The forgotten car company Ansaldo: Thanks to it, the Czech Wiko was created, in its time it competed with Fiat and the USA

Giovanni Ansaldo’s (1819–1859) machine shop was based in Genoa and had a total of seven different plants located throughout Italy. Enterprises churned out products oriented primarily to rail and shipping, all with the contribution of their own high-quality steel production.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

Ansaldo comes from sunny Italy

In 1904, the companies had a total of more than 10,000 employees, and at that time the entire holding passed under the ownership of the Perrone family. Mainly thanks to the focus on the arms industry and cooperation with leading foreign companies, production plants are growing at a rocket pace.

Already during the First World War, the concern was 46% involved in the production of cannons in Italy and also supplied the home army with warships, aircraft engines and cartridges for firearms. Based on this, the Ansaldo holding already employed 80,000 people in 1918.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

After the first war, the manufacturer turned to automobiles

With the end of the war approaching, however, it became clear that the company had to reorient itself to production in the civilian sector, and the cars that were born in the Turin assembly plant a year later (August 1919) won out of all the proposals.

The first Ansaldo 4 types, later referred to as A, offered a modern 1,850 cc four-cylinder 30 hp engine with a camshaft located in the cylinder head. Between 1920 and 1921, less than 800 units were produced, but such sales were not according to the expectations of the car company’s management, especially when the Fiat 501, a medium-class model, was mainly sizzling in Italy.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

Ansaldo’s biggest competitor was Fiat

However, the carmaker tried to become independent, because the problems of the main shareholder were also dragging it down. This happened in 1923, when the head of the holding declared bankruptcy and the car manufacturer finally separated, which only benefited him.

With its 200 employees, the reborn company reached a production capacity of up to 2,000 cars a year and already in 1922 introduced its most important model – the Ansaldo 4C. From 1923, the novelty offered brakes on the front axle as well, a 35-horsepower engine with a volume of 1,850 cc and two wheelbase lengths (2,780 mm and 3,000 mm).

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

Ansaldo 4H will offer a total of six seats. However, two of them are rather emergency

The wheel track of the 4C was 1,300 mm, the weight of the chassis was only 750 kg, while as a whole the four-seater open car was able to accelerate at a speed of up to 90 km/h. Thanks to this, the company also sold its chassis to renowned body shops and, among others, one piece also to the shareholders Wichterle & Kovářík from Prostejov.

The successful 4C type was soon followed by the sporty 4SC variant, which, thanks to reboring the cylinders and increasing the displacement to 1,980 cc, provided 48 horsepower, but still at an affordable price. Thanks to this, the Ansaldo 4SC has become a popular model for novice racers in the category up to 2,000 cubic centimeters.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

The carmaker also started producing racing cars and did not fare too badly

From 1923, chassis designed for four-cylinder 4C engines were also equipped with six-cylinder engines, designated as Tipo 6A. The two-liter engine with a camshaft in the head offered a power of 50 mares and, like the four-cylinder, worked with a three-speed manual with a dry clutch.

As for the Type 4C, it remained in production until 1926, when it was replaced by the Type 4D, later the 4F produced until 1928, as well as the successor to the Type 6A – the Ansaldo 6B. The motorization of the new types had identical parameters, the improvements were only partial.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

Ansaldo used OHC engines. For that reason, you can also find them in Wikov cars

In 1926, the production line expanded to include the Type 10, fitted with a weaker 1,450 cc engine and a simpler chassis with a single leaf spring at the front. The Alsaldo 10 was supposed to be close to the popular Fiat 503 in price, but it was still too expensive.

In 1928–1929, a new type Ansaldo 14 followed, with the engine from the type 4, but newly paired with a four-speed manual. This was followed by the type 15, which took over the drive unit from the sports type 4SC, only increased to a volume of 2,000 cc.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

Some 4C chassis intended for four-cylinder engines received (from 1923) a six-cylinder and the designation Tipo 6A

The peak at that time was the six-cylinder type 18 based on the proven 6B. Here the displacement increased to 2,780 cc and power to 67 hp. The 15 GS type with two camshafts, two carburettors, a lightweight chassis and a top speed of 140 km/h was also created for sporting purposes.

In the years 1929-1932, a new flagship model was born at the car company – the Tipo 22. The eight-cylinder OHV king with a volume of 3,536 cc offered 86 horsepower, an extended wheelbase of 3,300 mm and the option of six to seven seats.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

An interesting solution to the brake light

During this period, the car manufacturer Ansaldo also stopped producing lower class models, as it had no chance against the growing Fiat. And it was no honey in the field of luxury cars either, because American cars were also entering the country, in the vast majority of cases cheaper and better equipped. The company also tried to produce six-cylinder trucks and buses, but even that did not save it, and in May 1931 it came under the ownership of OM Fabbrica Automobili Bresciana.

But even the new owner did not last long, as in 1933 it was absorbed by the expanding Fiat. The production of the six- and eight-cylinder engines themselves, however, took place independently of the events at the car factory, as the Ceva company took care of the purchase of the production in progress and spare parts.

Photo: Tomáš Kopečný

More like emergency seats for the other two passengers

It was able to assemble the Tipo 33 (six-cylinder) and Tipo 42 (eight-cylinder) models from components produced from 1930 until 1936. It is also worth remembering that tanks and tracked tractors were later born under the Ansaldo brand, but they no longer had the original Italian nothing to do with the car company.

However, if it weren’t for the Ansalda type 4C, the Prostejov Wikov cars as we know them today would probably never have been created. The domestic engineers liked the modern solution of the engine and chassis so much that they bought one chassis and built their first models based on its design.

However, the originally intended popular or middle-class cars eventually slipped into the segment of individual production of luxury items, thanks to which Wikos later acquired the nickname Czech Rolls-Royces…

The article is in Czech

Tags: forgotten car company Ansaldo Czech Wiko created time competed Fiat USA

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