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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.

:: [  1907 Itala 120HP Grand Prix ] ::

Another from a number of high quality interesting photos sent to us by Mike Mackrill  (UK) who has a fascianating website called Nostalgic Picture Library. Mike asks if our Group could help to identify this vehicle, the image of which was taken many years ago in the Austin workshops in Newport, Isle of Wight. It was a vehicle owned possibly by the Cheverton family. Mike thinks it is a Fiat. The photo has an intriguing annotation on the back which reads "........... Peking to Moscow showing what repaired? spoked by the peasants in Serbian desert." Two photos are attached for your perusal. Kind Regards, Mike Mackrill; -  Nostalgic Picture Library.

We have slightly cropped and and toned the photo, and we think the text reads :
Winner Peking to Moscow 
Wheel repaired and spoked by the peasants of the Siberian Desert.

The car on the photo is not a FIAT, but it is Italian. The badge on the radiator header tank and the script on the radiator matrix both indicate it is an " Itala". The company was founded in Turin in 1904 by Matteo Ceirano. The Ceirano Brothers were largely responsible for starting the Italian motor industry (Itala, Ceirano, Welleys/FIAT, STAR, SCAT, SPA, FATA, etc.) They made mainly very large and powerful cars. Financial problems resulted in closure of Itala in 1929, parts being sold to FIAT.

The big letters on the bonnet and on the petrol tank say, in Italian,  Paris  Peking. This would suggest that this may have been the Itala which took part in the 1907 trans-continental Peking to Paris rally/race. The run started in Peking 10th June and finished in Paris on 10th August, a distance of 9,317 miles (14,994 km). No roads, no maps, no petrol stations, only following the telegraph wires! The winning car was a 1907 Itala 7 Litre 35'45 HP driven by Italian Prince Scipione Borghese and Ettore Guizzardi. Spyker came second, Contal next, and followed by two de Dion Boutons. Boughese was so confident of winning he took a detour from Moscow to St Petersburg for dinner. 

It is however quite unlikely that this was the car used because the original car did not have the elaborate badges on the radiator but had a simpler strap badge on the tank. This one also does not have the additional rear tank. In any case, the original car is still preserved in original condition.

While we are not experts on Itala cars we are surmising that this is one of a number of early Italas which were painted later in the colours of the Peking to Paris winning car. Perhaps an exhibition capitalising on the Itala legend. 

From what has been established from subsequent internet research, it would seem that the car in the photo was one of Itala's later 120HP Grand Prix Team cars for the 1907 French Grand Prix, in which Itala did not actually take part. They did however win in Brescia driven by Cagno. This, and one other of these cars, were later purchased by Edgar Thornton from the Isle of Wight (UK) and converted to road use, this one having the registration DL 259. It went to Russia at some point for the St Petersburg - Moscow race driven by H R Pope, coming third.

Thornton sold the second Itala, but on his death, and later on the death of his wife, in 1931, this car was left to local garage owner Frank Cheverton. So indeed this part of the story stacks up. Even later still the 'Itala di Cagno' was to be seen at the Beaulieu Motor Museum.

The text on the back of the photo does not really help with the detective work.
Definitely not Serbia because Serbia is in the Balkans and not on the route. For this car, even Siberia is a bit suspect because, not being the original car, there is not a lot of Siberia between St Petersburg and Moscow where the car is known to have been? 

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