16 Sep, 2017

Aus unserem Archiv: Im Jahr 2013 stellte Bruce Lindsay aus Australien lancianews eine Reihe von Artikeln zur Verfügung, in welchen er korrespondierend zu seinem Buch „70 Years of Trailblazing“ aus dem Jahr 2009 herausragende Modelle der Marke Lancia von den 1930er bis in die 1970er-Jahre umfassend beschreibt und bewertet. Wir werden nun in unregelmäßigen Abständen diese Berichte wieder bringen.

Vierter Beitrag über die außerhalb Italiens kaum bekannten Leicht-LKW

Die Herren bauten nicht nur Aurelia V6- und D50-V8-Motoren

From their commencement of commercial vehicle production in 1912, Lancia built heavy and heavier models. The first – the IZ – used a 4.940cc four-cylinder-engine, the Omicron of 1927 was driven by a 7-litre dohc six, while the company’s first in-house diesel was the five-cylinder 7-litre 3RO of 1938. After World War 2, economic austerity and massive urban reconstruction projects in Italy meant that the time was ripe for the marketing of a versatile light truck. Vittorio Jano and Francesco De Virgilio collaborated on a design suitable for civilian and military applications. The civilian version was known as the Beta Autocarro, while the military versions were the CL/TL51.

The Beta was introduced in 1950 as a forward control or cab-over light truck. Its new four-cylinder engine used a U-configuration, the cylinders vertical but staggered for the sake of compactness, and with pushrod overhead valves for easy maintenance. The preference for a U-configuration over a Vee was conditioned by the need for these engines to work very hard very long, often at slow speed or stationary, and extensive water-jacketing could more easily surround vertical cylinders.  Producing 48 bhp from 1.908 cc, it was tuned for low speed torque and drove almost four tonnes at up to 82 km/h, considered fast at the time.

The upper four ratios of its five-speed gearbox were synchronised, and optional final drive ratios could be specified. Brakes were four-wheel hydraulics, with a mechanical transmission handbrake. Suspension was by transverse leaf spring and unequal A-arms at the front, longitudinal leaf springs at the rear, with Houdaille hydraulic shock-absorbers all round – unusually for a light truck of the period, and doubtless meaning superior handling and ride in the Lancia tradition. Lest the specification appear simple, the factory did not disappoint, since the Z10/Z11 series were offered on two different track widths, and on two optional wheelbases. Additionally small numbers were built with three-axle chassis, and were known as the Z12.

All were built on an immensely sturdy channel section steel chassis which made them suitable for the widest range of uses. Betas saw service not only as load carriers, but also as light buses (famously used in Saharan Africa), side-tipping trucks, and specialist vehicles including field stations, mobile offices, milk tankers, refuse collectors, mobile surgeries and even as funeral hearses. Purpose-built ambulances were catalogued by Lancia, specialist coachbuilders like Garavini, Boneschi and Orlandi produced special versions on demand, while the huge majority of Beta chassis wore bodies by Viberti. This commercial coach building company was closely associated with Lancia from the early 1920s, and was purchased by Lancia in 1962.

From 1953 the Beta Z50/Z51 was powered by another novel engine, this time a vertical two-cylinder supercharged two-stroke of 1.963 cc, built under licence from Detroit Diesel. It produced 42 bhp@1.900rpm, used a Roots supercharger, carried up to 2.100kg at 72 km/h, and at 8 litres/100kms its consumption of distillate was even more frugal than its petrol-powered predecessor. Stressing its lugging ability, it developed its maximum torque at just 1.000 rpm, and could drag full loads up inclines of 19%. The last iteration of the Beta concept was the Detroit-powered Beta 190 – so named because of its 190cm wide cabin – but since the range was mechanically different from any other production Lancia, it was discontinued in 1961 in favour of light commercials sharing the Flavia platform – the Superjolly. It is estimated that around 3.000 of all versions were built, but few survive – they were probably worked to death.

Using the same basic chassis and engine design, the CL/TL51 (in military parlance the Carro Leggero or light carrier, and Trattore Leggero or light tractor, 51 being the year of introduction) were built in response to a tender call by the Italian Army, which resulted in Lancia being commissioned to build its versions (others were constructed by OM and Bianchi). Like the Beta, they employed four cylinder engines disposed in U4 configuration, but displacing 2515cc, and delivering 58 bhp at only 3.200 rpm. Because of the extreme surface conditions under which these trucks were expected to work, they were fitted with dry sumps fed by two oil pumps scavenging from a 12-litre reservoir behind the cabin. Transmissions were again of five forward speeds, but with a reduction gear giving ten effective ratios, four-wheel drive, plus a Power Take-Off driving a winch with a 25-metre cable capable of pulling a 3.050 kg weight. Both versions were capable of climbing 80% slopes, and while the CL was used mainly for lighter and often civilian purposes, the TL more commonly was found carrying munitions, prefabricated buildings or major mechanical components. Unlike the Beta they were built on only one wheelbase, but bodies were lengthened as required. They were immensely strong.

Of particular interest were their exposed radiators, whose matrices were constructed in four sections, any of which could be isolated should it be holed by bullets or otherwise rendered unserviceable.

The CL/TL51 light trucks were built in three series and continually revised. While the model was only constructed for the military, both versions were keenly sought by civilian buyers when they were eventually replaced – Lancia was still building the TL version to military order into the 1970s. Ever eager to satisfy the demands of their private customers and of the military, Lancia performed myriad modifications to their base models for particular applications, and therefore probably never covered production costs. As ever they were in the forefront – this time in light truck designs which were not equalled until the coming of the Japanese light trucks some thirty years later.

Bruce Lindsay / 10.2013

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