Part 3 – Amilcar Italiana, Ansaldi and Ansaldo
Ansaldo was one of Italy’s oldest and most important engineering companies, existing for 140 years from 1853 to 1993. Until the end of the 19th century, the company focused on manufacturing and repairing railway components, eventually employing 10,000 workers in seven factories. In 1904, Ansaldo was bought by Ferdinando Maria Perrone who sought to make the company independent along the lines of vertical integration for its iron works and armament manufacture (in the same manner accomplished with enormous success by Henry Ford a few later). World War I began a period of exponential growth for the company. By 1918 the company employed 80,000 workers and controlled companies in armament manufacture, aircraft engines, banking, ship building and electrical power production. This growth funded by creditors led to severe overextension by the company. Ansaldo needed to find a use for its Turin airplane engine factory after WWI and decided to diversify into motor manufacturing. Production of an advanced light car – the Tipo 4 – commenced in 1919. Designed by Ansaldo’s chief engineer, Guido Soria, it was powered by an overhead-camshaft four-cylinder engine displacing 1,847 cc that produced 36 HP (at 3600 rpm) and featured a three speed gearbox. It was a highly functional car intended for middle class and in that regard, bore similarities to Chevrolets of the day.
Ansaldo experienced difficulties converting other business interests and factories to peacetime production and by 1921, was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Banca d’Italia led a consortium to save it from bankruptcy. The company’s diverse business entities were sold and consolidated, but the decision was made to retain the production of automobiles (which continued until 1930). Ansaldo also produced a sports version with 1,981 cc (120.9 cu in) engine offered. In 1923 Ansaldo introduced four-wheel brakes to the range and launched its first six-cylinder model, the 6AN, powered by an engine of 1,990 cc. Gradually, as the size and weight of their models increased, Ansaldo increased the engine size to 2179 cc. Still too small for the larger family cars that Ansaldo began to produce in the late 1920’s, an overhead valve straight-8 of 3,532 cc was introduced. Ansaldos were considered to be automobiles of both good quality and modern design, and competed in many races. Tazio Nuvolari, one of Italy’s most famous racing drivers, in only his second car race, placed second driving an Ansaldo, in the 2-litre class in the Circuit of Garda race of 1921, beaten only by the other Ansaldo driver, Corrado Lotti. Additional racing successes came with Ansaldo’s next model, the 1980cc Type 4CS. This car retained the overhead camshaft engine.
With the rise of fascism during the 1920’s, Mussolini insisted that the company revert to armament and warship production. Even as Ansaldo seemed to have established itself in the motoring marketplace, the group was broken up on Mussolini’s orders in 1927, the car division being sold to Macchi. Production continued until 1930 and then ceased entirely.
The company produced ships and armaments during WWII, but in 1948, experienced financial difficulties again. The control of the company was given over to Finmeccanica. For the next 45 years of Ansaldo’s existence, it operated primarily in building of electric power plants. In 1993, Ansaldo ceased to exist as an independent entity, having been completely absorbed by Finmeccanica.