Posts Tagged ‘Itala’

(A Wootton Family Collection)

Albert Valentine ‘Archie’ or ‘Bert’ Turner and A ‘Ossie’ O’Connor, Itala, before the start of their record breaking circa-560 miles Sydney-Melbourne run on Sunday February 24, 1924. Corner of Macquarie and Bridge Streets.

Regarded in-the-day as one of Australia’s best drivers, Turner and O’Connor left the Sydney GPO at 5.15am and arrived at the Melbourne equivalent at 5.49pm. The 12 hours 34 minutes journey equated to an average of 47mph, and knocked 25 minutes off the existing record held by Norman ‘Wizard’ Smith’s Essex.

It was the third occasion within 15-months Turner had taken the record, in tit-for-tat fashion with his competitors, on the two previous runs in 1923 he drove a Delage C02.

Turner aboard a Delage CO2 4.5-litre OHV six cylinder, before breaking the Sydney-Melbourne record in February 1923 – 16 hours 47 min. Chassis number folks, does it currently exist? Was he flogging Delages at the time or were the drives paid ones? The sponsor is Plume Motor Spirit! (C Blundell Collection)
James Flood and his wife alongside AV Turner’s “record setting Itala”, here (where??) with Albert Vernon at the wheel in 1921. I note the car – if it is the same Itala – is now fitted with four-wheel brakes, rather than the two in the opening shot. Not so sure about the year quoted (James Flood via C Nicholes)
The Luigi Lopez works Itala Tipo 51S before the start of the 1922 Targa Florio. Five of these 2.8-litre four cylinder racers were entered, the best placed was Antonio Moriondo’s 12th placed machine, albeit he was second in the 2-3 litre class. Lopez was 25th and last, the winner was Giulio Masetti’s 1914 Mercedes 4.5-litre 18/100 GP car. I’m not suggesting Turner’s car was an ex-works machine, but rather including it for the sake of completeness and begging the question as to what, exactly, AVT’s car was… (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The Turner Itala is variously described in contemporary newspaper reports as a 17.9hp or 15hp Floria (sic), it’s perhaps a 2.8-litre, four cylinder 55bhp @ 3200rpm engined Type 51 Sport with a Targa Florio style body, built by James Flood in Melbourne. Details of the car from a marque expert appreciated, inclusive of present whereabouts.

Turner was then the New South Wales agent for Itala and Bugatti operating from large premises in Castlereagh Street. He promoted both marques via competition, a medium at which he rather shone.

The Sydney Sunday Times reported that “The average speed of 47mph, fast as it sounds (the main road, between Sydney and Melbourne then was little more than an unmade goat-track), included all stops for supplies and refreshments, the running time average was about 50mph.”

“During the journey the exhaust pipe broke, blowing stupefying exhaust gases into the faces of driver and passenger. Mr O’Connor was rendered well-nigh unconscious by the fumes and arrived in Melbourne much the worse for the experience.”

“Mr Turner’s throat was so sore from the same cause, that he could hardly speak audibly. At one stage of the trip he was compelled to drive for several hundred miles on the hand throttle alone.”

“Speeds in excess of his latest accomplishment are unlikely, in view of the present state of the roads, which he states precludes the reasonable possibility of a higher average being maintained. Mr Turner has many successes to his name, but his latest ranks among the highest,” the Sunday Times concluded in the wonderful narrative style of the day.

AV Turner at Aspendale, Melbourne, a banked dirt track, on the way to winning the “blue riband 25-miles Australian Championship” from Carlo Massola’s Diatto on April 21, over the Easter 1924 long weekend (
Turner and somewhat energetic crew – perhaps that fella has had enough? – during their victorious 1921 Alpine Trial run. Itala Tipo 51 tourer powered by a 2.8-litre, two side-valve 50bhp @ 3000rpm four cylinder engine. Four speed ‘box (

Turner had plenty of success on Italas in all kinds of events, including a win in the first RACV 1000 Miles Alpine Trial/Victorian Reliability Contest – aka The Alpine Rally – in 1921. This caused much consternation among the Victorian blue-blazer-clad RACV mob as he was the only New South Wales driver in the tough event contested over the difficult Alpine terrain of north-eastern Victoria. He was second in 1922 aboard the same Itala Co Australia owned car (entered by a Mr A Hoette), his arch-rival Wizard Smith triumphed that year on an Essex.

By 1924, Itala (Itala Fabbrica Automobili), founded by Matteo Ceirano and five partners at Via Guastalla, Turin in 1903, was in receivership. Ex-Fiat general manager Giulio Cappa was appointed by the Italian Government’s Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale. This entity took control of insolvent Italian businesses deemed too-large-to-fail from 1933 to 2000, Alfa Romeo is a case in point. After his rein, an interesting story in itself, the company was bought by truck maker Officine Metallurgiche di Tortona (OM) in 1929, and the remains sold to Fiat in 1935.

Poor Turner died from injuries sustained contesting an inconsequential hill-climb in North Curl Curl, quite close to his Darley Road, Manly, home. He interrupted a tennis game to run his (later 1927 Australian Grand Prix winning) Bugatti Type 30 #4087 on May 15, 1926 and died in Manly Cottage Hospital later that day. I’ve a feature article 95% complete on that car and its in period-piloti, Messrs Turner, Geoff Meredith and Jack Clements, I really must finish it.

Turner was quite a driver…

(The Argus, Melbourne, December 1921)
Turner winning the ‘Australian Championship’ at Aspendale, Easter 1924 (The Herald, Melbourne)


Angela Wootton Family Collection, Colin Blundell Collection, Bibliotheque nationale de France,, Sydney Sunday Times March 2 1924, James Flood Book of Early Motoring via the Chris Nicholes Collection, various newspapers via Trove, John Medley, Ray Bell,, Pedr Davis Collection via the Murdoch Family Collection-Neill Murdoch

AVT ready for the off, Bugatti T30 #4087, North Curl Curl, May 15, 1926 (P Davis Collection via N Murdoch)


The hillclimb in which Turner died – above, immediately prior to the fatal run – was a circa 700 yard straight run up (now) Harbord Road from about the corner of Abbott Road, North Curl Curl. The finish line was on or about the corner of Harbord Road and Brighton Street, North Manly, with Turner’s crash site on that corner or “the vicinity of ” 151 Harbord Road, Freshwater. It was on this corner, or this property, on, or just after the finish line, where AVT came to grief.


Turner’s Itala racing a Farman bi-plane, probably piloted by Major Harry Shaw – a prominent racer himself – at Aspendale circa 1921, it was a dead-heat apparently. Exact date appreciated.



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!…