandeur of the occasion clear!…




  1. McCarthy, Andrew says:

    Would be lovely to re-print some of those old posters ….. no copyright issues ????

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Hoi Polloi says:

    Fantastic chosen pics, as usual.
    Dunlop, Michelin…plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  3. John Colley says:

    Fantastic! fantastiche! Proper cars they are! I love the art work.

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks John,
      I would be a lot happier if I could find accurate specs on the cars but this early Edwardian era is a tougher one to research than most. Marvellous cars all the same.

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